Our Perspectives

From Paris to your hometown: Climate action is going local

Tree plantingFrom planting trees to buying sustainably-sourced products, local action will determine the success of the global climate agreement. Photo: Riccardo Gangale/UN

Over recent years, climate negotiations have gotten more and more complex.

With 193 countries bringing competing interests to the table, perhaps that’s not surprising.

So negotiators are taking a bottom-up approach, with individual countries coming to the table to declare what they are prepared to do nationally to advance internationally agreed upon goals.

Such is the template for the COP21 climate change conference, taking place from 30 November through 11 December in Paris. These are likely the most important climate negotiations the world has ever seen.

Going local

Whatever results the conference brings, we can say that international climate policies are definitely becoming more localized, as local climate action and strategies are becoming more and more significant.

Each country – together with its municipalities, private sector and individual citizens – is bearing increased responsibility for estimating its carbon footprint, implementing measures to reduce emissions and to increase resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Taking inventory, mitigation, and adaptation: all, of course, with the appropriate support of international climate finance resources.

National communications: What are they good for?

Two decades ago, the UN established compulsory reporting tools called national communications. Countries use these tools to inform the international community on their own efforts and policies regarding climate change.

However, due to technical complexities, lack of proper institutional frameworks and human capacities, these publicly available tools have not yet played a significant role in climate and development policies. One of the reasons is that the technical information presented in these reports is not easy to digest by policy makers and their outreach to the general population is weak.

After the conference in Paris, the pressure will increasingly fall on countries to take the necessary measures. And they will be reporting their progress through these national communications and through the new biennial update reports.

This is where we come in.

Yes, these documents are rich in detail and full of information for policy makers, private companies and citizens: They detail each country’s greenhouse gases emissions, the actions taken to boost green growth and reduce vulnerability to climate change, and the role played by technological innovation, just to mention a few key points.

But if we as citizens cannot understand the reports, then how can we advocate for more effective climate change policies?

This is why our Global Support Programme was created, with the financial support of GEF. It’s a five-year programme implemented by UNDP and UNEP that provides technical guidance, training and targeted assistance to governments and interested stakeholders.

To introduce our work, we are organizing a side event in Paris, on Tuesday 8 December, in the Rio Pavillon. Our event is open to everybody – not just negotiators and technical experts.

Now, here’s where you come in.

We all may be focused at present on the outcome of the Paris negotiations and what the global community commits to – or doesn’t. But at the end of the day, our ability to implement such an agreement in the future will depend mostly on strategic local action and national climate policies.

For these policies to be sound we need the information reported in the national communications to be clear, high quality, and easy to follow.

So if you’re planning to be in the French capital, please join us. And if you can’t make it to Paris, you can still get involved.  Find something that matters to you, like planting a tree, buying sustainable certified products or getting involved with your school or city council.

Declare your own personal contribution to climate change action. Your actions will inspire those around you, and together we can make a real difference.

If you have questions about our event or our work, don’t hesitate to email, Twitter, or get in touch in the comments below. Allez!

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