Talanoa Dialogue: Building Trust and Informing Climate Action

A central feature of the Paris Agreement is a recurring 5-year cycle in which nations take stock of their collective progress toward the agreement’s long-term goals, and then, individually, offer up new commitments. The first of these cycles got underway a couple of weeks ago with the launch of the Talanoa Dialogue.

This stocktaking exercise will run through the year, culminating at COP 24 this December in Katowice, Poland. It’s intended to inform the new or revised nationally determined contributions (NDCs) parties will submit by 2020 and could offer lessons for the design of future global stocktakes.

The Talanoa Dialogue is one the two major aims at COP 24 – the other is the completion of the Paris “rulebook” implementing the Paris Agreement.

The dialogue’s structure was decided by the government of Fiji, in its capacity as President of COP 23. Originally referred to as the “facilitative dialogue,” Fiji rechristened it the

Talanoa Dialogue, drawing on a Fijian tradition of participatory story-sharing that serves to build empathy and trust, and to inform collective decision-making.

The first step was the launch on January 27th of an online platform where both parties and stakeholders can submit input to the Talanoa Dialogue. Through this platform, part of an initial “preparatory” phase, the global community can begin a conversation on what governments should consider in the “political” phase at COP 24, where ministers will engage in high-level roundtables, and Fiji and Poland, as Presidents of COP 23 and 24, will summarize key messages.

The Paris Agreement establishes a “global stocktake” to take place every five years starting in 2023. Not anticipating that the agreement would enter into force so quickly, parties decided in Paris to kick-start the stocktake process with this year’s facilitative dialogue.

Unlike the global stocktake, the facilitative dialogue’s scope is primarily mitigation (specifically, the Paris Agreement’s long-term goals of peaking global emissions as soon as possible, and achieving zero net emissions in the second half of the century). The dialogue is expected to focus both on the so-called ambition gap and on options for narrowing it. In addition to mitigation, the stocktake will look at progress in adaptation and finance.

The dialogue is structured around three guiding questions:

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

One critical input will be a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the impacts of warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius, which will tell us where we are and the emissions pathways to avoid the worst warming.

Input submitted by parties and stakeholders to the online platforms by April 2 may be considered in discussions during the spring climate conference (April/May), and those submitted by October 29 may be considered in discussions taking place at COP 24 (December 3-14). Once reviewed by the U.N. climate secretariat, the inputs will be posted on the platform.

That non-party stakeholders have a say in the Talanoa Dialogue platform highlights the growing participation by civil society organizations, sub-national actors, businesses, universities, and other communities in the climate negotiations.

Since 2014, the UNFCCC has launched a series of new modes of engagement for non-state parties including the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) platform, and an annual high-level event featuring two high-level champions to help raise awareness of civil society and business climate initiatives. Engaging non-parties in the Talanoa Dialogue recognizes their significant efforts to address climate change and that parties cannot achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement alone.

Information submitted by stakeholders can play an important role in shaping the ambition of parties’ next NDCs, hopefully getting us closer to limiting global warming and to building resilience against climate impacts.