Read our latest guest blog by Chirsty as she reflects on a side event at the UN Climate Change talks in Bonn, Germany titled “The Road to COP24” which outlined developing countries expectations for SB48 and COP24. 

The Talanoa Dialogue is an important focus of this year’s climate action and planning, created to enhance discussion and promote solutions-based collaboration between parties. The UNFCCC describes Talanoa as follows:

“Talanoa is a traditional word used in Fiji and across the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue. The purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good. The process of Talanoa involves the sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling.

During the process, participants build trust and advance knowledge through empathy and understanding. Blaming others and making critical observations are inconsistent with building mutual trust and respect, and therefore inconsistent with the Talanoa concept. Talanoa fosters stability and inclusiveness in dialogue, by creating a safe space that embraces mutual respect for a platform for decision making for a greater good.”

The Talanoa Dialogue includes three questions on the topic of climate change solutions:

  • Where are we?
  • Where to we want to be?
  • How do we get there?

This process is part of attempts to close the ambition gap. The Paris Agreement aims to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees, but the sum of all planned emissions reductions around the world is currently not enough to reach this goal. There’s a lot of contention surrounding the Talanoa Dialogue right now, mostly because nobody knows if it’s going to succeed in providing real solutions – and increasing global ambition – to keep global warming below the 1.5 degrees that we’re aiming for.

At an event titled “The Road to COP24”, Meena Raman of the Third World Network voiced a concern about the Talanoa Dialogue’s potential to neglect the past. While the Talanoa questions “Where are we?” and “Where do we want to be?” promote practicality and forward-thinking, Raman asked a different question: “How did we get here?”

Raman was referring specifically to climate change being a result of unrestricted development. In an impassioned speech, Raman reflected on developed countries’ free reign in their industrialisation over the past 200 years, and the benefits this has brought to all societies in the developed world. She aired her personal frustration at the inequity of many developing countries now experiencing the first and worst impacts of climate change, while simultaneously trying to achieve safety, security and well-being for their citizens.

Since the Talanoa Dialogue is based on inclusivity and creating a safe space, it does not allow for criticisms of other stakeholders’ stories. The only way the ‘how did we get here’ question can be addressed is if those in privileged positions – as a result of their country’s past – openly acknowledge their history’s role in climate change. In fact, this is the only way to truly build respect and ensure that developed countries are maintaining empathy towards countries with different experiences.

How we got to where we are doesn’t seem to be an isolated view from Meena Raman. At the opening of the Talanoa Dialogue today, the issue of history was raised by representatives from the Like-Minded Developing Countries, the Arab Group, and the Climate Action Network, with India and South Africa expressing support for the points raised by the LMDC and the Arab Group. The related issue of Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Relative Capacity (CBDR&RC) was raised by both the African Group and Turkey.

From my perspective as a young person from the UK, I did feel uneasy at first about the possibility of developed countries being ‘blamed for the sins of our forefathers’. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that we need to check our privilege. We should be striving to ensure that the EU’s Talanoa submissions tell the story of our history of development, and that in light of this, our NDCs truly take the lead on climate mitigation as the Paris Agreement requests.

Author: Chirsty McFadyen

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