UN Climate Change Conference, Paris

Submitted by admin on 16. December 2015 - 1:30
2015 November 30-December 11
Paris, France

IEF events at the
UN Climate Change Conference (COP21)

Paris, December 2015


The IEF had an active presence at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) at Le Bourget in Paris, France, on 30 November-11 December 2015. The International Environment Forum organizing three events in the Climate Generations area for civil society, and co-sponsoring a side event at the intergovernmental conference. The Baha'is partnered in a side event on ethics at the intergovernmental conference, with an IEF member participating. Eleven IEF members were part of our team in Paris. Watch two introductory videos: "A look at the Baha'i International Community delegation at COP21" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28tUVudNLA4, and "IEF comes to COP21" at https://vimeo.com/152629840

The Baha'i International Community issued a statement for the conference: Shared Vision, Shared Volition: Choosing Our Global Future Together which the Baha'i Community of France translated into French.

Video recordings were made of some of the IEF events and are linked when available.


The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, France, on 30 November-11 December 2015 was launched by 150 Heads of State and Government to adopt a legally-binding agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gases necessary to prevent dangerous climate change. There were two parts to the conference on the same site at Le Bourget in the suburbs of Paris. Some 20,000 delegates and observers were accredited to the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) where the negotiations took place and where associated side events were organized to inform the delegates. Next door, the French Government created a Climate Generations area where 10,000 members of the public and representatives of organizations not accredited to the conference discussed the issues and considered possible solutions. There were stands for civil society organizations, research centers and local governments; forums for indigenous peoples and biodiversity conservation; projections of films; and conference rooms for organizations to hold events, present panels of speakers on relevant themes, and debate the issues before the conference. Many official delegates also participated.

Entrance to COP21 . central avenue in Blue zone
Entrance to COP21 at Le Bourget; central avenue in the Blue Zone

Entrance Climate Generations area . Climate Generations #COP21
Climate Generations Area for civil society and the public
inside Climate Generations area

The Baha'is were able to have two accredited delegates to the conference (one split between the two weeks), including two board members of the International Environment Forum (IEF), Peter Adriance and Arthur Dahl, as well as Serik Tokbolat, representative to the United Nations in New York for the Baha'i International Community. The IEF delegation to the civil society part of the conference included Arthur Dahl of Switzerland, President of IEF, IEF Governing Board members Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen (Netherlands), Victoria Thoresen (Norway), and Peter Adriance (USA), and Alessia Freddo (Italy/UK), Janot Mendler de Suarez (USA), Mojgan Sami (USA), Valeria Svart-Gröger (Germany/Moldova), Temily and Babak Tavangar (Malaysia/Hong Kong), Ismael Velasco (United Kingdom) and Onno Vinkhuyzen (Netherlands). IEF member Minu Hemmati was part of the German delegation.

IEF team . IEF Team . Temily and Barak Tavangar
Valeria, Ismael, Valeria's husband Julian, Alessia, Sylvia, Mo, Arthur, Peter; Victoria, Arthur, Peter, Mo; Temily and Babak

The Baha'i International Community prepared a highly-relevant statement for the conference: "Shared Vision, Shared Volition: Choosing Our Global Future Together. A statement of the Bahá'í International Community to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France" which we distributed at the conference. It is available at https://www.bic.org/statements/shared-vision-shared-volition-choosing-o… and on the IEF web site at https://iefworld.org/bic_cop21. The Baha'i community of France translated it into French at http://www.bahai.fr/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/2015-1112-BIC-COP21-FR.p…, also on the IEF web site at https://iefworld.org/bic_cop21fr. A press release announcing the statement is at https://www.bic.org/news/bic-calls-new-patterns-action-address-climate-… and in French at http://www.bahai.fr/la-communaute-internationale-bahaie-appelle-a-de-no…

Equity and Justice

The Baha'i Community co-sponsored a side event on Saturday 5 December, at the intergovernmental conference on "Examination of how nations have and should consider equity and justice in setting INDCs" (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions). This was organized by the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium (PERC), National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and Widener University. It examined how nations have and should set INDCs on the basis of justice, and the role of contrarian obstruction, and recommended a mechanism to assure that nations set INDCs on the basis of their fair share of safe global emissions. The following report is based in large part on IISD Reporting Services, with their photos.


