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Writing about National Climate Commitments

By March 24, 2015 No Comments

If there’s ever been a time to write about Climate Change, its now. But with this new wave of National Commitments (INDCs) being made around the world, the question needs to be asked – how exactly do we write about them?

Some of you, such as Mrinalini Shinde, a young Climate Tracker from Bangalore might even wonder;

“How can we make sure that the readers realise and perceive that they have an actual chance at influencing these national commitments, especially in developing countries”.

Well, I have to say I have wondered the same.

Ever since I began writing about the UN climate negotiations, there has always been this challenge to translate the ever-increasing list of undecipherable acronyms and make people realise that all of this jargon, all of these national communications and re-negotiated agreements actually have a real, tangible impact on their lives.

And if there has ever been a time to get this right, this year is it.

Not only are we heating up for another record start to the year, but we’re getting ready for the hottest year ever in the UN climate negotiations.

In Lima last year, every country in the world agreed that 2015 will be the year when we get a global climate agreement, and that every country will be ready to take significant individual actions to help address the causes and impacts of climate change.

For developed countries, this comes with a commitment to reach for the (mitigation) stars, and offer the kind of financial, technical and technological support to developing countries that they badly need to deal with climate impacts, losses and damages. This could not have been more clearly highlighted by the horrors of Cyclone Pam and the restoration efforts that may take decades, if they even have that long.

For developing countries, this means that all the work that has been going on in the background – preparing mitigation and adaptation plans – must now come into the forefront. This year, everyone has to come to play in the big leagues.

But before we get to the grand finale in Paris and chisel away at the final design, we need to figure out just what everyone’s planning to build with and what they’re planning to build. This means that from now, and until the end of the year, every country around the world is expected to present a plan of what they are willing to do address climate change after 2020. Even Zimbabwe is working on one focussing on the rights of farmers as we speak.

It’s a strange thing, to be planning so far ahead when we still have 5 years left. But these types of plans take time to build, and even longer to implement.

This is where Mrinalini’s question becomes so important.

That’s why I sat down with some of the smartest climate communicators I know, and hosted a live google hangout last night talking about this very subject.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 5.47.09 pm

If you didn’t see it, you still have a great chance to watch it on youtube.

The call began on a positive note, as Christian Teriete, the head of Communications at the Global Call for Climate Action noted that we have now entered “the age of the end of Fossil fuels, and the dawn of the renewable era”. This is clear as every country in the world is now actively planning and putting into place plans to cut down their fossil fuel addictions, and these national climate commitments, or INDCs, are an embodiment of that fact.

He also noted that while there are many governments and businesses not heading in the right direction, or getting there much too slowly, we have now built the largest popular, people-driven movement the world has ever seen – and that reiterating the strength and breadth of the climate movement is one clear way to show those rogue governments why they need to change.

This was supported by David Tong from Greenpeace and Fast for the Climate (NZ) and Denise Fontanilla from Jubilee South. However, Denise in particular noted that as these INDCs begin to come out, we need to look in particular to what they are missing. We have already seen that the EU and Switzerland have talked little about adaptation, loss and damage, technological support for developing countries or the big one, FINANCE for vulnerable countries.

As each country prepares their INDCs, Denise reminded us that we need to “pressure them to do more, rather than less”.

This idea really struck a chord with David Tong, who then brought things down to the local level. He told stories of climate fights close to his heart in New Zealand, and reminded me that these INDCs are yet another climate fight we have to face, but in this case, everything can be linked in.

If there is a coal plant being built, if there is misdirected funds away from renewable energy investment or research and development, that’s all linked to the INDCs. If there is plans to cut foreign aid, like here in Australia; or a lack of adaptation support for rural farmers in your country, that is all linked to the INDCs. It is up to us to use this opportunity that the INDCs present, and link it back to the everyday climate fights we all face.

Our governments are about to tell the world what the limits of our plans to address climate change are – and it’s our job to push those limits.

That’s why when we talk and write about the INDCs, Christian reminded us to “make it relevant to peoples lives – to their jobs and health, to their communities and cities”.

But we should also remember the positive side to the INDCs – “lets talk about the benefits they unlock”.

This reminds me of when a friend told me, “you can’t invite people to a party that’s not fun. They won’t come”. They didn’t.

And as we’re talking about the INDCs, we can also remember what a safer climate, sustainable economy and supported global community really looks like. Imagine a world where we have achieved 100% clean energy by 2050. Just think about all the lives that would have been saved from cleaner air and fewer disasters. All the money saved from fossil fuel subsidies (about $548 billion each year).

And think about the jobs we can create with renewable, adaptable cities and communities. These are all issues we should be talking about when we think about the INDCs.

The INDCs are our country’s plans for the future. So its time for us to tell them what ours are too.

But as writers that are part of a broader global movement, our concern isn’t just telling people what we think, its about connecting with people and making them believe that they too can make their future plans heard as well.

Many countries are running open consultation processes on their INDCs right now. In fact, ministers from Peru, Chile and Colombia are hosting an open webinar tomorrow. And in each and every one of our countries, there are ways and means of trying to influence your bureaucrats to crunch the numbers just a little bit harder.

As writers, it is our job to talk about the INDCs, to make people realise how important they are, and to make our readers want to get involved influencing the process alongside us. Linking hands, keyboards, telephone calls and ballot boxes.

About Chris Wright

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