Climate of ActionEarlier this month Waterloo’s own Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) held its annual conference, CIGI’10 – Climate of Action. The conference gathered over 60 experts in climate policy, science, business, and NGOs to discuss the global governance options and opportunities surrounding climate change. Despite an emphasis on how institutions like the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) or G20 can influence global action on climate change, CIGI’10 also delved deeper into the role of bottom-up initiatives in setting the stage towards a zero-carbon economy.

These bottom-up initiatives include measurable corporate sustainability strategies, municipal climate action projects, NGO voluntary networks, and sub-national policy actions. What these initiatives are capable of doing is creating small-scale incubator or pilot projects that with success and support could scale up to the point where it has influence on the national and international stage. A recent article in The Guardian echoes these same conclusions, stating that in lieu of global action at COP15 in Copenhagen, at Tianjin, China this week, and most likely another lacklustre result at COP16 in Cancun later this year, local initiatives are speaking volumes and charting a path towards a global society which prospers from a zero-carbon economy.

Measuring success of these bottom-up initiatives is important. We can celebrate absolute carbon reductions as this is truly what we are all trying to do, we can celebrate a culture change in communities and businesses who incorporate sustainability into their core structure, or we can measure success based on each initiative’s ability to influence government action, both nationally and internationally. Actions like those in British Columbia with the BC Carbon Tax, or trans-nationally with the Western Climate Initiative, or locally with the Regional Carbon Initiative cannot be ignored or discounted publicly because it is these small scale initiatives that are in fact sending signals to governance institutions domestically and abroad.

All the discussions that were had at CIGI’10 will be summarized and communicated in an interactive way on the CIGI’10 website, featuring video interviews with participants, and later in the fall a conclusions and recommendations report. Leading up to the negotiations in Cancun, Mexico in November, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the role of global institutions like the UNFCCC in climate action, as well as if you agree that bottom-up initiatives have an integral role to play.