The session, moderated by John Dernbach, Widener Law School, considered the role of ethics, justice and faith-based positions in relation to countries' Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Peter Adriance
IEF board member Peter Adriance of the U.S. Baha'i Office of Public Affairs opened the event with a presentation on the importance of an ethical approach based on equity and justice in governmental decision-making. He spoke on the presence of faith communities in the climate change negotiations, and called for empathy towards other people when developing INDCs, stressing that "we are a single people on a single planet." He pointed to statements from several faith leaders in the past year on the relationship between people and the Earth, underscoring that 80% of the global population profess a faith.

Peggy Clarke, UUA, said we need a to change the current model in which the planet is at the bottom of a pyramid that serves a small, dominant class. Describing a paradigm shift towards an approach based on equity and concern for all life, she expressed hope that this could be a "liberating" challenge.

Jan Dash, UUA, presented on contrarian obstruction to climate change risk management, the aim of which is to influence against taking action, through tactics of "disinformation." He described climate change risk management as an ethical issue, impacting the survival of our descendants and the global poor, underscoring the substantial risk posed by contrarian obstruction.

Prue Taylor, University of Auckland, and Donald Brown, PERC, presented research from "Ethics and Climate Change," a publication assessing the national commitments of different countries. Taylor highlighted that a key outcome of the research was that states need mechanisms requiring them to behave ethically, or else they will continue to adopt self-interested positions in their climate policies. Brown explained that INDCs implicitly contain positions on the ethical questions of the acceptable atmospheric concentration of CO2 and of each country's fair share of the global carbon budget, but do not explicitly defend these positions.

Hugh Breakey, Griffith University, spoke on moral dialogue and its relationship to climate change. He stressed that moral dialogue is an ordinary practice that people undertake everyday, and suggested implementing a formal process of moral dialogue between states.

Peter Burdon, University of Adelaide, reported that while references to fairness feature in Australia's INDC, they do not relate to substantive ideas about equity or justice, but rather compare Australia's current position with previous commitments and those of other developed states. He lamented that the strongest ethical language tends to be used in reference to defending Australia's use of coal.

In discussions, participants considered, inter alia; opportunities for faith-based organizations to influence climate narratives; UNFCCC language and opportunities for ethical language in the agreement; and the place of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in the discussion of ethics.

Source: IISD Reporting Services http://www.iisd.ca/climate/cop21/enbots/5dec.html#event-7

Community Resilience

The first International Environment Forum event in the Climate Generations area was also on 5 December on the topic "Community resilience in the face of climate-driven extreme events, a Vanuatu case study". [La résilience communautaire face aux événements climatiques extrêmes: une étude de cas à Vanuatu; Resiliencia comunitaria en la cara de los eventos extremos del clima impulsado: un estudio de caso de Vanuatu]. The event was chaired by Ismael Velasco of the Adora Foundation (UK) who introduced the panelists and moderated the discussion with the audience. The event was publicized on the International Council of Science listing of science events at COP21 (as were all the IEF events), and the room for 50 was full to overflowing.

IEF panel .
IEF panel

Dr. Arthur Dahl, President of IEF, founding Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and former advisor to the Government of Vanuatu, summarized the importance for climate change adaptation of local community resilience in helping people to cope with the increasing number of natural disasters linked to or intensified by climate change. He then presented a case study of the experience of the Baha'i community on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu, after being hit by cyclone Pam in March 2015, describing the force of the level 5 cyclone that passed over the island destroying almost all its infrastructure. Download his presentation. A 10 minute video projection about the Baha'i community experience during and immediately after the disaster showed the importance of social cohesion and solidarity in building community resilience in recovering from such extreme events. Watch the video at https://vimeo.com/158819708 or Download the video [450 MB].

