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  • Writer's pictureZuzanna Borowska

Let’s take some action for empowerment!

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

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Dec 14, 2022

We definitely need this on a larger scale! It is a unique opportunity to engage civil society into decision-making and to decentralise power dynamics

Thank you for writing such a clear and much needed perspective on this!

Zuzanna Borowska
Zuzanna Borowska
Dec 14, 2022
Replying to

Thank you so much for reading and for your support! Decentralization is indeed key if we dream of a society based on dialogue. Time to talk about it more and do something!

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