MARRAKECH—On Friday, November 4, 2016, the Paris Climate Agreement entered into force. In other words, it became active international law. 196 nations have agreed to work together to transform their economies and end climate change. And, they have made specific commitments—nationally determined contributions or NDCs—to show their collaborative intent and to give guidance to their peers.
The COP22 global climate negotiations will open on Monday in Marrakech, Morocco. Because the Paris Agreement has entered into force, we will have, for the first time in world history, a global meeting to operationalize universal collaboration to end climate change.
To mark the occasion of the Paris Agreement entering into force, we hosted a global online forum on Climate-Smart Finance to Drive Local Action. Climate-smart finance moves money into activities that use less carbon and prepare people, communities, businesses and nations, to manage the already unfolding impacts from climate change.
Susanna Cafaro, a leading expert in supranational democracy—ways citizens can influence intergovernmental negotiations—said openness and transparency confer added legitimacy to institutions. This is increasingly important, as so many institutions are now working at the far edge of climate and energy policy innovation and future planning.
Ben Muyale, leader of Green Sun Cities and Kenya national coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, talked of how important it is to have active local knowledge—about needs, capabilities, and how best to translate global policy into new local investment priorities. By convening town-hall-style planning sessions, involving local leaders and stakeholders, people are building local awareness of overlap between the Sustainable Development Goals, post-Paris climate action, and what it will mean to build sustainable businesses and local economies in the future.
We are, in a way, talking about the deeper human transition from an old way of being in the world to a new one: the transition from a standard of vicious competition to one of virtuous competition.
When one anomalous climate event can erase 200% of GDP—as happened to Grenada during Hurricane Ivan—the self-interested investor’s confidence in being smart enough to earn a 15% return, even in difficult times, loses all meaning. The math is no longer conducive to vicious competition—where I can win only if you lose. It is now necessary to conceive of investment and competitiveness in terms of the degree to which a given activity provides resilience, enhanced capacity, and locally rooted prosperity.
Ken Berlin, CEO of the Climate Reality Project, cited three areas where climate-smart investment needs to go:
- The heavy lift of overhauling an already entrenched carbon-fuel-based infrastructure, which will require redirecting investments and stranding of some assets.
- To empower cities, businesses, and individuals, to be implementers of solutions, and also monitors of progress and innovators who raise ambition.
- Identifying, designing, and sharing of opportunities to ensure enhanced local investment for practices that align with the 1.5ºC maximum global temperature-rise goal.
Andrea Rodriguez—a leading international environmental law expert from the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA)—noted many countries already have the legal basis they need to start implementing their commitments under the Paris Agreement, and to facilitate robust stakeholder participation. What is missing is the custom of using these legal tools in the way that meets the level of ambition inherent in the new global climate action agenda.
She described the problem as one of sovereign institutions coping with the complexities of a universal knowledge challenge. The climate system binds all human beings and all ecosystems together, and so brings with it a vast and complex universe of distinct areas of interest. The knowledge challenge means: one must seek knowledge one does not yet know how to identify, and to involve others who can do this work, without surrendering sovereignty, and without failing to serve constituents in all the other ways one is required to do so.
Myra Jackson—Diplomat of the Biosphere, UN Permanent Representative on Climate Change for the Commons Cluster, and Senior Advisor for Whole Earth Civics for the Geoversiv Foundation—described the engagement challenge as one of mobilizing empathy and imagination for redefinition of national priorities. She noted that people are “not going to wait for a linear roll-out” of climate solutions; they are eager to start making change happen, and are imagining, collaborating toward, and putting in place serious innovations that change what is possible.
As the Paris Agreement comes into legal force, we mark the moment with a recognition that we are all observers, innovators, crew members, and actors on the global stage. We can better scale up climate-smart finance to the levels required by moving toward expanded citizen participation, new modes of transparency in decision-making and performance-tracking, and by incentivizing investment in projects that do good at many levels.
All this complex language really comes down to the question of whether we can develop the right vision for doing enough good, in enough ways, fast enough, to empower everyone to be good stewards of Earth systems—the systems that sustain life as we know it. The COP22 is a global opportunity to set real progress in motion that will allow for this to happen locally, everywhere.
We all have a climate vision, whether we say so or not. What’s yours?