Dr. Serik Tokbolat, Representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations, New York Office, discussed the tools used by the Baha'is for building social cohesion at the rural village level, and more broadly in communities and neighbourhoods that are often vulnerable to extreme climate events. These included study circles to build individual and group capacity, educating children in values and virtues, helping pre-adolescents to take responsibility for acts of service to the community, and devotional gatherings for people of all faiths and no faith to strengthen unity in spirituality. Capacities for collective decision-making and administration are also important. He provided an example from Bihar in India where women were empowered and the caste system left behind. Download his presentation.

Arthur Dahl . Serik Tokbolat
Arthur Dahl; Serik Tokbolat

This was followed by a presentation by Janot Mendler de Suarez of Boston University, Technical Advisor to the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, who summarized academic studies of the characteristics of successful community solidarity that were exemplified in the Vanuatu case study. Download her presentation. Her presentation included a video clip of the President of the Red Cross/Red Crescent in Togo discussing the importance of community resilience. Download the video clip [180 MB].

The panel concluded with Temily Tavangar, a doctoral student at the University of Hong Kong, who provided a recent example of a town in Malaysia hit by the worst flooding in its history. The trauma of this natural disaster created the opportunity for a few local Baha'i families to organize first some devotional meetings for their neighbours to find some spiritual reinforcement. Discussions of the needs of the community followed naturally, leading to actions to clean up the neighbourhood after the flood, and finally to a decision to buy a boat to be ready to help each other in the next flood. Download her presentation.

Janot Mendler de Suarez . Temily Tavengar
Janot Mendler de Suarez; Temily Tavangar


Monday and Tuesday of the second week of COP21 (7-8 December) were primarily devoted to networking. Peter Adriance participated in a number of interfaith activities, while Arthur Dahl re-established contact with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) which he organized 35 years ago, and which is now a major regional intergovernmental organization with a staff of a hundred. Other members of the IEF delegation followed different side events out of the many hundred taking place, with a daily meeting of those members available over lunch to share experience.

Among the side events of interest to IEF was a session on the credibility of national actions organized by the London School of Economics and Political Science, which has just published a report on the subject. Sir Nicholas Stern stated that government-induced policy risk is the most important deterrent to investment, and cited a number of actions that enhanced credibility, such as establishing legal structures, rules and procedures, and strong organizations, as well as good past performance. Confidence in the Paris agreement would depend on trust, mechanisms for racketing commitments, and adequate investment. This topic related closely to the IEF events on accountability.

Another event was on Accelerating the Great Transformation: the Post-Paris Script. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate and advisor to Pope Francis on his recent encyclical, first summarized the climate challenge, with 2015 by far the warmest year ever with 0.1°C of warming. He described the major tipping events, with coral reefs lost at less than 2°C of warming; the Arctic summer ice, Alpine glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet lost if we go over 2°C. 4°C of warming would see the loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the Amazon forest, boreal forests and the Sahel, while 6-8°C of warming would mean the end of permafrost, Arctic winter sea ice, and the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, with the sea level rising 50 meters. The Gulf region could become uninhabitable, with daily temperatures reaching 60°C. A great transformation is obviously required. He described the innovations that could make such a transformation possible, and concluded that this was a moral issue, for which we needed to bring together reason and faith.

A second speaker in this event was Dirk Messner, who discussed decarbonizing the economy. He said that ever since the Limits to Growth report in 1972, it has become increasingly clear that it was necessary to overcome the old system, and a new model is in fact emerging and acquiring legitimacy. Evidence for this includes the IMF report on fossil fuel subsidies ($5.3 billion/year or 6.5% of global GDP), the Pope's encyclical and President Obama's recent speech, the fact that 2015 saw more investment in renewable energies than in fossil fuels, the disinvestment decisions of Norway, Stanford University, the Rockefeller Fund and Allianz, and the G7 declaration on decarbonization. We may be approaching a tipping point towards decarbonization. We can scale up the process by including (1) decarbonizing efforts beyond renewable energy infrastructure, such as in city planning, mobility systems and carbon efficiency, (2) private action towards decarbonization, (3) comprehensive multilateralism with groups of countries ready to move faster, as well as cities, research networks, and linking emission trading schemes, and (4) the combination of politics, innovation and investment for a civilizational shift, which would be a cultural challenge and require a moral revolution.

