16 November 2016, Wednesday
A year after COP 21, climate action is high up on the international agenda. As the world shifts attention to the ongoing climate talks in Marrakech, the global community should look back to a few significant milestones along the way. Most visibly, the Paris Agreement – a direct outcome of COP 21 – has just entered into force on November 4th. One of the fastest international treaties to ever come into effect, it consequently marks a victory not only for climate negotiations, but diplomacy as a whole. In fact, as a case study in effective multi-lateral engagement, it has already outlined a new school of thought for conducting foreign affairs in our times. One of the reasons behind the recent success of COP, is the approach embodying the art of the 21st Century diplomacy. Merging the best of the two worlds, the negotiations in Paris have successfully capitalised on the consensus-building measures of multi-lateral diplomacy, as well as the lessons in efficiency and innovation from the non-state agents. Yet the work continues – for statesmen, entrepreneurs and the members of the public alike. Building on the COP 21 successes and reaffirming a clear commitment to meet global climate targets, the parties to the Paris Agreement convene in Marrakech for COP 22, aptly named “the COP of Action’. The assembly aims to agree on a framework that will convert pledges into results. The UAE delegation, including diplomats as well as representatives from businesses and academia, has joined their international counterparts to help craft a roadmap for further climate action, in turn embodying a new frontier in 21st century foreign affairs; climate change diplomacy. Such collective efforts truly reflect the raison d’être of the modern-day diplomacy. They involve multiple stakeholders – businesses and investors, governments and agencies, international bodies, the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council, academics, experts, advocacy groups, the media and the general public. Each of these stakeholders plays a distinct role in the conversation on climate change.As the first GCC country to take action and ratify the Paris Agreement, as a champion of energy diversification through the adoption of renewable and alternative energies, and as the host of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the UAE is bringing in a wide range of evidence of climate action leadership. Getting to this point has required the widest range of 21st century diplomatic skills. In terms of coalition building in the run up to the talks, it meant aligning positions of local and international stakeholders, appreciating distinct cultural and national political considerations, and communicating the efforts and successes to the public - including through digital channels, while remaining open and inclusive to all initiatives. With regards to policy, it meant deploying quantitative tools, like analysing big data, to complement the qualitative research that helps understanding the agenda of each institution involved. And when it comes to the action on the ground, most importantly of all, the success boiled down to a mixture of soft and hard diplomatic skills, and skillful diplomats who have been able to demonstrate negotiation skills, flexibility and adaptability to the ever changing dynamics. For the UAE, it is clear that the necessary targets can only be achieved through partnerships, through openness and through collaboration. The UAE’s facilitation efforts and the public-private engagement have played a defining role in the painstaking diplomacy necessary to achieve the Paris Agreement. Reinforcing the importance of the UAE in the global effort to mitigate climate change, Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary-General, launched the annual Abu Dhabi Global Action Day at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2016, one of the world’s leading sustainability forums. The aim was to bridge the gap between the public and private sectors in realising climate change action. This January’s event will be the first global platform to debate and act on the outcomes of Marrakech. We can build on the progress achieved so far to harness new relationships and to leverage a collaborative, bridge-building mindset - brought about by the climate change negotiations. It is increasingly apparent that diplomats are an important cog in securing this legacy on the ground – through effective implementation. This is why the Emirates Diplomatic Academy (EDA), the nation’s international relations and diplomacy, academic, training, best-practice and research institution, is proud to play a role in the COP 22 process. EDA is part of a special youth delegation at COP 22, alongside the UAE Ministry of Youth, Masdar Institute, Young Future Energy Leaders and New York University Abu Dhabi. EDA’s activities at Marrakech will focus on energy, climate change and sustainable development in the region, helping to shape and inform the UAE’s foreign policy positions. They are also expected to foster greater collaboration across the UAE and with regional governments. In a bid to strengthen the UAE’s diplomatic credentials, the EDA’s focus is increasingly to ensure that the country’s brightest young minds are ready to play their part in delivering concrete action on climate change and to secure the UAE’s global and regional leadership in this arena. Thus, EDA is sending students to observe and participate in the climate negotiations at Marrakech, and to report their thoughts, findings and analysis to further their knowledge and understanding of this critical area of expertise. We are proud to play our part in finding solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. At COP 22, it is the duty of the diplomatic community to turn the impacts of climate change into lasting opportunities for the benefit of all.