ACE Dialogue: Reduce the ‘Otherness’ of Climate; Involve People

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) has grown to 125,000 members, in 52 countries, on 6 continents. These empowered citizen volunteer policy advocates work together in small local teams to build trust-based working relationships with their representatives in government. They have shown that public participation builds political will and helps decision-makers to align their policy choices with the human interest of the people they represent.


2018 was a breakthrough year for public participation, with the Talanoa Dialogue Preparatory Phase actively inviting and integrating the insights of stakeholders around the world into direct guidance to negotiators at the 24th Conference of the Parties. This model expanded on the mandate of the Paris Agreement to hold a Facilitative Dialogue among the Parties to the Convention, and ensured that their deliberations would receive enhanced facilitation from structured meetings and deliberations among stakeholders throughout the year.

In April 2018, on behalf of the Engage4Climate network and wider Education, Communication and Outreach Stakeholders community, Citizens’ Climate Education and CCL submitted a Talanoa Dialogue input, calling for making the Talanoa process a permanent fixture of the UN Climate Change negotiating process. This submission built on years of work in the ACE Dialogues to adapt the Doha Work Programme to facilitate wider public engagement.

Those recommendations were rooted in a series of learnings and principles:

  • Technology has reached the point where we can now responsibly curate a global discussion inside official reports and contributions to the negotiations, where the result would be a strengthening of awareness among negotiators about the ambition and aspirations of the people they represent.
  • The US Global Change Research Program, during the 3rd National Climate Assessment process, found that integrating subjective inputs from local stakeholders, officials, and experts, grounded the science and provided a higher-resolution report on the state of climate vulnerability.
  • We have found there is not only a hunger for closer engagement between citizens and government, but that such engagement invites and sustains nonpartisan policy action, sending clearer signals to banks and businesses.

Why Empowerment Matters

Throughout this work, we have been developing a refined and proven strategy for citizen participation, even at a distance and through structured inputs. The Engage4Climate Toolkit for local stakeholder meetings is designed to allow experts and non-experts to work side by side to develop 20-year visions and immediate action strategies that leaders can use to raise ambition in ways that are rooted locally.

Without well-informed, attentive observers — who can provide ongoing institutional wisdom and strategic guidance to all variety of participants — the diplomatic process can become mired in short-term or factional political interests. The participation of civil society observer organizations helps to ensure skilled witnesses can tell the deeper, more nuanced story of what is happening in the negotiations, so action and strategy at the table are better aligned with long-term shared climate stewardship needs.

Article 6 of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change called for citizen participation in the design and implementation of climate solutions, because such a deep and widespread transformation needs to connect to lived experience, or big changes risk being less efficiently designed and less sustainable. The authors of the text have also said they understood that climate-aligned industrial and economic transition strategies have to do with revealing hidden costs and value, and the experience of stakeholders can provide much-needed information about those unaccounted costs and values.

We find ourselves in 2019, 3 and half years after the Paris Agreement was agreed, asking how the nations of the world will increase ambition steadily enough, and far enough, and fast enough, and in a cooperative enough way, to limit catastrophic damage from climate disruption. Our public engagement work is rooted in the knowledge that responsive, ongoing, two-way engagement between citizens and government helps to make sure policy-makers know:

The public operates from the common sense perspective that — on the mission to safeguard what sustains life — failure is not an option.

Co-Creating the Future

Our aim is to build structured, ongoing networks of stakeholder visioning and guidance, in all regions of the world, so the questions about what goals and what policies (and how much to invest) can operate from that common sense perspective. Instead of asking ‘Can we afford to switch to clean energy?’ regularly engaged and motivated leaders, with action guidance rooted in local experience, can ask ‘What justifies spending on energy sources that undermine everything else we do?’

Our vision is that, in 20 years’ time:

  • All energy systems everywhere should be clean, affordable, modular, and easy to replace and upgrade.
  • All finance should qualify as climate-smart.
  • All investment across whole economies should be oriented toward zero stress on the ocean.
  • Regenerative agriculture should anchor local and regional farming economies and make it possible for healthy organically grown food to be the norm everywhere.
  • All policy and investment should be in some way aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Information about who performs well on these standards should flow routinely to investors and decision-makers, as part of their everyday brief.
  • The right and ability to participate in the science-based innovation economy, and in policy processes, should be universal, operational, and protected.

Public participation in climate policy processes is necessary, because without the voices of ordinary people, policy and investment deliberations more easily revert to the abstract, treating the climate as ‘other’ and solutions as a sacrifice we make for ethical reasons alone. When non-policy people are involved in policy, the human connection, and our shared interest in climate solvency, holds the stage and shapes discussion.

Follow up & Next steps

  • We invite stakeholders of all kinds, at all levels, to convene local meetings to provide guidance about the best pathways to such high ambition.
  • We invite all participants in the ACE Dialogues and all members of the ECOS community to work with us toward that goal.