The World of Summit Climate & Territories (July 1st and 2nd) was the first event of its kind organized in the perspective of COP21. During two days, non-state actors, local leaders, experts and NGOs discussed how local authorities and actors could be more efficiently and effectively involved in the success of COP21.
Their message is clear: civil society and local authorities will be the ones in charge of implementing the different commitments of the Paris agreement. Ronan Dantec and Jean-Jack Queyranne opened the Summit by saying: “We are here to act.”. The international climate strategy has to honor local authorities’ role in leading the response on the front lines.
The overall objective of the Summit was to engage territories on a long-term strategy to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts. On the first day, participants had the opportunity to comment on recommendations to be added to the final declaration. Adapting a territory to the effects of climate change has to be seen as the opportunity to improve citizens’ quality of life and to boost economic development at the national scale. For developing countries, this is a key idea: benefitting from those changes to create growth is an attractive pathway.
In fact, some African countries (Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana) testified in the Summit on the importance of PPPs (Public-Private Partnerships) for the development of public infrastructures and the necessary adaptation of their territories. Houria Es-Slami, on behalf of the National Council on Human Rights of Morocco, insisted also on the fact that the heat wave that Europe is facing now proves to those who tend to forget it that territories need to adapt. The massive flows of environmental migrants also underline the precarious status of populations across the world. He also claimed that “Doing nothing will cost us more than acting”, an economical incentive that was often repeated during the summit.
The first plenary session “Climate: societies in movement” began with a reciting of the results of the planetary debate, called Worldwide Views on Climate and Energy. Three panels then opened the discussion on important issues: economic development linked to climate change, the role of youth and finally some testimonies of successful local stories. The first panel introduced a lot of ideas, calling for a creation of a carbon tax and an adaptation of education to the climate change challenges to be faced by societies. It was also underlined by Erik Orsenna, a famous French writer, that it is not the planet we are fighting for, but that it is we who face the greatest danger from climate change. Erik Orsenna’s idea was that language is a key factor of success in declarations and statements. Picking the right vocabulary allows a better understanding of issues at stake.
Youth representatives from all over the world composed the second panel. They presented their actions or innovative ideas to face climate change and mobilize their peers on that topic. They all gave a very positive insight and hopeful statements to inspire the audience.
On the last panel, speakers shared their experience on adaptation projects already implemented on their territories. They emphasized the shared idea that solutions already exist at the local scale. However, they often lack access to investments and finance, a key issue to be addressed by the summit.
Closing the first day, Maros Sefcovic (Vice-President of the Energy Committee of the UN) asserted the fact that long-term actions are to be implemented locally independently of political preoccupations and games at COP21. French President François Hollande then gave a very inspiring speech, welcoming the “collective determination” of the summit and calling territories to action to make the Paris conference a real success.