20-Year Future Visioning Process


To provide useful, substantive answers to the three guiding questions of the Talanoa Dialogue process — Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there? — we advocate a 20-year future visioning process. In simple terms, that means asking what kind of world we want to live in 20 years from now, and then mapping out the steps we need to take to make that better future a reality.

Travel 20 Years into the Future

What kind of world do we want to live in 20 years from now?

The reason we often focus on 2050 is the arbitrary fact that it marks the mid-century point on our calendars. If we think forward to a world we will inhabit 20 years from today, we are more likely to think seriously through the details of what we need to do to achieve a climate-smart future.

Whatever format your meeting takes (see below), you will be most likely to provide meaningful insight to decision-makers if you can identify what kind of harm you would like eliminated within 20 years’ time, what kind of services you would like to see made routinely available, and what level of environmental quality you would like to experience in your day-to-day existence.

This vision of lived experience can translate into technical goals, such as:

  • Carbon emissions cuts;
  • Clean energy production;
  • Funding of new technologies;
  • Energy efficiency gains;
  • Water, land and resource management;
  • Shifting of subsidies.

Consider, throughout this process, that drivers of macro-economic wellbeing — such as the ongoing availability of healthy food at affordable prices — are issues of macro-critical resilience (shaping the health of whole economies) and will determine whether your city, village, region, or country, is climate resilient 20 years from now.

The key question for a 20-year vision is:

What is the world getting right with respect to the problem you are trying to transcend?

10-year vision

Where do we need to be in 10-years, given our 20-year goals?

We recommend a 20-10-5 and 2-year visioning process, for ease of use and for efficient use of meeting time. But you should feel free to map out action steps to the 20-year time horizon, as would be appropriate or most useful in your own context. That detail most useful for understanding and planning around local needs will help decision-makers understand better how their choices relate to life in community.

At the 10-year mark, targets and related quality of life standards in all of the same areas are relevant. But we add an important detail here, which may not arise in the 20-year segment of the visioning process.

We are now “back-casting” from the goals set in the 20-year segment. That means whatever may seem to be reasonable part-of-the-way standards for getting to the 20-year goals, there are also details of context that will have to be in place to make the 10-year action steps sufficient to achieve the 20-year goals.

Thinking through where things should be at the 10-year mark will condition what kind of things need to happen before 10 years and also what will be possible afterward.

So, at this stage, you may want to:

  1. Mark key action steps on the way to the 20-year goals.
  2. Discuss challenges that exist in the present day that will have to be overcome to achieve that level of momentum.
  3. Map contextually relevant achievements that are not inherent to the 20-year goals, but necessary for their achievement. (Universal distribution of charging stations is needed for a 100% transition to electric vehicles, for instance.)

The key question for a 10-year vision is:

What must be true, in systemic and structural ways, if the 20-year vision is going to be achievable?

5-year vision

What specific actions are needed to achieve the 10-year vision?

National commitments to the Paris Agreement—which requires nearly 200 nations to work together to hold global warming to 1.5ºC—must be updated every 5 or 10 years. 5-year commitment cycles can lead to higher ambition, as they make more room for adding new and emerging technologies and building on recent experience and success. All levels of public policy planning will need to work together, and to draw insight and ambition from private-sector innovators, to ensure the right incentives are in place to achieve a rapid deployment of clean finance for national climate action.

That means they will require:

  • An enabling policy environment for clean finance;
  • Rapid deployment of new energy technology;
  • Measurable progress on transparency in supply chains and industrial practices;
  • Incentives to make clean alternatives available to consumers in all sectors;
  • New kinds of finance for climate-smart practices.

Think about how these kinds of structural transition pressures should be taking effect within 5 years, if you are to reach your 10-year goals and 20-year vision.

The key question for a 5-year vision is:

How can we make sure all relevant actors are accelerating toward the 10-year systemic reality we envision?

2-year strategy

How to leverage the climate turning point

2020 is the year of the “climate turning point”. All nations, economies, and sectors, need to get up to speed for a 10-year race to climate resilience. (Science shows we must be halfway to eventual emissions targets by 2030, if we are to stave off uncontrollable climate disruption.)

So, Mission 2020 outlines both the need for global carbon emissions to peak no later than 2020 and the feasibility of achieving this goal.

Back-casting from 20-year, 10-year, and 5-year time-horizons, working groups should put forward a concise, action-oriented 2-year strategy for getting up to speed on time.

Aim to include:

  • Preferred targets from the 20, 10 and 5-year segments of the visioning process.
  • Infrastructure needs.
  • Financial needs — levels and incentives.
  • Local enterprise aims and support mechanisms. (Will new kinds of businesses be needed? Will they be small, local businesses?)
  • New modes of sharing data, best-practice information, and clean technology.

The key question for a 2-year strategy is:

What is missing from the status quo situation, and how can we build a more solid foundation for the problem-solving we need to do?

2019-2020 actions

Making the 2-year strategy real

In order to make sure your 20-year future visioning process provides actionable intelligence to decision-makers at the international and national levels, identify 3 to 5 specific actions that participating stakeholders recommend be taken in the immediate short term to make the proposed 2-year strategy a transformational reality.

For instance: If you aim to have EV charging stations space at most 20 miles apart:

  • What legislative action can be taken to incentivize that shift?
  • Do you recommend city leaders work with national leaders and/or the financial sector to achieve that policy shift?
  • Can specific innovations happen now that will support the right kind of action in the next 2 years?

The key question for start-up actions is:

Where is there leverage in policy, enterprise, technology, and stakeholder engagement to change minds about where we need to be in 2 years? (Implied: who are the key actors, and what do they need to start moving in the right direction?)

Turn your vision into a policy report

A critical next step — after you have held your stakeholder meeting and created a bold vision for a climate-smart future 20 years from now — will be to produce a concise but detailed outcome report, which you can share with policy makers.

Use our Outcome Report Guidance, to shape and share your report.