The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a treaty between essentially every national government on earth and is the collective response of humanity to climate change. Every year the 197 governments that are party to this agreement meet in what are called a ‘Conference of the Parties’ (or COP). The next meeting (to be held in Poland in December) will be the 24th COP.
Confusingly, “UNFCCC” is also the name of the United Nations Secretariat charged with supporting the operations of the convention and the COPs. The 197 governments get together once a year and it’s up to the UNFCCC Secretariat to organise it all and to mediate, negotiate and politic though this maze of interests to come up with a coherent position that all can or will adopt. The 2015 Paris Climate Accord was such an agreement.
At the last meeting (COP 23) one of the things that the 197 governments voted to do was to start a “facilitative dialogue” (decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 20). This ‘Talanoa Dialogue’ (named after a Pacific Island word for inclusive, participatory and transparent discussion) is intended to be “constructive, facilitative and solutions oriented“. It is open to ‘non-party stakeholders’ (i.e. everybody) and it essentially involves making a submission through a dedicated website. These submissions will be discussed (along with a lot of other things) at an advance meeting this May, and will then be summarised in a synthesis report for discussion at the COP24 meeting in December. The deadline for submissions for discussion in the May pre-conference is April 2nd. In practical terms that’s two weeks from this Friday.
It’s not easy to find the UNFCCC Talanoa Dialogue website (it’s not optimised for search engines and only a few other websites link to it, so it’s on the second page of a Google search). Although just a simple website it’s grandly called a “platform” and a “portal” but there has been little or no publicity or promotion for the website or process (if there has been any promotion it’s been very ineffective). The stark contrast between the discription of the intention (“inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue”) and the impenetrable legalese of the mandate would be almost funny if the arctic wasn’t melting. In general (and if you know about it… and if you can find it…) the Talanoa Dialogue website offers the basic information and functionality required by the COP23 decision, but nothing else.
What’s most interesting and disturbing, however, are the submissions that have been recieved so far. Remember, this is the global mechanism for groups, organisations, individuals, businesses, academics and other parties interested and involved in climate change to contribute their perspectives, ideas and concerns into the global mitigation process. This is the entire governance of the planet earth, representing the entire human species, and focusing on the vast, urgent and existential issue of climate change. The deadline is two weeks from Friday and there have been exactly four submissions.
Two of those submissions are previously-published academic papers and one is a previously-published report from a UN-sponsored group. The only actual, real submission is a 16-page document from a 177-employee institute of the Japanese government with the core conclusion that carbon pricing in necessary.
Just think about that for a moment: Climate change is the biggest, most important, most potentially catastrophic problem that the human species has ever faced. All of the goverments of all of the nations of the planet earth have agreed that there be an “inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue” through which any interested party can communicate their information, ideas, and concerns. Think of all the millions of people, all the organisations, all of the billions of dollars, euros, pounds and yen, all of the time and energy and resources, all focused on this one vast and urgent issue. And with the deadline just a couple of weeks away there’s just one real submission of a few pages, stating the obvious.
Two weeks left and only one real submission so far. Just think about that.
I therefore propose, suggest, urge, plead and beg of you the following:
(1) Circulate this message and other information and awareness of the Talanoa Dialogue to as many people as you possibly can, as quickly as you can – and especially to those who’s work or passion involves climate change. The deadline is in a few weeks and nobody knows about it. Publicise it as much as you can.
(2) Make a submission to the Talanoa Dialogue process before the April 2nd deadline. It would be much better if you could do this on behalf of an organisation of some sort. Any submission would be better than no submission.
(3) If you are not sure about what to say in your submission, can I strongly suggest that you investigate and learn about carbon fee and dividend. This revenue-neutral policy puts a real, serious, behaviour-changing tax on carbon and redistributes the proceeds to everyone equally. Everybody’s prices go up, and everybody gets a monthly cheque. For most people the cheque is bigger than the price increases, protecting the poor and the middle class while dramatically inventivising people and markets away from carbon.
Carbon fee and dividend is politically realistic, and has political support from both the Right and the Left. It’s the only way to internalise the costs of climate change into the price of carbon without forcing the poor and middle class to freeze in the dark. In other words, fee and dividend is the only fair and politically possible way to include the costs of climate change into the price of carbon. If you don’t know what specific policy to suggest to the governments of the world in your submission, you could do much worse than propose carbon fee and dividend.
The Talanoa Dialogue for non-party stakeholders is the United Nations, on behalf of all of the governments of the people of the planet earth, asking for your views, opinions and ideas on what to do about climate change. If this process is to be anything more than a joke, a farce and a tragedy, then surely it needs to be known about and used.
This is climate change. It is our planet, our future and the future of our children, our grandchildren and of all the generations yet to come. We are the ones who can do something about this – it is up to us. This is the way to influence, however slightly, the entire direction of our planet and our human peoples on this urgent and existential crisis. The governments of the world have asked for your opinion about what should be done about climate change. The first deadline is very soon.
Please, please don’t ignore it.