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Tiempo Climate Newswatch

The Challenge for the Climate Action Network



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Astrid Westerlind Wigström Astrid Westerlind Wigström tasks the Climate Action Network with becoming more responsive to developing country interests at international negotiations.
The author is a researcher with the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Developing countries have always been under-represented in the official climate change negotiations. This can be explained by a lack of resources, including the financial means to attend, but also a lack of knowledge of the process and the issues discussed and a lack of capacity to organize themselves and to be acknowledged.

This state of under-representation was the same for both Southern non-government organizations (NGOs) and official negotiators when the Climate Action Network (CAN) was established in 1989. Sixty-three NGOs from 22 countries, under the guidance of Greenpeace International and Environmental Defense (now the Environmental Defense Fund), decided to establish CAN as a network for NGOs who share a common concern for the problems of climate change. Today, CAN claims to be the main speaker on behalf of environmental NGOs, and increasingly also development NGOs, in the international climate change negotiations.

For the least developed countries, adaptation is inevitable and, therefore, emphasized as a priority by CAN’s Southern members. This view is not, however, reflected in CAN’s agenda nor in its activities in the negotiations. The Network claims to speak on behalf of all its members, but there is an observable lack of responsiveness to the interests of Southern NGOs.

This problem traces back to structural and agency-level barriers within CAN that complicate Southern inputs and, therefore, Southern demands. Barriers at the structural level include a lack of internal funding to invite Southern NGOs to negotiations, poor quality internal communication that often leads to ignorance of Southern demands, failure of coordination at and between negotiations and, finally, the fact that time dedicated to regional node activities has particularly benefited Northern CAN nodes.

At an agency level, unequal experience and knowledge of the climate change process often puts Southern NGOs in the background at negotiations. A history of powerful and charismatic leadership and informal ties within the network also inhibits Southern involvement and the possibility for Southern NGOs to influence the agenda.

Many of these issues can be overcome in order to increase Southern representation. One suggestion would be to invest in internal capacity building, crucially strengthening the regional nodes. CAN must be self-critical and aware of the deficiencies within its network. Awareness and criticism of one’s own institutional assumptions is key towards ensuring a successful and sustainable future.

Further information

Astrid Westerlind Wigström, Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3QY, United Kingdom. Fax: +44 1865 275850. Email: astridww@googlemail.com. Web: www.eci.ox.ac.uk.

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Tiempo Climate Newswatch
Updated: April 12th 2013