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Parliaments are representative institutions that should channel the voices and concerns of citizens and that should act and advocate on their behalf.  Where climate change is concerned, it may prove difficult for legislators to balance technical and complex law-making with the need for inclusive and participatory processes.  With climate change increasingly in the spotlight and on the political agenda, parliamentarians would do well to improve their outreach and communication on the topic, and to solicit more feedback and input from citizens. 

Strong and consistent communication on climate change is crucial if citizens are to accept the urgent need for action. Germany, the UK and Australia have seen varying levels of public dissent in the face of increased subsidies – and the resulting rise in energy bills - for renewable energy development.  China and India, two countries facing considerable climate threats in the form of extreme weather events, flooding and pollution-related health risks, are pouring resources into renewable energy but remain reluctant where cutting carbon emissions is concerned. Bangladesh and the Small Island States, on the other hand, face more profound and immediate threats and have emerged, perhaps unsurprisingly, as early adopters of pilot initiatives. Public opinion matters, and parliamentarians will not succeed in taking parliamentary action on climate change if there is little or no public support to do so. 

Parliamentary Action

Parliamentarians have a crucial role to play in shaping people’s perception of climate change and in building the political will needed to tackle it.  They can help inform people by supporting public information campaigns and by reporting on the issue through personal statements and communications.  They can also encourage the parliament and relevant committees to share findings and reports with the public, and push for greater openness and direct consultation with citizens and key stakeholders.

AGORA E-learning – ‘Parliaments in Practice: an Introduction’

As a Parliamentarian you will be faced with a large variety of problems, concerns, opinions and comments from ordinary citizens and representatives of business, trade unions and civil society.  Your job is to encourage and promote such feedback, to filter the information received and to develop new laws, policies and state funding, where these actions will result in better government that addresses the concerns raised.

To help first-time parliamentarians strengthen their rerpesentation and outreach efforts, AGORA has developed an introduction course with concrete tips and action points.  For more information on constituency relations, advocacy and dealing with the media, please consult AGORA’s free e-learning course here.

Reversing these roles, parliamentarians are also an excellent first point of contact for Civil Society Organisations looking to promote climate change action.  CSOs can share concerns and comments with parliamentarians they feel would be supportive of the issue, and can help provide research and expertise.  While parliamentarians cannot act on every request that is made to them, when concerted efforts are made they do well to advocate on CSO’s and citizens’ behalf where possible.

Kenya Climate Change Working Group

Kenya’s 2012 climate change bill successfully went through both the first and second reading but was rejected by former president Kibaki, who failed to assent it into law citing lack of public partnership.

In response, the Kenya Climate Change Working Group organised an MPs sensitization workshop on the climate change Bill on 9th May, 2014 in Mombasa.  The forum brought together stakeholders from the national assembly, the senate, media, KCCWG, TI Kenya, MEW&NR and other CSOs providing an avenue to discuss the draft climate change Bill, the proposed amendments by the taskforce (with the assistance of the Bill’s legal consultant) and proposed necessary amendments. 

To read the workshop report, please click here.

Advocating for climate change action: two birds, one stone?

Advocating for climate change action is made easier when parliamentarians can point to available win-win opportunities.  In fact, many of today’s policy priorities and concerns can be addressed through climate-resilient responses, even when they appear to have little to do with the environment. 

Renewable energy development, for example, is commonly noted for its potential in tackling unemployment: it creates jobs in the renewable industry itself, and it attracts new investments through improved and secured energy access.  Infrastructure development (schools, hospitals, public services) can be done more sustainably by securing green loans.  With the right incentives and policies in place, these often prove more cost-effective than regular loans.  Traffic congestion in large cities can be addressed by investing in climate-friendly alternatives such as public transport.  This, in turn, will significantly improve air quality and deliver important health benefits.  Land management issues should be tackled with a view to flood prevention and sustainable water management.  Investments in agriculture and food production should take into account projected temperature changes and possible soil erosion through floods, extreme precipitation or sea-level rises.   Sustainable solutions could include putting up flood barriers, investing in more resilient crops and generally diversifying food production. 

Such solutions are clearly complex.  When well developed, however, they illustrate that climate change action can be more than money ‘wasted’ on protective measures that offer little or no returns.  By going for win-win strategies that link climate change action to other priorities (employment, food security, energy access and so on), decision-makers can promote sustainable development and build resilient societies.

Scotland - Adaptating to Climate Change: an Introduction for Public Sector Policy-Makers, Resource Managers and Practitioners

This document illustrates how decision-makers and other stakeholders can be sensitized to the inevitable impacts of climate change for their respective sector(s), and encourages them to develop constructive, sustainable solutions.  Publications such as these can be helpful to parliamentarians who want to raise awareness and promote positive action. 
The document provides public sector policy makers, resource managers and practitioners with an introduction to climate change adaptation.   It includes:

  • Climate information: Key facts and figures about the changes in climate that have been observed in the recent past and the changes that are projected for this century.
  • Justifying action: Information on the need to prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change.
  • Planned and flexible approaches to adaptation: The benefits of using existing plans and policies to develop a flexible approach to adaptation and information about developing a phased approach to adaptation planning.
  • Service and infrastructure impacts: Some of the ways that public sector services and infrastructure are likely to be affected by changes in climate.
  • Policy context: An overview of the climate change adaptation legislative and policy drivers.
  • Information and support: The resources that are available to help public sector organisations adapt to changes in climate.

To read the document, please click here.

Indigenous Communities

Indigenous communities can be adversely affected by local and global development processes, since their distinct visions, concerns and ways of life can be ignored by policy makers. In recent years, international and national legal and policy frameworks have emerged to address adverse effects on indigenous peoples and to advocate for the effective participation of indigenous peoples in matters that concern them in national and local governance. 

Addressing the needs and concerns of indigenous communities is crucial with respect to environment and climate change as well.  Many of the measures that are being implemented to deal with these issues have a profound effect on the lives and traditions of these communities; however, they are often left out of important decision-making processes.  Parliamentarians should take note of their needs and concerns, and should use the tools and resources available to represent these groups where needed and to advocate on their behalf.

Community Protocols for Environmental Sustainability: A Guide for Policymakers

This guide has been written to help policymakers and other stakeholders understand what community protocols are, why they are important, and how they can support their development and recognition within formal environmental legal and policy frameworks. It is also written for all interested in learning about community protocols, including: indigenous peoples and their communities and other local communities (ILCs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), researchers, industry, and those working in government at the local, national and international levels.

To consult the Guide, please click here.