Climate Summit 2014: What Parliaments Can Do

AGORA moderator's picture

This is a blog post by Lotte Geunis of the United Nations Development Programme. 


"UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 this 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action.  He has asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015." 

Despite the Secretary-General's praiseworthy optimism, most of us are not expecting too many bold statements at today's Climate Summit - or in any case, not on the part of world leaders.  While it is hoped that some small steps can be taken, much work remains to be done to secure a strong agreement at next year's COP in Paris.  On the one hand, there is a growing acceptance of the pressing need for climate action, and 'green' technologies such as renewable energy and energy efficiency are increasingly adopted to secure sustainable energy supplies.  On the other, however, the use of coal is on the up once again, and the European Commission's decision to merge the Energy and Climate Change portfolios signals a growing reluctance on the part of Europe to take the lead at this critical stage.  

The UNFCCC’s track record does not call for optimism either.  In recent years, the COPs have been heavily criticized for failing to take the decisive action that is required to tackle climate change.  Issues of inclusiveness and ownership are being raised with increasing frequency and fervour as well: negotiations tend to be run by members of the UN system and national governments, sidelining many important stakeholders and leaving parliamentarians woefully underrepresented.  


This needs to change.  Parliamentarians should push to attend these meetings and use their political influence to advocate for a strong global climate change agreement.  There is ample reason to support such a parliamentary approach: cross-party networks of like-minded MPs have proved to be very effective in guiding governments towards climate-friendly policies and programmes.  The Parliamentary Action on Renewable Energy (PARE) project, jointly implemented by UNDP and Climate Parliament, has played a crucial role in fossil fuel subsidy reform in Morocco, in securing 1% of India's budget for renewable energy investments, and in adopting a climate change clause in Tunisia's new constitution.


While the PARE approach cannot be replicated at the COPs, these and many other examples illustrate that building parliamentary support for climate and energy action delivers results. Parliamentarians are notoriously difficult to ignore, and can build a strong case on the growing number of climate and energy laws that are being adopted around the globe.  Crucially, they can also lend some much-needed legitimacy and ownership to these negotiations.  In short, Paris would benefit from having more MPs at the table – let’s hope they can find some more chairs. 


For more on how parliaments can act on climate change and energy, visit our Climate Portal's resource pages.  For more on the international action framework on climate change, please click here.