Public Participation? invites Civil Society Organizations, Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples to take advantage of opportunities for public participation included in the Paris Agreement.  We call on governments to ensure effective participation of the public in all decision-making processes related to climate mitigation, adaptation and food security, and budgeting for climate response. 

Full and effective participation of civil society in national climate action planning is essential for effective NDC implementation. Appropriate consultation processes should be developed for planning, as well as partnership ideas for NDC implementation.

Members of the public most likely to be impacted by climate change need to have their voices heard.  Decisions related to forests and agriculture lands must involve current users.  This is key to the legitimacy of national climate plans and the NDC, and to ensure long-term public support for its implementation.

Paris Agreement on Participation

The Paris Agreement calls on Parties to “cooperate in taking measures leading to public awareness, public participation and access to information.”  The Paris Agreement requires inclusive stakeholder engagement in all of its processes, including NDCs, national adaptation plans (NAPs), and REDD+.

Making use of traditional knowledge, and developing systems for monitoring progress toward adaptation and mitigation goals, are two examples of where engagement can lead to better results.

Finally, effective involvement of civil society and indigenous peoples in the planning of the NDC is critical to ensure that the policy choices that underpinning the national commitment is in the broad public interest – and not captured by the interests of a small set of actors.

Civil society is to a great extent the only reliable motor for driving institutions to change at the pace required.  

IPCC, 2018 Special Report

Through COP decisions and under other international legal agreements, governments have committed to guarantee the effective participation of specific segments of the population whose contribution to environmental decision-making is of particular importance.  This includes indigenous peoples, forest-dependent communities, women, and youth.

Participatory NDC Planning

Only through a transparent, inclusive and participatory process can the contributions submitted by governments under the Paris Agreement be truly “nationally determined”. The IPCC has noted civil society’s central role in bringing about the transformational changes required by the Paris Agreement. To ensure that national participation is effective, members of the public must be provided with relevant information and their input must be taken seriously throughout the process.

Scientific research has demonstrated in many instances that climate policies conceived in a participatory manner yield greater results. For instance, emissions from deforestation and forest degradation are lower in regions with greater levels of land tenure and forest rights for local communities and indigenous peoples empowering them to maintain or improve their forests’ carbon storage. Similarly, adaptation policies designed with the expertise of the communities directly impacted result in greater resilience than those imposed through top-down approaches. Guaranteeing the effective participation of all segments of civil society in the planning of the NDCs is also critical to map and identify opportunities for climate ambition beyond those perceptible through the lens of the national government.

The United Nations publication Implementing NDCs cites the following components of good practice in developing effective public participation:

  1. Develop a draft plan with clear objectives, opportunities for influence, and timelines, and make the draft plan publicly available for feedback.
  2. Include any institutions or stakeholders who are critical for it to be perceived as legitimate and well-informed.
  3. Recognize that public participation is likely to raise concerns that fall outside of one agency’s jurisdiction and that coordinated approaches from implicated agencies can address these concerns.
  4. Identify governance arrangements for ensuring accountability in implementing the plan, publicizing feedback, and providing responses to input.
  5. Identify and map stakeholders and groups.
  6. Create an information and communications campaign prior to beginning the process so as to build awareness and understanding of how the NDC relates to national policy and affects key groups.
  7. Ensure that participation occurs early in the NDC implementation process and that there are frequent opportunities for input.  Having a few large forums in a capital city is not adequate.
  8. Record and publish public input in order to build trust in the process.
Implementation and Monitoring

The communication of the NDC to the UNFCCC is only the beginning of a multi-year process. Public participation is critical in both design and implementation of the NDC.   Most monitoring plans are developed in a ‘top-down’ way, emphasizing national greenhouse gas reduction efforts and national adaptation programs.  But it’s also critical that climate policies and programs – particularly those impacting land – provide benefits to communities while respecting rights. 

There may be particular climate-response programs in your country that would benefit from ‘bottom-up’, or community level monitoring of impacts.  In Uganda, the ‘Baraza’ approach, has been used to improve delivery of social services related to health, land tenure, and budget transparency.  The UN office in Uganda used this experience to prepare a Handbook for conducting community public meetings, including step-by-step guidelines for conducting a ‘Baraza’.

Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The planning and implementation of the NDCs must respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to make decisions related to the use of their land and forests. More governments are recognizing that traditional and local knowledge can greatly improve the impact and resilience of climate responses, and these particular rights should be taken into account.  This includes respect for local and traditional knowledge in line with international obligations as provided under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.

What to Look For
  • Key decisions about the NDC must take place with the full and effective participation of civil society and indigenous peoples.
  • The government should identify specific groups and constituencies whose participation will be essential for planning and implementation of the NDC. The government should design approaches that guarantee the effective participation of each of these groups, and account for different capacities and cultural contexts including language.  Planning and implementation measures must ensure the equal and equitable participation of men and women.
  • Consultation processes involving different stakeholders should be designed to promote transparency, minimize inequality, and avoid the exercise of undue economic or political influence in the design and implementation of the NDC.
  • The participatory process should take place along reasonable timeframes ensuring meaningful and effective participation. Relevant information must be communicated to members of the public in an understandable and accessible manner, and with sufficient time to ensure opportunities for group discussion ahead of decision-making.
  • Members of the public should be notified about how their input was effectively taken into consideration, and about the outcomes from participatory process.
  • The NDC should lay out the mechanisms for guaranteeing the effective participation of the public in decisions related to the NDC.
  • A commitment to the right of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for indigenous peoples.
Further Resources

In this 2016 policy brief, CLARA member Carbon Market Watch looked at stakeholder involvement, making information available in appropriate languages, and ideas/requirements for successful consultations.

Thirteen Latin America and Caribbean nations have signed the Escazu Agreement.  This agreement is focused on environmental governance and human rights, guaranteeing the right to live in a healthy environment.  It also has provisions to protect environmental defenders.  It came into force in 2021 and the first conference of signatory nations took place in April 2022 .  The text of the Agreement in English and Spanish is available here

Library Resources

Participatory NDC Planning

  • NAMA lessons for NDCs
  • VPCs and NDCs

Rights for Indigenous Peoples

  • Securing Rights
  • IPs in the INDCs