The 2015 Agreement, Civil Society and Climate Clubs

Oct 9th, 2014 | By | Category: News, UNFCCC

604The recent special report by the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), “Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement”, contains several interesting ideas for the 2015 climate agreement.

The report focuses on keeping the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius and reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuels to zero by 2070 at the latest.

The WBGU proposes that the 2015 climate agreement should take the form of a legally binding protocol, which should explicitly include the 2 degrees C goal. Although it is a good proposal and perhaps what will be politically feasible, many vulnerable countries would argue that the goal needs to be 1.5 degrees C or lower.

“Democratisation” of the international climate regime and a new responsibility architecture for climate protection are major themes of the report.

NEW RIGHTS FOR CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS

One of the report’s most interesting proposals is that the 2015 climate agreement, which the WBGU believes should be a “Paris Protocol”, should strengthen the participatory rights of civil society groups in UNFCCC processes and also give them a legal right to take action to ensure that countries comply with the 2015 agreement. Strengthened participatory rights would include the right to issue statements that would have to be taken into account in UNFCCC process.

This proposal builds on rules in the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.

It is an important proposal, which also raises many questions. The report suggests that the main criterion for selecting civil society organisations that could act as “climate stewards” should be a purpose to protect the climate and/or the environment.

Applying that in practice would raise many challenges. For example, who would the climate steward organisations be accountable to? Not all environmental organizations have transparent governance structures.

Others might argue that organisations whose aim is to protect people should have the same right to take legal action, even if it involved opposing emission reduction efforts, for example for the purpose of maintaining employment opportunities. Having said that, this is one of the proposals in the report that should be debated further.

Civil society actors are also expected to contribute to decarbonisation, for example through climate clubs.

CLIMATE CLUBS – TAKING THE LEAD 

Another interesting WBGU proposal is that the 2015 agreement should recognize and encourage “climate clubs”.

The WBGU identifies climate clubs as alliances of actors (for example countries, cities or civil society organisations) that set themselves ambitious and innovative targets relating to mitigation, adaption or climate-related loss and damage, which go beyond the general ambition level in the UNFCCC context.

When it comes to clubs consisting of countries, the WBGU proposal fits in well with FIELD’s idea of a special category (for example a list, annex or optional protocol) in the 2015 agreement, which would only be open to countries whose Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are above-adequate. The special category could be a way to integrate frontrunner climate clubs in the 2015 agreement.

FIELD’s idea includes possible benefits for countries that qualify for entry into the special category. The WBGU report considers support to climate clubs within the UNFCCC context, for example in the form of financial resources and advice and learning. “Club goods” are advantages that only members get.

According to the WBGU report the aim of strengthening climate clubs would be to shift the culture of the multilateral negotiations so that others take their cue from the ambitious players, not from the sluggish ones, which is a very good aim.

The report makes the case for how ambitious climate clubs could generate transformational change.

It identifies elements that clubs with transformative effect must have: ambitious vision; clear membership criteria; significant advantages for members; and openness to new members. That is something to think about for countries that might be ready to step out in front and take the lead in fighting climate change.

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