Forget COP27, the youth should hold an 'Accountability COP'
With the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as 27th Conference of Parties (COP27), set to begin in Egypt next week, it is important to look back on the progress that has been made around the world, by government and private actors, civil society, youth and the media. Much of the pledges of actions to tackle climate change by countries or groups have taken the form of coalitions, such as the Race to Zero and the Race to Resilience initiatives. However, while all these pledges are excellent news, we don't really know if the people making the pledges are actually doing what they promised to, or just greenwashing their own reputations.
There is, thus, a great need for an annual "Accountability COP" to hold those who have pledged to act against climate change to account.
First, let me ask: why? The reason is that all groups, including governments through their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), need some independent reviews of their actual performances. This review is actually done by think tanks around the world, who choose particular topics to track and present scorecards of performance. However, at the moment, such reviews are published by different organisations, usually just before the annual climate conference, but they are not linked to each other. Hence, I propose that all the think tanks tracking progress of actions convene at the annual Accountability COP to present their scorecards for different players.
The second question is: how? All the different think tanks and platforms tracking progress of global climate actions can agree to provide their annual scorecards at the Accountability COP. The Accountability COP should be held a month or two before the main COP event of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) so that the results can be fed into the official negotiations at the COP.
As for who should convene such an annual event, I propose that they be from the global youth groups of climate heroes, such as Fridays for Future and many other national, regional and global youth platforms who are already very active around the world. I would advise these young campaigners to no longer request permission to attend the UNFCCC COP, but to hold their own Accountability COP and demand every national government, as well as any organisation or entity that has made an explicit pledge to tackle climate change seriously, to come to the youth and report on their progress towards fulfilling their pledges. At the same time, the different think tanks will also share their reports on how governments and others are actually performing. The biggest argument for having the Accountability COP being convened by the youth is that we are all ultimately accountable to them.
The annual Accountability COP should certainly be convened in such a way that it is a low-emission event, which would mean a hybrid format with maybe a few youth leaders from every country gathering in person, and most of the others joining online from their own locations without having to travel across the world. Given our recent experience of working online during the height of the pandemic, organising such an event should not be a big deal. In fact, the Global Youth Leadership Center (GYLC) recently organised the Youth Climate Summit in Khulna, Bangladesh, with several hundred young people in person from around the world and many more (including myself) joining online. They will be holding their next summit in Africa next year. The programme included taking the youth to spend time planting mangrove saplings with local climate-vulnerable communities in one of the most vulnerable areas in Bangladesh.
Such an event may also include enabling the youth to actually take actions as well as meet and talk. Hence, the Accountability COP would also be an Action COP at the same time.
The bottom line is that there is an urgent need for a more systematic review of progress by all actors who have promised to take action, and to hold them to account. An annual Accountability COP held before the UNFCCC COP, convened by the world's youth and children, may be a timely idea. I would be happy to help this happen.
Dr Saleemul Huq is director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).