Accountability after Paris

On Wednesday 9 December, IEF board member Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen put together a side event on Accountability after Paris in the Netherlands Pavilion at the intergovernmental conference, organized by Wageningen University Public Administration and Policy Group, and co-sponsored by Climate Strategies, One World Trust and the International Environment Forum. The Moderator was Robert Whitfield, chair of the One World Trust.

Beyond the emissions pledges made by different countries, a cornerstone for ensuring the effectiveness of the 2015 international climate change agreement will be the mechanisms in place to hold states to account for how they live up to their commitments. This seminar reviewed the different pathways through which such accountability can be achieved, within and beyond the international regime.

Accountability event . Accountability event

Accountability event . Arthur Dahl
Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen; Arthur Dahl

Four pathways for accountability - challenges and opportunities

The first speaker was Dr. Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, assistant professor Public Administration and Policy at Wageningen University, adjunct professor global environmental governance Helsinki University and member of Climate Strategies. She spoke on "Four pathways for accountability - challenges and opportunities". Download her presentation.

She said it is clear that countries have not promised enough in Paris, and are not yet doing their fair share. How do we ensure the accountability of states after Paris, both for the level of ambition in their present and future commitments, and how they comply with them? Accountability is about who holds an actor to account, how, about what and with what effects. States will sign the Paris Agreement, so there are four categories of actors who should hold them to account: the governments of other countries, national institutions, national and global publics, and the governments themselves.

Review by other countries should be part of the Paris Agreement, including procedures for how countries will report on their implementation, how those reports are scrutinized, and if there are consequences for countries failing on their promises.

Countries are willing to some degree hold each other to account collectively for the global targets they have set, but by no means individually. It is not yet clear whether peer accountability mechanisms contribute to higher ambition in commitments and/or compliance.

National institutions often provide better opportunities for holding governments to account than international mechanisms. These will naturally vary according to a country's political and legal system. Domestic accountability mechanisms have higher potential to be strong if commitments become incorporated into domestic law, as this usually enables a number of judicial, political and administrative procedures. Parliaments in many political systems have the role to hold their executive governments to account for their actions, but this accountability relationship is particularly weak around issues of foreign affairs and global governance.

Other categories of national institutions that can take on a role in national accountability are courts, when international agreements have been internalized in domestic laws, and independent national audit institutions.

The public, both national and global, is a potentially powerful route to hold governments to account, and their involvement would strengthen the public and democratic accountability of climate governance. Domestic publics can review their own governments through domestic debate in the media and other social spaces. A global public can work through expert non-governmental organizations (national or international) and sometimes through broad social movements such as social media and demonstrations.

This is the one route through which people can raise their voice and hold governments beyond their own borders to account for the actions that influence them. However some governments are less open to and sensitive to views of the public.

Finally, governments may look themselves in the mirror regularly and establish processes for making sure they are on track to implement what they have promised. For example, governments can assign clear responsibilities for implementation to relevant ministries, government agencies and provincial and local authorities, making it easier to hold governmental actors to account. The UK Climate Change Act sets a target of 80 percent emission reductions by 2050, which are linked to five-year carbon budgets for the shorter term. These carbon budgets are allocated to different government departments in line with their own share of emissions from the public sector as well as the economic sectors they seek to influence. Each department needs to publish plans for how to achieve these reductions, and monitor and report on progress.

Each of these pathways has a limited potential to keep governments focused on increasingly bold climate actions. It is clear that we need all of them, with each strong and mutually supportive of the others, backed by public opinion.

The Role of Science in Accountability

Dr. Arthur Lyon Dahl, President of the International Environment Forum, then discussed the Role of Science in Accountability. Download his presentation. He noted that the whole issue of climate change is a science-driven process. The IPCC is the formal mechanism to link science to the UNFCCC and diplomatic processes. This is and needs to be scientifically conservative, with its summary reports approved by governments.

