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What is Action for Climate Empowerment? Why is it so crucial in the climate discussion and how can it be applied beyond? As part of the little COP27, in this article I’m telling you all about it!

What is ACE?

Action for Climate Empowerment, commonly abbreviated to “ACE” (pronounced as “ACE”, not “A-C-E”!) is a framework developed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to respond to article 6 of the Convention and article 12 of the Paris Agreement. The concept of ACE is structured around the 6 elements: education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation. ACE is included in the UNFCCC process as a separate negotiating agenda item, it also has its own secretariat that hosts many events each year, including the annual ACE Dialogue in June which is meant to be a space for exchange of ideas and inspirations between government representatives and all the other stakeholders.

Action for Climate Empowerment is the main point of entry into climate negotiations for the civil society stakeholders: NGOs, social movements, youth, children, as well as the typically excluded minority groups. Here is the place to advocate for education, for more accessible decision-making systems, for quality awareness raising. This is also, arguably, the most open space within the UNFCCC closed and complicated system. Unfortunately, it is also the space that nobody, besides a few enthusiast like myself, ever talks about. It’s being dismissed as an “unimportant” or “lower priority” topic. And then let me ask you: isn’t education and awareness the only rational starting point if we want to have a responsible society, capable of fundamentally changing our current system? Don’t we need training first if we want to adapt to a changing reality? Isn’t public participation and access to information a must to develop any useful actions and ideas? Let’s talk about it and put these issues higher on the agenda!

COP27 and the ACE Action Plan

So, why was COP27 so important in the ACE discussion? It is because in Sharm El-Sheikh a decision was made to adopt a new ACE Action Plan - a 4-year plan of implementing ACE under the new Glasgow Work Programme established at COP26. This document includes a list of specific activities that different stakeholders are supposed to do in the next 4 years. What does it include? Supporting countries in developing national ACE strategies. Meaningful inclusion of youth in both decision-making and implementation and inclusive participation for minority groups. Promoting regional partnerships. A strongly thought over reference to respecting human rights. An initial hint on financial support for both governments and non-state actors who are engaged in ACE activities. And more.

As a person directly involved in negotiating the Action Plan (more about this in my next post!), I can say I am quite satisfied with this outcome, which was finally agreed by everyone and proposes some ambitious action points. Now is of course the time to turn all the words and promises in the decision into reality. It’s time to implement them! And even though most activities in the Action Plan involve just the UNFCCC Secretariat, there are also many ways in which other stakeholders can get involved. It’s a wonderful opportunity for all civil society entities to come together and show that Action for Climate Empowerment exists not only within the UN institutions, but also in the everyday world.

Action for Empowerment as a next step towards an equal, participatory society?

I love the concept of ACE because it allowed me to look at climate action from a different, more constructive perspective. It captures very well the six elements, the interactions and the connections between them. It explains that education is nothing without public participation, that public awareness can’t be achieved without public access to information, that appropriate training requires international cooperation… It is all connected, the elements, as well as their impact on any and all of the other topics on the climate agenda. And so we need to look at it from a holistic point of view, but also a structured point of view, which is a message so frequently missing.

And so I wonder… what would happen if we popularized this concept among wider audiences and used it also in other areas of social life? What if Action for Empowerment was a basis of building inclusive and transparent political agendas, of creating more responsible and resilient societies that have the necessary knowledge and skills to react to the challenges they face? This can concern issues such as health, gender equality, human rights, migration crisis, or whatever other global challenges that come to your mind. So what if we could properly educate and train people and raise their awareness about this issues, while also giving them a participatory space and accessible information, and cooperate with other countries in doing all this?

In the Open Dialogues International Foundation we find this idea inspiring and we are planning to build on it and implement the Action for Empowerment elements in our next initiatives, through the use of Open Dialogues methods.

What do you think about all this? Feel free to engage in a discussion with me! And stay tuned for my next post where I will finally tell you how a 20-year-old kid from Poland can become a UN negotiator for Liberia…

See you soon!

~Zuzanna Borowska

Inequalities and logistical nightmares

6 November 2022, around 1 a.m. Egyptian time. I have just reached my apartment in one of the huge, half-empty Sharm El-Sheikh holiday resorts, after a whole day of plane travels, one hour of standing in the different pointless queues at the airport, and another 2 hours of waiting for the apartment to get ready in the middle of night. It's the first day of COP27! It's also my first time in Africa and outside of Europe. While trying to fall asleep in the small hot apartment, I realize this will be a difficult session…

This country didn't welcome me as a space open for dialogue or diversity. I saw a reality that scared me at first, where men were clearly superior to women, and where most people would be perfectly fine with going against the rules, just to take advantage of the COP "tourists" and earn more money (special shoutout to the taxi drivers). At the COP venue the situation got a bit better, but not too much. The lack of food at the conference besides grab&go stands and a restaurant demanding 20$ for entry was some kind of disappointment even before we could get any proper disappointments with failed promises.

