The Paris Agreement states that parties to it acknowledge that adaptation action should be “gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent”, and take into consideration “vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems”, as well as local and indigenous knowledge.

Panelists at the session
Panelists at the session (left to right): May Thazin Aung, Wanun Permpibul, Richard Klein, Naruemon Tubchumpon, Ipat Luna, Daniel Klasander.

The panelists grappled with the question of how this could be achieved in practice, given that the Paris Agreement, like all multi-lateral agreements, is state-based.

SEI Senior Research Fellow Richard Klein said, “The Paris Agreement has established a Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, and the words are all very fine and there’s a lot of rhetoric, but what does it actually mean in practice? It’s national governments that are negotiating and deciding, but all parts of society are necessary to implement the agreement.”

Ipat Luna of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said, “National commitments, especially when conditional, can sometimes be meaningless in the face of daily community struggles. But there definitely is a congruence between local successes and best practices and meeting these national obligations.”

Make policy relevant to local people

As “a new entrant to the Philippine civil service”, Luna spoke about three major challenges to inclusive implementation she faces, pointing to relevance, access and equity. On relevance, she said, “Full transparency is a phrase [in the Paris Agreement] that leaves much to be desired because the focus is on the provider and not the receiver. 1.5 degrees is a global goal but people usually act in their own or their families’ interest, and governments would need to start to use the marketing genius of corporations if they expect uptake. If you spread out the initial expense for a solar lamp, for example, through credit programmes or solar lamp rentals, people can expect to save money and have efficient lighting, but you still need marketing to sell the idea.”

“Governments need to better appreciate local decision-making to understand what is relevant to people and to expand their options”, continued Luna.

On access, Luna said that “climate spending should bridge the digital divide”, pointing to problems with distributing the USD 600 million for the Philippine reforestation plan, which would better reach who it is meant to reach if, for example, contractors had tablets with internet connections with “understandable information in their own language” on contracts and payment schedules.

Donor perspective

Daniel Klasander, Regional Programme Manager at the Embassy of Sweden said, “as a regional donor we want to keep as focused on poverty reduction as possible, so we will focus mainly on adaptation and financing the adaptation agenda.”

“We have a human rights and gender equality approach in all our programmes and partnerships, which is a great reminder to keep people in focus and flip these sometimes top-down agendas upside down,” he continued.

Communities are already engaged

Wanun Permpibul, Director of Climate Watch Thailand pointed out that local communities are already pushing for inclusion and coming up with their own solutions: “Whether or not you have the Paris Agreement, communities are already engaged in protecting the climate, and in acting independently for their survival when disasters strike.”

“People in Krabi Province, for example, are fighting against coal-fired power plants, and communities are getting together to push for 100% renewables without any government support,” she continued, indicating that governments can hinder inclusion rather than facilitating it.

“Coal technology and CCS are delaying and working against community engagement and resilience. The cases of local action are already there – it’s up to the states to pick those up and recognize local voices and bring those to negotiations.”

Permpibul emphasized that urgency “is often missing – for example renewable energy is often marginal in government plans”.

The role of science

Panelists discussed the role of science in policy-making. Luna said, “as a policy drafter I often find myself asking scientists ‘just please tell me what needs to be done at the policy level instead of just giving me results that hardly mean anything to policymakers. Scientists are very risk averse in terms of laying out what needs to be done in a clear way.”

Klein acknowledged the problem, but in the case of the UNFCCC he said it’s not up to them to be prescriptive “it’s up to the national level to implement, but donors can be very influential in shaping policy”.

Naruemon Tubchumpon, Assistant Professor at Chulalongkorn University said that “academics should work together across disciplines to solve problems, and that they don’t want to pressure the government, but maybe there should be more of that and not leave this job to civil society – it is a question for us as academics.”

 Watch the “From Paris to Asia” session