Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time: temperatures are rising, drought and wildfires are occurring more frequently, rainfall patterns are shifting, glaciers are melting, and sea levels are rising. To mitigate this, huge changes at all levels of society, politics and businesses are required. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2015 Paris Agreement represent an understanding that human and animal wellbeing depend on the planet’s life-support systems. They also demonstrate much needed international consensus on the urgency of addressing climate change and environmental degradation. However, simply having these treaties is not enough. Complying with them by translating their commitments into domestic laws and regulations is crucial.
From 1-12 November 2021, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will take place in Glasgow, United Kingdom. COP26 is significant as it will be the first COP after the COVID-19 pandemic erupted and most countries will have to make a new pledge after the Paris Agreement. The only two legally-binding points agreed in Paris are for countries to make commitments (Nationally Determined Contributions) and to report on them every 5 years with the goal of limiting the rise of global temperature to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
Ahead of the all-important conference, WFD and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) have been implementing a programme to inform parliamentarians in Sub-Saharan Africa of COP26 issues and support their examination of their own national progress in delivering Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The programme, which ran from January to June 2021, also supported parliamentarians to advance their work in scrutinising national climate policies and legislations in their respective countries.
Role of parliament and Environment Committees
The programme’s engagement with parliamentarians from five African countries – DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda – was with the recognition that there are strong linkages between action to address climate and environmental crises and the role that Environment Committees can play in advancing commitments (NDCs) in domestic legislation. Additionally, parliamentarians are uniquely placed to help raise the necessary public awareness of climate change; to ensure that citizens are involved in decisions on climate action; and to recognise the role of local communities in implementing climate and environmental policies.
Environment Committees have a unique mandate to exercise scrutiny and input into their government’s national climate change strategies. With this in mind, WFD and KAS delivered a series of activities geared towards equipping MPs with information about COP26 and the commitments their governments have made, as well as providing a forum for discussion and sharing of ideas.
First, research identified key capacity needs and areas of intervention. This provided clarity on the work of the committees and their baseline knowledge of NDCs and COP processes. Then, local roundtables on NDCs were hosted in four out of the five countries – enabling consultations and review of the respective countries’ preparedness for COP26.
The second phase of the programme allowed participants to access a personalised online training course, which provided an objective introduction to the main agenda items at COP26 and the possible outcomes from Glasgow; briefed participants on the approach of the UK Presidency and the priorities of African Group of Negotiators; and focused on parliamentary scrutiny, covering post-legislative scrutiny of climate legislation to support participants to advance and be more active in their scrutinising role.
To embed the learning, WFD facilitated a regional peer-to-peer virtual exchange workshops after each online course module. These group discussions offered selected senior parliamentarians from across the region a forum to exchange experiences and ideas about enhancing parliamentary scrutiny of COP26 preparations. A final policy brief summarising key highlights and themes in the group discussions was compiled to ensure participants have enough information to take forward within their own parliamentary context.
WFD’s Senior Environmental Adviser, Rafael Jiménez-Aybar, who provided technical advice throughout the programme says,
“WFD’s first regional environmental democracy programme in sub-Saharan Africa has brought to the fore a substantial number of good parliamentary practices on climate action, and the potential for catalysing an accelerated, just transition to a global zero-carbon society by empowering elected representatives in developing countries through South-South dialogue.”
WFD is looking forward to COP26, as the summit seeks to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.