So I first found COP27 to be a COP of inequalities and logistical nightmares. But… then the negotiations started, the meetings with inspiring people started, and by putting all my efforts in, I tried to help in creating some new open dialogue spaces… and it worked some wonders!

Voices silenced, voices heard

Against all odds, the civil society community at the COP was a huge thing. While difficulties in access to this conference could be clearly seen, those who made it to Egypt coordinated and supported each other like never before. Concerned about their own safety, the climate movement didn't protest too much and didn't shout too much, especially outside the COP venue. However, they found some space for sharing their demands inside, both through civil society actions and through dialogue (!) with the world leaders, negotiators, NGOs, researchers, media, and all the stakeholders who kept running around this huge and chaotic event, slowly finding their ways to make contributions and engage in conversations with others.

The pavilion space spread over a few buildings created just for the conference was mesmerizing at a first glance. Even though most pavilions were dedicated to obvious greenwashing by rich, fossil fuel based countries, there were also some brand new safe spaces available - a civil society pavilion, an education hub, and even a first ever children and youth pavilion where I spent a lot of my time on very insightful and open dialogues with young people, talking strategy and coordination with my dear friends from the ACE Working Group of YOUNGO.

I personally tried to bridge the gap between the negotiations closed to observers and the pavilions closed to negotiators. Did I succeed? Find out in my next posts!

Searching for inclusive spaces

Interestingly, I found one very open space for dialogue inside a negotiating room itself. That was the room where I spent most of my time, one where the negotiations on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) took place. Interventions from civil society, a few observers allowed to join closed meetings. A very empathetic and welcoming attitude towards everyone, including first-timer negotiators like myself and representatives of marginalized groups. Direct interactions, open exchange of views, and relationships formed between people representing completely opposite sides of the discussion. And treating everyone in the room as equals which I was not expecting at all and which made many people feel understood and valuable in this dialogue. Of course it was not ideal and could be much better, but my argument here is that this increased involvement of dialogue in the decision-making space (importantly, done without breaking the established rules) was one of the key elements that brought us to an agreement and to a (mostly) satisfying decision, unlike many other rooms that feared change, feared diversity, and feared ambitious decisions. I believe people in those rooms would desperately need more Action for Climate Empowerment, more awareness, and more dialogue.

The Open Dialogues International Foundation team watched all these dynamics closely and we are ready to work on this by engaging in some research on dialogue spaces at international meetings such as COP27, and then cooperating with others to improve the quality of these spaces and participation in them.

Stay tuned!

Still curious to know more about the brilliant concept of ACE, the COP outcomes and the impressions on how it feels to attend the COP in two different roles, one of them being a negotiator for a country located on a different continent? No worries, I've got you covered! Just follow this series and see what happens next!

~Zuzanna Borowska

**ACE, Action for Climate Empowerment - a framework under the UNFCCC (art. 6) and the Paris Agreement (art. 12) which includes 6 elements: education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation.

**YOUNGO (Youth NGOs) - the official Children and Youth Constituency of the UNFCCC.

Do you believe that dialogue is an important element in fighting the environmental challenges? Would you like to organize an Open Dialogue on Climate Change in your community? Keep reading! We have something special for you!

We have decided to open the 2022 applications for ODCC National Teams!

We are waiting for applications between the 7th of March and 30th of April 2022. Find a team, fill the application form, and organize an Open Dialogue on Climate Change in your country with the support of our international team! We welcome people from all background, all age groups, and all nationalities. What you need is an idea, an open mind, and a willingness to create a space where all voices will come together and meaningful, solution-oriented conversations will take place.

What are the benefits?

  • Improving your communication, management, and teamwork skills

  • Partnerships and many possibilities to speak publicly about the current climate situation in your countries with the support of the ODCC international team

  • Joining a global network of likeminded people, regular meetings for national organizers, promotional and logistical support for your events

  • Opportunity to participate in the COP27, be featured during our summary event, and contribute to our international campaigns

Do you want to join our journey to help the planet? YOU CAN. You can make a change today because your voice does matter. If you have time, are interested, and are ready to put in some effort, then don't hesitate and apply!

More information:

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