RECOGNIZING THE URGENCY: POLICY AS A “PUSH AND PULL” FACTOR FOR ADVOCACY
The message from the scientific community is loud and clear: The choices and actions implemented in the recent past will have impacts now and for thousands of years. In its 2023 Synthesis Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does not only make clear that climate change is a real threat to human wellbeing and planetary health, but also emphasises with very high confidence that there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all. Without rapid and massive action, the world risks losing around 10% of its total economic value from climate change.
While this may sound abstract, the concrete impacts are more than scary: Climate change is projected to undermine food security and exacerbate malnutrition globally amplify existing migration patterns and create new patterns of human mobility. Over 216 million people are predicted to migrate within their countries’ borders by 2050 (WB) and 100 million additional people will be pushed back into poverty as soon as 2030 (World Resource Institute 2018). Air pollution from burning fossil fuels like coal and diesel is responsible for about one in five deaths worldwide.
Climate change will pose a threat to global food production in the medium to long term, affecting Europe, too. Forced by the projected changes in daily temperature, precipitation, wind, relative humidity, and global radiation, grain maize yields in the EU will decline between 1% and 22%. In addition, wheat yields in Southern Europe are expected to decrease by up to 49%. Specifically in the Mediterranean countries, water scarcity caused by global warming is projected to intensify.
The World Health Organization (WHO) expects climate change to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, between 2030 and 2050, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress alone. By 2030, the direct impact on health is estimated at USD$ 2–4 billion annually. Areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond (WHO 2023). As highlighted in Swiss Re's recent Sigma report, natural catastrophes cost the world USD 275 billion in 2022, of which insurance covered 45%. Today, annual global insured losses above USD 100 billion from natural catastrophes are standard.
Thankfully, science has also provided us with solutions, followed up by global policy initiatives. Back in 1988, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) together with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as an international body for scientific assessments of current knowledge on climate change, its potential impacts, and possible mitigation and adaptation measures. IPCC assessment reports are published every few years and provide a solid scientific foundation for governments, policymakers, and other stakeholders to make informed decisions in addressing climate change. Since 1992 the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) organizing the annual Conference of the Parties (COP), serves as the political and policy framework for international climate change negotiations and coordination. The Kyoto Protocol (1997) was followed by the Paris Agreement (2015) which got adopted by 196 Parties. It requires countries to submit a five-year cycle of national climate action plans, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). EU has recognized climate change as a global threat that requires a global response. Consequently, the European Green Deal was approved in 2020, representing a set of policy initiatives by the European Commission to make the EU climate neutral by 2050. The Commission proposed the European Climate Law to make this objective legally binding, which also sets a new, more ambitious net greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least -55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
National legislation of member states that have opened access negotiations with the EU must align with the EU body of rights and obligations on “Environment and Climate Change” (Chapter 27) with more than 200 legislative acts. To support both the adoption and implementation of the EU acquis, the European Commission proposed the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans (GAWB), outlining a growth strategy for the region based on a sustainable economy. The six national leaders in the Western Balkans adopted the Agenda at the Sofia Summit in November 2020, and an implementation roadmap in October 2021.
POLICY IS NOT ENOUGH
Despite the presence of scientific facts and evidence-based policy frameworks, the current measures taken to address these challenges remain markedly insufficient. This is precisely where advocacy assumes its critical role, offering a structured platform to galvanize efforts that untangle the intricacies of scientific knowledge.
In the realm of climate change advocacy, accentuating the significance of innovation and solidarity becomes imperative as the propelling impetuses for global endeavours. While technical and scientific substantiation retains its importance, it alone falls short. Climate change advocacy transcends ecological concerns, enfolding within its ambit social equity and human rights, thereby advocating for an equitable and sustainable future for all, necessitating the equitable allocation of indispensable resources.
In response, private enterprises find themselves under escalating pressure to transition into environmentally responsible paradigms and bear the concomitant financial burdens. Advocates underscore the pivotal role of comprehensive upskilling and re-skilling initiatives for the workforce. For an all-encompassing involvement in policy shaping, the need for transparency and integrity frameworks is paramount, forging links between worldwide initiatives and grassroots actions through a network of concerted endeavours.
While the transformation of individual conduct is pivotal, the journey toward collective transformation necessitates strategic collaborations and palpable implementations.
NAVIGATING THE POLITICS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
The headlines of reputable media outlets are becoming increasingly intertwined with sponsored fake news, resulting in public confusion. On one hand, the public is alarmed by the dire predicted consequences of climate change and gets exposed to requests for individual and collective action. On the other hand, many people are enticed to believe climate change deniers and do nothing. This confusion often leads to inaction or radicalization due to conflicting emotions and facts.
