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Building capacity to build capacity: universities and the Paris Agreement

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP22 in Marrakech.]

Another focus of discussion at COP22 has been capacity building.  Capacity building is explicitly mentioned within several UNFCCC instruments, including several Articles of the Paris Agreement.  Article 11 has produced the formation of the Paris Committee on Capacity Building.

A stimulating side event yesterday focused on the role of universities within global capacity building.

To date, the criticism goes, capacity building has consisted of donor countries hiring their own consultants to assist the developing world in engaging in global climate processes, in particular the preparation of nationally determined contributions to the global GHG reduction targets.

The call at the side event on the role of universities, as highly sustainable (indeed ancient) institutions, was to create an institutional structure that promotes and delivers sustainable capacity building through active university participation in Paris Agreement processes and practical global cooperation between universities, north and south.

In the words of the side event Chair Saleem ul Haq of Bangladesh, universities should be able to promote climate change capacity building that ‘leaves something behind’ - other than the sour taste of short term consultation.

While very supportive of this call, and mindful of the global imbalance in ‘capacity’, my thought is however, we should not loose sight of the capacity building requirements within developed countries.

While segments of developed country societies are well-engaged in climate change discourse, many within developed countries are not.  Many approaches to GHG emissions mitigation and to sustainability within national policies are unsatisfactory, poorly understood and poorly communicated.

Communication in this context, it may be legitimately argued, is the role of media systems. In my own country, New Zealand, along with many others, there is a well-recognised crisis in quality environmental, climate change and policy journalism.

Indeed, for those of us interested in public participation, collaboration and governance, ‘capacity building’ provides a toe-hold within national approaches to climate mitigation to promote a deepening of democracy.

In this sense ‘capacity building’ energies should both build long term sustainable capacity within the developing world and support the sorely needed invigoration of civil society within the developed world.

Those of us seeking to enhance the role of universities in this global challenge should not overlook this dimension of capacity building and the opportunities provided by the Paris Agreement.

About the Author: 

Giles Dodson is a Senior Lecturer in Communication Studies from Auckland, New Zealand.  This is his first COP!

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