At a time when the usefulness of COPs is increasingly being questioned, we must undoubtedly underline their fundamental merit. The COPs have a tremendous power of gathering and are crucial meeting places between people from different spheres who would not otherwise have the opportunity to discuss together.
Some may wonder to what extent these interactions can catalyze action on the challenges posed by climate change.
Let us then tell you a telling example, that of our meeting and discussion with Brenda Mwale, a young entrepreneur and member of the delegation from Malawi. The message it sends is unequivocal: the only way to mobilize as many people as possible in climate action is to provide everyone with the keys to understanding climate issues and levers for action. This is why she has several projects, including the Green Girls Platform, a space for women of Malawi to actively participate in the governance of climate change and the environment, influencing decision-making at all levels. This empowerment involves, for example, explaining what are nationally determined contributions (CDNs), or even strengthening the skills of these women in advocacy.
Therefore, with this project, Brenda Mwale is helping to overcome the contradiction of leaving populations very vulnerable to the effects of climate change without any means of action. In short, the COPs serve first and foremost as a place to meet inspiring encounters and have discussions in order to bring out new courses of action.
Whatever our enthusiasm in the face of these impromptu debates with people accosted during our wanderings in the pavilions or on the fringes of side-events, it is important to think more seriously about the way in which the stakeholders present at the COPs interact. This is precisely the agenda of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS). Throughout the day, this institute organizes one-and-a-half-hour meetings on a theme defined in advance and invites participants to dialogue in its Co-creative Reflection & Dialogue Space.
According to researchers at this institute, the culture of communication that has developed within COPs is based mainly on conventional presentations, which are not conducive to mutual engagement and learning. On the other hand, they want to promote new forms of dialogue in order to go beyond the sterile exchanges of fixed points of view and to encourage more open discussions where everyone strives to better understand the position of their interlocutor. Such discussions would likely lead to the co-creation of solutions responding to climate challenges, thus supporting collective and cooperative action.
If we cannot apply the Co-creative Reflection & Dialogue Space model to all pavilions, perhaps we should send swarms of young observers to the COPs to act as facilitators between Parties! What was our surprise, a few days earlier, when we sat down at the table of three members of different African delegations who ignored each other, to manage to initiate a frenzied dialogue between them on the realistic prospects for phasing out fossil fuels …
The development of new forms of intercultural and intergenerational communications, within the COPs and beyond, would undoubtedly be the best way to launch a real just transition, that is to say a framework to jointly tackle the crises of the climate change and inequalities. This is precisely the position taken by the IASS.
If the expression “just transition” is very present within the COP, in particular in a certain number of side-events dedicated to it, it is clear that the subject remains very little mentioned in the NDCs – to this day, only 49 parties refer to it, according to the International Trade Union Confederation. It is crucial to accelerate the integration of this notion in the debates on the transition to low-carbon economies. Many experts, including the co-director of the Laboratory on Global Inequalities, Lucas Chancel, emphasize that carbon neutrality cannot be achieved without tackling the issue of inequalities head-on.