Local voice must take pride of place: D&C calls for 'inside-out COP'

Make COP for the practitioners who are actually implementing climate change action on the ground, says Saleemul Huq.

News, 13 November 2016
UN climate change conference (COP22)
A series of pages related to IIED's activities at the 2016 UNFCCC climate change summit in Marrakech
Saleemul Huq called COP not fit-for-purpose during his opening speech on the second day of D&C Days (Photo: Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, Creative Commons, via Flickr)

Saleemul Huq called COP not fit-for-purpose during his opening speech on the second day of D&C Days (Photo: Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, Creative Commons, via Flickr)

Drawing on learnings from this year's Development & Climate Days (D&C Days), focusing on the crucial role of local actors in delivering adaptation promises of the Paris deal, IIED's Saleemul Huq has called for an overhaul on the business-as-usual COP process.

Action and implementation are the buzzwords tagged to the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22), with anticipation that this year's climate talks in Marrakech will set out how adaptation commitments under the landmark Paris deal are delivered.

According to senior fellow Huq (watch his speech live on IIED's Periscope channel), the power to make good on the Paris agreement lies not with high-level governmental institutions but with the practitioners implementing action on climate change on the ground. 

"Reflecting on discussions at this year's D&C Days it becomes ever clearer that the COPs are no longer fit for purpose. We need to reverse the way these big events are run – it is the practitioners, the doers, who must take pride of place."

Hammering out the detail in the official COP negotiation process, deciding where the brackets go and which words are used in the agreements and declarations, is no longer important, argued Huq. Now we have the Paris deal in place, it is the doing that counts.

"We need an inside-out COP, where practitioners are in the middle and negotiators are on the sidelines. And when ministers come to give their high-level speeches, they need to answer questions from those carrying out the action. These are the people with experience of what’s needed on the ground."

But as IIED's Clare Shakya explained during her opening remarks on D&C Days, this turnaround means local people must take on the responsibility of showing governments what's working – and what's not.

“Governments need confidence that achieving the adaptation commitments in the Paris deal is possible: this is where local voice is crucial,” Shakya said.

“The emphasis on this year’s COP is not just about pushing governments to deliver on what they’ve pledged in the Paris agreement, but about local actors showing them what can be achieved, and how it’s done.”

Shakya also emphasised how bringing the private sector to the table, a first for D&C Days, marks a major shift that will be vital for implementation.

"The private sector is hugely important here. We need to work together to bring in the private investment to finance change," she said.

Discussions from the two-day workshop also pointed to the role of the research community in achieving adaptation ambitions by making research that informs adaptation action more relevant and user-friendly. 

"Many researchers fall too easily into the 'information push trap' – carrying out and disseminating research without using local voices as their guide. Listening to local people and tailoring research to their needs is how we'll achieve action on climate adaptation to help the poorest, most vulnerable communities," Huq concluded.

Teresa Corcoran ([email protected]) is communications content officer in IIED's Communications Group.