In light of this, it is crucial for climate change advocates to conduct political economy analyses that help create a conducive environment for demanding integrity from policymakers while advocating for climate justice. The fact that climate change policies directly impact national economies, often leaving the most vulnerable powerless to react against the powerful, has spurred individual actions that have captivated global attention, such as the activism of Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old climate activist, and the emergence of social movements like FridaysForFuture, a youth-led global climate strike movement.
Advocates must skillfully navigate the complex policy landscape and power dynamics surrounding climate change narratives. Engaging with decision-makers at the global, regional, national, and local levels is crucial. Collaboration through coalitions and networks, including grassroots organizations working directly with affected communities and consumers, is essential.
Internationally recognized evidence-based policy frameworks, such as National Determined Contributions (NDC) and National Action Plans (NAP), offer valuable entry points for advocacy at transnational, national, and local levels. The focus should be on ensuring the completion, compliance, and enforcement of these frameworks to hold accountable all relevant actors. Policymakers, the private sector, and civil society must forge strong partnerships to drive meaningful progress in addressing climate change
PARTNERSHIP EQUATION FOR CHANGE
These involve as in any other advocacy action research, media, civil society, private sector, local and national governments, parliament, or administration, as well as donors or local, national, and international organizations, and communities. Partnership with the private sector is crucial, but concerns arise regarding lack of knowledge which still exists among private companies that by prioritizing their business interests neglect the risks they might face due to climate change impact. Climate resilient development is enabled when governments, civil society and the private sector make inclusive development choices that prioritize risk reduction, equity and justice, and when decision-making processes, finance and actions are integrated across governance levels, sectors, and timeframes. Strengthening lobbying regulations and self-regulation efforts can help ensure that public policies align with societal interests. Decentralized leadership empowers communities to drive climate solutions, and localizing and regionalizing solutions are vital.
Indeed, the partnership depends even on the agency and the way how climate action is mobilized being this individual actions (UN Campaign ActNOW), social action (generation of climate change ambassadors in UK, Climate Action Network), activism (Extinction Rebellion in UK), movement (started in 1972 at the UN Scientific Conference, also known as the First Earth Summit, FridaysforFuture) etc.
A good mixture of formal long-term partnerships (alliances and networks) and less formal alliances (issue-based) might be used to achieve advocacy goals.
COMMUNICATING “THE BAD NEWS” FOR IMPACT
Advocators should be persistent and consistent because communication is of paramount importance in a long path of effort. Climate change can mean different things to different people; therefore, to have better communication advocators should try to keep arguments as local as possible, outlining specific implications and challenges. The tone of advocacy and communication should consider the emotionality that climate change provokes and the polarized context where the discourse takes place. The distant nature of climate change calls for evoking emotions such as anger and hope while creating a sense of grievance or threat among individuals and society. Effective communication about climate change requires positive messages that inspire inclusive action. Collaboration shared motives, and transformative action are crucial for a better future.
Developing scientific and credible evidence and communicating it in combination with sensitive human stories by using all communication for development tools (e.g. UN campaign Voices of Change) resonates with both the elites and common people.
PROACTIVE ROLE OF DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS
Nowadays, climate justice and climate finance combined with social and individual responsibility are the multi-faces of advocacy, and public and private institutions as well as civil society are under transition to respond to such trends. Advocating for change in a quite volatile context due to transformation at different levels requires advocators to unify their messages, voice, and strategies. Helvetas has recognized this need and is actively engaging in addressing this global challenge by acquiring the new role of Knowledge Broker, acting as neutral intermediaries in the interface between the creators and users of knowledge for climate change (but not only).
We’re aware of a complex space with controversial powers and different levels where the private contributes to the public and via versus, and civil society plays a key role to engage all parts into action.
We recognize the need for inclusive participation, efforts are made to ensure diverse voices and perspectives are included in global climate advocacy.
Advocacy emerges as a potent catalyst in confronting climate change, effectively bridging the chasm between solutions and implementation. It galvanizes the pursuit of social equity, mobilizing an array of stakeholders to instigate profound, transformative shifts. Through viable remedies, synergistic endeavours, and unwavering resolve, we hold the capacity to combat climate change, fostering a sustainable legacy for succeeding generations. As aptly put by Greta Thunberg, "Averting climate disruption mandates visionary foresight. We forge the groundwork, even amid uncertain skies, for a future whose expanse transcends our present understanding."
This blog expands on the webinar Climate Advocacy (June 2023). Regional Advocacy Network (Helvetas Eastern and South East Europe) would like to thank you, contributors, Rupa Mukerji (Senior Advisor, Adoption to Climate Change, Helvetas), Luuk Dorren (Natural Hazards and Risk Management, University of Bern), Christina Aebischer (Advisor, Climate Adaptions and Advocacy), Ornela Çuçi (Former Minister of Environment, Albania), Merita Mansaku-Meksi
(Climate Advisor, GIZ), Laura Qorlaze (Country Representative, International Finance Corporation/World Bank Group).
Contact us to learn more AdvocacyWesternBalkans@helvetas.org