Being a hummingbird in the international climate change negotiations

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17 Junio 2013

WAGGGS has just returned from UNFCCC SB 38, the Climate Change Intersessionals which take place every year in between the COP (Conference of Parties) conferences. 

Harriet Thew, WAGGGS’ Environment Project Coordinator, was joined by Cecilia Wesslén from Sweden, a WAGGGS COP 18 delegate and climate scientist, who will come back as a coordinator to COP 19 and Magda Noszczyk, a delegate from Poland, the host country for COP 19, who attended COP 14 in Poznan with a Polish NGO and works in climate change education.

Overall, the conference was pretty frustrating. Whilst climate scientists (who really aren’t prone to hyperbole) told us with increasing urgency and desperation that business as usual will lead to catastrophe, the negotiations under the Subsidiary Body of Implementation (SBI), the body which works on implementing decisions taken in the wider climate negotiations, were blocked for the full two weeks over an agenda fight. (Although this wasted a lot of time, it does indicate that countries may be taking the negotiations more seriously).

WAGGGS, taking inspiration from Wangari Maathai, winner of a WAGGGS World Citizenship Award in 2007, prefers to be a Hummingbird.

We focus on the positive, by playing our part in contributing to behavioural change and speaking up whilst empowering girls and young women to take climate action.  (For specific examples of this, please see the WAGGGS case studies in the new publication from the UN Joint Framework Initiative on Children and Youth: Youth in Action on Climate Change: Inspirations from Around the World).

Launching new publication at climate intersessionals 

There were some areas of the talks which gave us reason to be cheerful.


The main focus for WAGGGS, as at previous COPs, was on Article 6, the part of the Convention which deals with Education, Training, Public Participation, International Cooperation and Public Awareness. Article 6 is an area of the talks which has been seen positive progress over the last year. At COP 18, the new Doha Work Programme on Article 6 was agreed upon, which established an annual Dialogue to take place at the Intersessionals.

This year, the 6 hour Dialogue looked specifically at climate change education and training, with an overarching theme of international cooperation.

The UNFCCC Secretariat organized a great session, which gave civil society the opportunity to share best practice alongside Parties and UN bodies. Harriet gave a presentation about the WAGGGS non-formal approach to Climate Change Education which was warmly received.  The webcast and presentation slides are available on the UNFCCC website.

It was an important first step for Parties in the implementation of the valuable new Doha Work Programme on Article 6 of the Convention.  As the Chair of the SBI said: 

This proves very well that when Parties want to, they can work quickly and effectively.

Mr. Tomasz Chruszczow

Education (formal, non-formal and informal) is absolutely crucial for the next generation to be able to mitigate and adapt to climate change. We did notice that there was a heavy focus on implementation of Article 6 in developing countries, and urge developed countries to remember their responsibilities to teach their own young people about climate change too.


WAGGGS have always advocated that, as powerful agents of change in their communities, girls and young women need to be empowered and given equal access to play a vital role in all climate change policies and programmes.

We met every day with the Women’s Caucus and attended the “Gender Picnic” with Christiana Figueres. Following the COP 18 “Gender Miracle” there will be a Gender Workshop at COP 19 where Parties will come together to formally discuss, for the first time, how to achieve gender balance in the UNFCCC and to create gender-sensitive climate policies and capacity-building activities.  


We worked closely with YOUNGO, the constituency of youth NGO’s who attend the talks. YOUNGO is full of hummingbirds. These inspiring, motivated and passionate young people are doing all they can to protect their futures and to stand up for the needs of future generations. They are leaders in their communities, taking action and speaking out for equity in the talks, working together for a common goal.

We urge all Parties to follow the example set by youth and to do the best they can.  To take action in whichever way they can, instead of wasting time talking about what they can’t.   

Significant emissions reductions and climate financing are absolutely necessary, though understandably difficult.  In contrast, empowering women and educating young people to tackle climate change whilst equally necessary, are two of the easiest, cheapest and most proven solutions in creating change.  All countries can and must do something about this today.

Time Management Action Climate Intersessionals

You can see blogs from the delegates at the conference here.