Full Report from Minneapolis 2015

A new platform for citizen engagement in global negotiations—the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network—was announced at Minneapolis 2015: Climate Action, Last Stop Before Paris. The spirit of Minneapolis 2015 was laid out by former Minnesota Governor Al Quie, who said recently that action on climate requires: “Radical integrity, creative collaboration, and no excuses.” We will now work to ensure that those three standards embody the effort to give people around the world a voice in global negotiations.

During the two-day event, Citizens’ Climate Lobby and the Partnership for Change brought together a diverse range of thinkers and changemakers to explore and develop concrete strategies for accelerating climate action. On Sunday, October 25, more than 170 people participated in 18 dialogue sessions and 3 plenaries.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar addressed the delegates, and the day focused on ways citizen participation can enhance the design and deployment of solutions. Dan Kraker, from Minnesota Public Radio, and legendary investigative and broadcast journalist Don Shelby moderated discussions among pioneers in citizen empowerment, economics, and policy. Shelby said that, while many believe all power resides in the hands of a few, “the truth is the history of our country is one that suggests that real, lasting change is brought about by people.”

Why We Are Here

In his introductory remarks, Joe Robertson, CCL’s Global Strategy Director, said “It’s important to remind ourselves that we are called to ethical action,” adding that “engagement is how we expand the civic space, how we empower people to serve as citizens, taking an active role in the building of their own future.”

The opening plenary session included Sen. Amy Klobuchar, as well as Scott Nystrom, from REMI, and Thore Vestby, from the Mayors for Peace, in dialogue with Dan Kraker, from MPR. After that, the morning consisted of two dialogue sessions, each with six different thematic dialogues, built around the workstreams emerging from the Pathway to Paris project and which will form the core structure of the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network.

Report from the Dialogue Sessions

From all of the day’s sessions, organizers collected notes and worksheets, in order to ensure citizen climate delegates to Minneapolis 2015 can have their voices heard in the intergovernmental process. The full report from the day of dialogue included the following insights, among many others:

  • The question of where power to act resides was central to discussions about implementation of solutions.
  • Nation-states, and large organizations have the ability to drive change, by setting standards, making broad agreements, and supporting or acting on incentives.
  • Structural change requires more granular action, a “molecular” revolution, where people not only change their behavior or act on mandates and incentives, but more importantly change their thinking about what the world should look like and why.
  • Civic engagement is crucial, because it is the manifestation of this shift to a more relational way of thinking about both climate impacts and solutions. 
  • Shifting the incentives can work through norms and regulations, and also through carbon pricing. But dialogue is a vital part of the shift.

Citizenship as Climate Action

This session was moderated by Don Shelby, and featured Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s Program Director Madeleine Para, Climate Generation’s Executive Director Nicole Rom, and Dr. Harry Boyte of the Sabo Center for Citizenship and Democracy.

More from the Dialogues

One of the lessons of Minneapolis 2015 has been that dialogue is not the same as talk; it is a move away from transactional thinking toward relational thinking. That transition moves ideas into action, allowing shared discovery to pull levers that can move the wider society. 

The following are critical insights that emerged from shared discovery in the areas of Carbon Pricing, Adaptation and Resilience, Civic Participation, Oceans, Human Health, and connections between the SDGs and Climate:

  • Carbon pricing is the sending of a signal; it recognizes that economic exchange is communication of ideas, concepts, framing and worldviews.
  • If we enter into dialogue with each other to understand what a global crisis means to those around us, and to brainstorm how we can take action, our actions should recognize that we are in dialogue and our economic exchange should tell the truth.
  • A system of economic incentives that hides devastating compounded costs through externalization conceals and fosters harm.
  • A clear and steady price signal allows for people to see where cost comes from and make their own choices about how to respond.
  • Lack of collaboration leads to avoidable inefficiencies. Innovation starts at the intersections, where ideas come together and generate new possibilities.
  • Positive/Active collaboration requires positive networking and sharing where people come together from different sectors and work together towards best solutions, especially in response to climate disruption, as it cuts across many different sectors and touches most areas of human existence.

Dialogues also explored:

  • Locally specific experiences of Minneapolis and St. Paul in shifting toward clean energy and sustainable policy and practice.
  • Interactions between local policy and global policy, how they shape lived experience, technological change, and the priorities of investors.
  • The importance of coordinated practical engagement toward Affordable Clean Energy for All — the mission laid out in Sustainable Development Goal 7.
  • Community-driven policy process and stakeholder participation — strategies, experiences, known good practices, and innovation advantages.
  • The difficult, structural, and universally relevant question: Is sustainability a basic right?
  • The policy-maker’s dilemma of who deploys solutions, and how? — which conditions how policy is designed and funded, and what timelines can be imposed and enforced.

Many expressed their feeling that we need a new social contract that has sustainability embedded in it—where we expect that our design of shared systems, governance and economic dynamics, allows for sustainable good health and the building of value at the human scale.

To facilitate the engagement of citizens and stakeholders, many sessions saw participants calling for an always-active convening and support network, like the CCEN.

Founding the Network

The third plenary session featured the presentation of a draft governance strategy for the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network, which will launch, officially, during the Paris climate negotiations, in December.


The plenary opened with a far-ranging panel discussion, moderated by Dan Kraker, of MPR, and featuring, Richard Eidlin, VP and co-founder of the American Sustainable Business Council, Ellen Anderson, executive director of the Energy Transition Lab, Natalia Vega Berry, director of the People+Planet Project, and Arctic explorer David Thoreson.

David Thoreson said the challenge of confronting and solving climate change is so complex and so vast, we must find ways to collaborate and innovate at unprecedented scale and speed. He said this new age of climate-related exploration and innovation is “full of opportunity” and called on all of the Minneapolis 2015 delegates to:

use your talents in ways you never thought you were capable of doing before.

In her closing remarks, Ingrid Stange of the Partnership for Change announced a pledge by leading Norwegian companies to work with government to strengthen national climate action. She said:

I have an internal picture of us all walking different avenues from all areas of the world… At first, the roads were narrow, and the people walking were ridiculed. There are now highways, and hordes of people, literally marching together, to save our planet.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson closed the opening day, saying she was “intoxicated by engagement” and, quoting Shakespeare, urged participants to:

go out of this room and take the tide.

Monday’s High-Level Dialogue

On Day 2, a small gathering convened under Chatham House rules met to discuss and design an operational strategy for accelerating climate action at the global, national and local levels. The strategy document to emerge from this meeting will be taken to Paris to guide the worlds’s governments to more effective, collaborative, decisive climate action.

The Strategy Document from Day 2—A Convenient Opportunity—can be downloaded as a PDF here

This was the first in a series of dialogues. The next four dialogues in this series will be:

  • December 2015 — Paris, during the COP21
  • April 2016 — Washington, DC, during the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the IMF
  • May 2016 — Oslo, during the Business for Peace Summit
  • June 2016 — Minneapolis, during the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum

Substantive Outcomes

Additional resources and actions