PHOTO: CCI Board Member and Latin America Regional Coordinator Isatis Cintrón addressed the high-level segment with a call to respect the rights and the role of stakeholders in shaping ambitious climate policy. Photo Credit to Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Dr. Ana Puszkin-Chevlin, Growing Climate Solutions’ Regional Director had the opportunity to catch up with Ms. Solemi Hernandez, the South Florida Coordinator for Citizen’s Climate lobby, one of our allied climate partners, about her work and experience at the recent COP26 Summit in Glasgow. Our Partner Spotlight features excerpts of their conversation.

Ana: Solemi,  I hear you are just back from  COP26 in Glasgow.  Tell us a bit about what you did there?

Solemi: As the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Southeast Regional Coordinator, I was honored to be selected to attend the United Nation’s COP26 summit as part of Citizens’ Climate International, and also as a guest of the Global Council for Science and Environment. Citizen’s Climate Lobby’s work at the summit was to implement ‘Action for Climate Empowerment’ (ACE).  ACE is about  enhancing public participation and engagement in mitigative and adaptive actions and policies. It is grounded in Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement. The six components of ACE are: Education, Training, Public Awareness, Public Participation, Public Access to Information and International Cooperation.

The Climate Lobby group at COP 26, with financial support of the Florida-based VoLo Foundation, the Southwest Florida Reset Center, ECOS, Floor, the US ACE Coalition, and the CCI team, created a  Climate Empowerment Virtual Lab.  This internet platform, which we called The Peoples’ Pavilion, sought to elevate ACE efforts by creating virtual space where citizens from around the world who cannot attend COP26 could interact and share their vision for a climate-smart future directly with those in the climate talks space. Our goal was to provide a blueprint on how to make open public participation in climate negotiations a norm, and to make this process accessible to all, thereby opening the civic space of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to citizen’s around the globe.  The People’s Pavilion ran for 15 days, streamed 51 sessions, included 20 exhibitors, and welcomed 1,000 virtual participants.

Ana: Give us a sense of who participated in the People’s Pavilion?

Solemi: In our opening session we listened from environmental champions such as Fleur Newman UNFCCC ACE & Gender Unit Lead, Felicia Davis, Co-Founder of HBCU Green Fund, Talieh Woegerbauer ACE Ambassador, Isatis Cintron, Citizens Climate International LatAm Regional Coordinator, and US ACE coordinating team member, Joseph Robertson CCI Director and from our funders.   Through our engagement program we helped curate an agenda on sessions related to ACE.

Ana: Was Florida well represented among the American groups?

Solemi: Yes, we had Chris Castro and Clayton Ferrera director of Ideas for Us, both mayors of Miami. The CLEO Institute was in one of our ACE sessions and friends from faith organizations. I met lots of advocates from everywhere in Florida over there.

Ana: So tell me about the mood in Glasgow among the many advocates who went to participate?

Solemi: The first week, COVID measures made it difficult for delegates to be present in some open negotiations.  While the UNFCCC said that they were going to live-stream the events, during the first two days they had problems doing so and sent emails apologizing about the technical difficulties.  There were also long lines, sometimes two hours, to enter the venue. Delegates had to wait sometimes in the cold rain to get in.

However, the commitment of civic society groups like mine, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, to be part of this historical conference was contagious and inspiring. The role of civil society groups in the COP 26 negotiations is to keep the process transparent. That is why restricting the participation of these types of delegates was frustrating and had a profound impact.

Ana: In addition to the People’s Pavilion, What other things did you work on there?

Solemi: I also had the honor to work on drafting an ACE document: the Just Climate Transformation Proposal by Civil Society – Glasgow Work Programme.  The Draft Decision text CP.26, requests that the secretariat establish a consultative process and explore how to best foster coherence across ACE efforts to accelerate and mobilize climate action.  Specifically, we note that the Glasgow Work Programme recognizes:

  • the importance of all six elements of Action for Climate Empowerment… to achieving the objective of the Convention and the purpose and goals of the Paris Agreement…
  • the key role that a broad range of stakeholders, such as national, regional and local governments, educational and cultural institutions, museums, the private sector, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, decision-makers, scientists, the media, teachers, youth, women and indigenous peoples, play in ensuring Action for Climate Empowerment…
  • the importance of linkages between activities undertaken to support Action for Climate Empowerment and other relevant international arrangements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Education for Sustainable Development for 2030, as well as regional agreements…

It also asks countries to take “a long-term, strategic, and country-driven approach” to ACE activity. We consider this to mean, concretely:

  • Long-term science-based participatory decision-making must “foster low-emission, climate-resilient and sustainable development”.
  • Strategic ACE activity must build capacity early to optimize the landscape for investment flows to a climate-smart economy aligned with the 1.5ºC temperature goal—meaning 50% global decarbonization by 2030.
  • Country-driven approaches must be rooted in and focused on securing dignity, opportunity, and wellbeing for the people, of whom the country is comprised.

Ana: Were there things that you felt were not considered or addressed properly at COP26?

Solemi: Unfortunately, in the end, human rights were excluded from the final ACE draft document, a big disappointment because many activists doing the ACE work, such as indigenous communities and women,  need safeguards to do this work as their lives are being threatened, especially in the global south.

In terms of the COP26 overall, my biggest disappointment is the lack of commitment to funding Lost and Damages by USA and bigger emitters.  I learned about the power of the “word”, and how it can create loopholes in the negotiations.  For example, “phase down” instead of “phase out” and eliminate “inefficient” fossil fuels subsidies, are ways to water down the commitment of the agreements.

Ana:  So what happens next?

Solemi: In the coming weeks and months, we will provide new insights about the landscape of ACE activity from our network and from the wider community of Parties and non-Party stakeholders leading on this critical work. We will also report on our work towards a stakeholder-driven Science Activation General Assessment (SAGA). And, we will provide insights from key allies toward the shaping of an inclusive, adaptive, catalytic ACE action plan for work under the Glasgow Work Programme.