The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog

Changing Gears for Effective (Climate) Change

Posted in Climate Change, Environmental Security and Natural Disasters by NTSblog on January 31, 2012

In her fiery speech at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban in late 2011 (video above), youth leader Ms Anjali Appadurai, expressed the critical importance for Conference delegates to deliver a legally binding document with substantial limits on carbon emissions and sufficient funds for climate adaptation. Similar to previous UNFCCC meetings, such optimism by representatives of environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs) is often dampened by the incremental progress in the negotiating process.

Given the fact that it is highly unlikely that such a rate of incremental change will vary in the near future, ENGOs must reconsider their many approaches in influencing efforts to address climate change. Three main shifts in approaches must be considered:

The first shift for ENGOs to make is to recognise the fact that their role in the UNFCCC process is limited. While ENGOs have been able to increase their visibility and influence in the UNFCCC process over the years, they have been circumscribed by structural challenges within the UNFCCC process, where governments are ultimately the change-makers. Moreover, government actions in UNFCCC are limited by the some level of pragmatism as well as an unwillingness to commit finances and resources in the long term.

The second shift is to channel efforts in global level to the national and local level. To its credit, the UNFCCC process as seen positive moves in building adaptive capacity at the local level with the introduction of the Adaptation Hub – a forum to support the operationalisation of the Cancun Adaptation Framework at local and national levels. This is further strengthened by inter-city-led initiatives such as the Durban Adaptation Charter for Local Governments, and initiatives that highlight the importance of traditional/local knowledge in solutions for addressing climate change. In this regard, there are several avenues in which ENGOs can make solid and immediate change and progress to the lives of communities most vulnerable to environmental change.

The final shift is the need to explore other avenues for progress beyond the UNFCCC process. With funding issues being a major impediment to facilitating ENGOs’ work and upscaling small-scale initiatives, ENGOs should therefore devote more time to engaging and working with private corporations to support these efforts, rather than be opposed to them. In addition to this, ENGOs must be well equipped to integrate climate change issues with existing socio-economic concerns. In a recent ranking of NGOs,  NGOs that made it to the top 10 such as Care International and Oxfam have been able to demonstrate how their initiatives integrate and support concerns related to climate change. In doing so, ENGOs would be in a better position to inform and enhance other global environment-related initiatives, such as the upcoming Rio+20 (also known as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) in June 2012.

Such strategies should therefore be considered seriously by ENGOs to ensure effective progress in climate governance.

*This blog post is an adapted version of the January 2012 edition of NTS Alert on ENGOs’ Bitter Pill: Adapting to Incremental Climate (Governance) Change.

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