Civics for Rapid, Scalable Climate Action

Active Citizen Participation to Universalize the Paris Effect 

ace-logoArticle 6 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change calls for public participation in climate action. This can mean many things; we propose it mean that active, direct citizen participation in the design and deployment of climate solutions be the standard. We propose this be done universally, through a network of collaborating partners to ensure mutual empowerment through the same process of empowerment of citizens and community groups.

The shared platform, through which we aim to achive this is the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network an always active, shared space for direct citizen participation in global decision-making. Its operational methodology is simple:

  1. A Toolkit for Local Meetings, where anyone is welcome;
  2. A focus on policy framing rooted in local insights;
  3. Emergence, and support for, local leadership networks;
  4. Thematic workstreams gathering insights from CCEN process;
  5. Evergreen workstream reports for leading-edge policy advice;
  6. A continuous physical-virtual convening space;
  7. Day-to-day network upkeep through Slack, email, partner networks;
  8. An Advisory Coalition to guide and support the overall effort;
  9. Collaboration with UN processes, to ensure inclusion;
  10. Persistent deepening and widening of the global civic space.

This process is rooted in the call for public participation in both the design and implementation of climate action policies, under Article 6 of the UNFCCC, and supported by SDG17’s call for multilevel multilateral partnerships, and by the Paris Agreement’s call for active engagement and collaborative leadership from non-Party actors.

Not all inputs to the process need to be formalized, to the extent that only experts or structural bureaucracies can participate. Delegates, experts, and structural bureaucracies (governments, agencies, and large NGOs) should all be open to and participating in expanded civic spaces where reports on climate policy design and implementation are conducted at the human scale.

Enhanced Legitimacy, Improved Outcomes

Openness confers a new kind of legitimacy.

  • We have electoral legitimacy and the rule of law, as standards for national legitimacy.
  • We have sovereignty and consensus as standards for international process legitimacy.
  • We have science itself as a standard for evidence-based legitimacy.

Openness to all people allows for a fourth kind of legitimacy, an adaptive inclusive opening of the global civic space, where citizens, community groups, and other non-Party stakeholders not usually consulted can BOTH have a voice AND play a substantive role.

UNICEF is now treating children around the world not only as vulnerable parties or beneficiaries of assistance, but as actors in their own right, who are capable and entitled to play a role in designing the future they aspire to. People everywhere can, and should be, active players in the process of envisioning and designing a future where we have transcended harmful and unsustainable behaviors.


Because openness and flexibility are part of this fourth kind of legitimacy, that role can vary, according to needs. For instance:

  • Across the United States, or Brazil, or the Philippines, schools can become gathering places where students educate their elders, and where policy-makers learn from innovation-focused research and brainstorming teams.
  • In Mozambique, Paraguay, and Belarus, local energy committees can take on responsibility for planning and implementing solar micro-grids, building local value, while empowering political leaders to show enhanced leadership internationally.
  • In Kathmandu, Curitiba, and Cleveland, city leaders can convene meetings with residents, to design urban environments that meet human development needs, make transit more accessible and more efficient, and keep energy costs and emissions down.
  • In Bangladesh, Kenya, and Tuvalu, citizens can help policy-makers develop an understanding of the climate connections to human impacts that lead to migration.
  • In Nigeria, Peru, and Poland, local town-hall gatherings, organized by citizens, can bring public officials together with the people they represent, to foster shared design of a smarter climate future.

This new legitimacy through adaptive inclusion and innovation then strengthens the degree of legitimacy in the other three areas: political, diplomatic, scientific.

Public participation also becomes a means for ongoing review: instead of waiting for each review period, where policy-makers ratchet up their ambition, persistent public participation can allow for a process of information sharing, observation, and policy discussion, with more eyes on the problem and a constant flow of new and grounded information about progress.

Climate Civics Motivating Action

Partners who are supporting the CCEN process, as advisors, conveners, and as pioneers in climate civics, are getting people across the world into the global process in many ways. These are just a few examples:

IAAI is working to establish the Global Challenges Foundation, and through the Foundation to empower a network of Global Challenges Youth Empowerment ICT Centers around the world. The Global Challenges Youth Centers will give young people resources, training, organizing space, and technological support, to ensure better access to global processes and more capability for leading locally.

The World Wide Views effort—pioneered by the Danish Board of Technology—offers structured citizen deliberations of at least 100 participants per country, convened in many sites on the same day. These deliberations provide one way of bringing citizens’ priorities, needs, and capacities into global negotiations.

In Cameroon, over six thousand individuals have signed a petition asking to all Presidential candidates at the election to include sustainable development and climate change in their proposed action plans in case they are elected. Young people also met with some of the Presidential candidates to raise awareness in Cameroon. The campaign was implemented by Actions Vitales pour le Developpement durable (AVD) and partners.

CliMates is an international think-and-do tank on climate change gathering volunteers from 40 countries, both students and young professionals, with various countries, identities, backgrounds and cultures. Its goal is to take on the climate challenge by training youth to become change-makers and promoting innovative ideas and tools. COP in MyCity is an international project led by CliMates, which contributes to bridge the gap between climate negotiations and young people thanks to an approach based on trainings, simulations of climate negotiations, and concrete actions at the local level.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is now actively supporting more than 36,000 citizen volunteers, working in or working to build local groups on 6 continents. CCL volunteers engage lawmakers, providing education about economic impacts and efficient, effective climate solutions; they engage media, meeting with journalists, publishing in print; and, they engage the public, through radio, local meetings, and other community outreach efforts.

Get to know more about the Advisory Coalition founding partners here.

Succeeding Faster Together

In the words of Jeffrey Sachs, the process of driving swift smart climate action “is not a game”. We cannot afford the luxury of leaving economic and energy policy to the experts; we cannot afford to pretend that power resides only in those who hold public office. We cannot get where we need to go quickly enough, if we leave most people out of the process.

By involving people and communities, we can achieve a more diverse and adaptive curation process, so we have better information about local needs, capabilities and actions, and always-active opportunities for raising ambition. By opening the process of breakthrough innovation to more minds, and by connecting more people to the smartest proposals and processes, we can succeed faster together.


If the overall effort is ultimately what it should be, then Indonesian tribal villagers, university students in Jakarta, United States Senators, Inuit communities living above the Arctic Circle, and scientists running the global seed bank in Svalbard, along with everyday people from anywhere, can all act as peers in a web of insight that helps all of us to make our best practices better and to accelerate the pace at which we build a climate-smart future.