Energy independence: Switching to local resources
Not only the aggregate number of small initiatives kick-started this year can make a dent in the emission gap the world needs to bridge, but it is also a way to foster development and resilience. In the case of the small island states, for example, switching to local sources of clean energy such as the sun, the ocean or the natural heat coming from the ground would also mean becoming energy independent. “I would like to see businesses in the island communities tap into their own resources, rather than rely on import” Richardson said.
Bernie Cotter, managing director of ICLEI Oceania, noted that energy independence also boosts resilience: “Pacific islands are most vulnerable to extreme weather. After cyclones and tsunami all of those transportation routes for imported oil are knocked over, so it’s very important to have local supply to fall back on”.
The voices of networks such as ICLEI or the Covenant of Mayors, also present at COP with a series of side events, will feed into the UNFCCC process through the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, launched last year and due to be further developed this week. The new platform makes space for non-party actors to connect, report and measure progress, informing national and international politics.
For most vulnerable states, time is running out
But while industrialised nations in America or Europe can afford to play the long game and ramp up their actions over time, for vulnerable states this COP is one of the last opportunities to remind the world that for them, climate change is a matter of life or death.
“By now we have collected a wealth of information showing how island states need urgent action” said Sunael Purgus, chairperson of the district of Pamplemousses in the Mauritius. “You can tell me this is a slow process, but we have no time”.
Purgus said that because the negotiations are not going to proceed fast, the whole climate community gathered at COP, including delegates of industrialised nations, should focus primarily on practical solutions. Despite a number of locally-led initiatives launched last week, Purgus remains sceptical: “I don’t think this is happening”, because non-party actors are still relegated to the fringes of high level debate.
“It’s important for all island states to come together and work out how to implement and monitor projects on the ground.” Purgus said. “2020 is not far and we want to see the real action being taken”.
Although this year’s COP can be considered just a stepping stone towards a stock-tacking process that will take place next year, and will assess how countries are doing against their objectives, cities and regions have emerged from Bonn as one powerful voice. Through a myriad of twinning initiatives and the establishment of networks that bring together the majors of regions and entire continents, non-party actors may well embody that ideal of unity that still seems so elusive to the UN delegates.