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Good practice in climate diplomacy: approaches for a climate-resilient, low-carbon future

The EU and its Member States have been practical pioneers of climate diplomacy for many years, but what has been learned up until now? Which initiatives and approaches are worth being replicated? 

The EU and its Member States have been practical pioneers of climate diplomacy for many years. The emergence and evolution of climate diplomacy as a new strand of foreign policy illustrates the change diplomatic practices undergo in terms of topics, forums, instruments and actors involved. In its short history, a plethora of hands-on experiences with innovative approaches have been adopted.

A side event at COP23 on 6 November 2017 aimed at showcasing successful examples of EU climate diplomacy and learning from EU initiatives around the world. It was organized by adelphi in cooperation with the European External Action Service and the German Federal Foreign Office and served as an opportunity to engage with European and global civil society.


Europe will need to embark on ‘implementation diplomacy’ and leverage the power of its networks

During the side event, Lena Ruthner from the consultancy ICF International shared key results from a study on the effectiveness of the EU’s climate diplomacy in the past, and gave two strategic recommendations. Firstly, the EU and its member states should align their policies with the ambitious targets of the Paris Agreement, and secondly, Europe should apply the ‘Team EU’-approach to its climate diplomacy, whereby both the Commission and EU Member states act collectively, in order to support greater alignment in the context of all external climate action. If European climate diplomacy in the future wants to motivate other countries as well as non-state actors, Lena Ruther concluded, it should leverage the value of its assets and networks and use them strategically.


To gain public support, climate diplomacy efforts need to build on innovative communication and outreach

Engaging non-state actors will indeed be key for achieving the ambitious <2° global warming target set out in the Paris Agreement, as they contribute to a better understanding of climate politics in different regions and help to spread innovation, to implement specific measures or to ensure that social and equity dimensions are incorporated.

Caroline Lambert, Climate and Environment Counsellor at EU Delegation to Australia, summarised the ‘ecosystem approach’ which was used by her delegation for a series of climate security events during European Climate Diplomacy Week in June 2017. This approach is based around the conviction that, rather than engaging in top-level dialogue between ambassadors, climate diplomacy can have a more lasting, sustainable impact if it facilitates exchange among the entire ‘ecosystem’ of climate stakeholders between countries – be it business, civil society and academia, regulators and policy-makers, or journalists. The delegation supported exchange by various innovative formats, including film-screenings, an exhibition and role-plays that allowed visitors to learn in a hands-on and experiential way.


Mainstreaming climate diplomacy across the EU foreign policy portfolio is still a challenge

In summer 2016, the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini revealed the long-awaited Global Strategy “Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe”. It sets out the EU's “core interests and principles for engaging in the world” and aims very much at providing a holistic (“global”) approach. The strategy seeks to integrate EU climate diplomacy into the EU’s overall foreign and security policy thinking and recognizes the strategic importance of climate change as a root cause of conflict, calling it a “threat multiplier that catalyses water and food scarcity, pandemics and displacement”. It calls for pre-emptive peacebuilding and diplomacy, and for enhancing energy and environmental resilience. However, as Pascal Delisle from the European External Action Service pointed out, it remains a major challenge to integrate climate diplomacy into the entire foreign policy portfolio.


Improving climate change literacy

An area where progress has been made in this regard is the climate-security nexus – one of the three strands of EU climate diplomacy. Neil Wood from the European Union Military Staff (EUMS) showcased how overarching strategies have already been broken down and put into practice. In order to increase the number of military personnel at senior and middle-management level who are “climate change literate” and who can engage in dialogue, both within government and with the general public, concrete actions are pursued:

  • Senior EU military officials are encouraged to participate in upcoming climate-security events;
  • A climate security resource library and a navigation tool to targeted web-based sources of information will be created;
  • A training course is being developed to build capacities on the nexus among the EU military and wider EU security community.

These are but small steps in the paramount effort to connect innovative climate diplomacy initiatives and practitioners and facilitate improving, replicating, and scaling up of such new formats and approaches.