The role of parliamentary voices at COP26 and beyond

On the side-lines of COP26 in Glasgow in early November 2021, the Global Renewables Congress (GRC) held a couple of joint events to strengthen understanding of the relevance of involving and promoting parliamentary voices in climate negotiations and national climate action. By developing strategies for national energy systems powered by Renewable Energy, parliamentarians have the opportunity to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis.  

In reaction to the restricted access to COP26 for many policymakers due to the COVID 19 pandemic, our hybrid events allowed participation for both, MPs attending COP in person and those attending virtually. Together with the newly established Global Parliamentary Group of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), the GRC developed an agenda spanning from the presentation of IRENA’s findings on how RE is incorporated into NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions), over the role of Carbon Pricing at COP26 to an update on the state of negotiations in general.

Joint CVF and GRC Parliamentary Briefing at COP26. Presentations delivered by Elizabeth Press, IRENA Director of Planning and Programme Support (pre-recorded video statement), Mark Kenber, Advisor on Climate Pricing to the CVF and Raju Chhetri, Prakriti Resource Centre and member of the delegation of Nepal to the UNFCCC.

As a representative of the Nepalese NGO Prakriti Resource Centre, as well as a member of the Nepalese delegation to the COP26, Raju Chhetri pointed out, that legislators may not play an obvious nor prominent role in the COP negotiations themselves and are thus often unfamiliar with the topics and processes. Whereas the picture changes when looking at the development of the country-specific NDCs and national actions. Through passing and pressing for the realisation of mitigation targets and regulations, legislators can make or break the effectiveness of national climate targets and climate protection in general. In this indirect role of legislators in international climate action, it is critical how the commitments of national leaders made at COPs are reflected and respected by the national actions of senators, parliamentarians, and other legislators.

Oftentimes, however, instead of translating these commitments into binding national, regional, and local measures on climate protection or enforcing them through subsequent actions, MPs counteract actions against manmade climate change by weakening legislative commitments. In many cases, this happens unintentionally or, due to a lack of capacities. It is, therefore, relevant for legislators to understand the international processes, commitments, and developments to develop and adopt the appropriate policies, laws and budgetary pledges on the national level.

“It is critical for [MPs] to understand what is being delivered or agreed at COP and how that will be translated into national actions back home. Because just having those international agreements, but not delivering at home is not sufficient.”

Raju Chhetri, Prakriti Resource Centre, Nepal

In particular, regarding the discussion around climate finance and carbon trading, MPs role in making budgetary decisions is key for a successful implementation of adaptation and mitigation measures in the Global South. Budgetary decisions in the nation-states need to be aligned with or go beyond international commitments if we are to limit climate change to 1.5°C.

Additionally, transparent and clear decisions on where and into which communities to direct the finances, need to be delivered by MPs of the fund-receiving countries. Mark Kenber, Advisor on Carbon Pricing to the CVF, added that legislators need to be aware of or learn about the necessities and opportunities of their people.  

“Build Back Better: What will it take to achieve a zero-carbon, sustainable African economy?” a side event organised by the World Future Council, host of the Global Renewables Congress’ secretariat, Sustainable Energy Africa and the Renewable Energy Policy Network REN21

Climate and energy finance was also one of the topics of a joint side event organised by the World Future Council, as the hosting organisation of the GRC Secretariat, REN21 and Sustainable Energy Africa. Hon. Biyika Lawrence Songa, Chair of the Climate Change Committee of the Parliament of Uganda and Member of the GRC pointed out, that financing mechanisms – as many schemes developed and carried out by mostly Western developed countries do now – need not be unnecessarily complicated and over-bureaucratised. Instead, these mechanisms need to be accessible, low-interest and benefitting communities, natural environment as well as powering economies within many developing countries. In addition, when it comes to carbon trading schemes, technical support on how to measure, verify and report on the amount of GHG being absorbed and emitted by a country need to be provided. MPs need to be supported through capacity building measures to accordingly develop policies and frameworks that are favourable and supportive of their countries position in negotiating the terms of any commitments with other countries.

Hon. Lawrence Biyika Songa further underlines that legislators, as elected representatives of their countries and respective communities, need to understand their constituencies’ needs. They need to be aware of best practices and good examples showcasing how development, improved livelihoods and climate action can go hand in hand while delivering the necessary financial means to realise this transformation. The parliament of Uganda, for instance, developed legal frameworks to accompany and support the Ugandan NDC, including the Renewable Energy Policy, the Climate Change Act and Policy. These aim to prioritise renewables in investments by building a climate-friendly investment environment and involving the private sector while simultaneously providing initial investments into renewable energy through the national budget. This underlines the political will through government and political leaders and shows the national commitment and prioritisation of sustainable development through clean and renewable energy supply.

“Laws and policies, introduced by the government and parliament, commit the national budget to the formulated purpose of a clean and renewable energy transition in all sectors.”

Hon. Biyika Lawrence Songa, Member of Parliament Uganda, Chair of the Climate Change Committee

Understanding the energy system and the intricacies of a functioning and successful green and clean energy transition is a general condition of successful renewable energy policymaking. For this to be developed, policy support on all levels of government and policymaking is critical. However, in most countries, policies are lacking in areas of promoting RE sources (often wind), green building codes, energy generation through waste in cities and energy efficiency.

Further, Members of Parliaments have a particular role to play in terms of developing legal frameworks for businesses interested in investing in RE can access funds at low interests as well as (re-)capitalising national banks for people to access local funds at low-interest rates. MPs further need to learn about the various and vast opportunities and benefits of renewable energy, added Joel Nana, Senior Project Coordinator at Sustainable Energy Africa. This includes an increase in sustainable use of water, sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, agriculture, economic development, innovation, jobs and industrialisation. For these capacities to be built and knowledge to be disseminated, cooperation among government, parliament, private sector, CSOs, academia, young people and women is key. This requires a commitment to working together by creating a common understanding of the obstacles and opportunities systemically, to collectively push for an energy system based on energy efficiency and renewable energy to drive sustainable development and economies.

By facilitating exchanges between MPs of different countries and on various topics of importance, as well as strengthening collaboration between legislators, CSOs and several parliamentary networks, the GRC seeks to support the much-needed capacity enhancement.