There is also a broader role for science in accountability. The climate system is evolving so rapidly that the long delay to peer reviewed consensus means that many early warning signals are disregarded. These issues need to be openly debated in the scientific community and brought to the attention of governments and the more formal science-policy processes. We need clear mechanisms to deal with risk and probability.

There are issues about the role of scientists in public information and debate. Some scientist prefer neutrality, providing the data but not commenting on their use. Others feel that scientists should be actively engaged in the public debate and public education about the issues. Then there is the challenge of climate skeptics and disinformation, discrediting science in the defense of vested interests.

Science-based indicators can play an important role in holding governments accountable by rating and ranking them. The data may come directly from monitoring and assessment, such as of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, sea ice extent, national emissions, etc. These can be used to derive indicators and indices. Good examples from the field of sustainability are the ecological footprint, the Environmental Sustainability Index, the Environmental Performance Index, etc.

Finally, there is the role of science-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The social sciences can do work on what is needed for behavior change towards sustainable lifestyles. Organizations like the International Environment Forum treat the interface between science and ethics and ethical accountability. Scientists can also provide advice to other processes and stakeholders, such as with the team that contributed to the drafting of the Pope's recent Encyclical.

Personal and professional accountability: an ethical challenge

The final presentation was also by Arthur Dahl, on "Personal and professional accountability: an ethical challenge". Download his presentation. He provided reflections on the role of a personal approach to accountability and responsibility among decision-makers and civil servants. See his paper at https://iefworld.org/ddahl15h.

Two government delegates served as discussants after the presentations: Mr. Arias, with the Marshall Islands delegation, and Kennedy Graham MP from New Zealand.

Principles for accountability for climate change agreements

On Thursday 10 December, while the diplomats were trying to find consensus on the remaining outstanding issues in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the IEF held its second event in the Climate Generations area on "Principles for accountability for climate change agreements" (Principes de responsabilité pour les accords sur le changement climatique; Principios de la responsabilidad para los acuerdos sobre el cambio climatic). Signing an agreement is only the first step in going from policy to action. Experience is now showing that agreements need to be accompanied by processes within a well established governance framework to hold parties accountable for implementing the commitments made and decisions taken. Accountability can take various forms, internal or external, by peers or the general public, with statistics or qualitative measures, with different levels of effectiveness. This panel explored and compared different forms of accountability as they may relate to climate agreements and to targets presented by countries in Paris. The chairperson was Peter Adriance, Representative for Sustainable Development of the U.S. Baha'i Office of Public Affairs, and the room quickly filled to overflowing.

event calendar

IEF panel . Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen
The IEF panel; Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen

Mojgan Sami . Victoria Thoresen
Mojgan Sami; Victoria Thoresen

Principles - the ethical foundations for accountability relationships

The opening speaker was Prof. Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen of the Public Administration and Policy Group, Wageningen University, Netherlands, on the topic "Principles - the ethical foundations for accountability relationships". Download her presentation. Watch the video at https://vimeo.com/162349259 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0LTljOVkmI. She unpacked the dimensions of accountability: who is accountable and to whom? about what? how? by what standards? with what effects? States are accountable for the Paris Agreement, but they cannot do everything, so many other actors must take up some responsibility. The first "who?" in this case is states who need to be kept on track with their commitments. For this there is peer accountability, domestic institutions such as parliaments and courts, and self-accountability. The "what?" after Paris includes the INDCs and their future updates, but also everything in the UNFCCC, including climate change education, for example. For other actors, they may follow laws set by the government, or ethical standards. The "how?" may depend on public processes and internal government mechanisms, as well as reports by countries under the convention which are reviewed by other states. The spirit in which action is taken is also important, either negative or positive and encouraging. There are different standards for accountability, whether following others or becoming leaders, whether shaming or encouraging.

The Policy Paradox

Dr. Mojgan Sami of the University of California Irvine Program in Public Health gave a very dynamic presentation on the Policy Paradox, that we too often address the symptoms of a problem rather than the underlying causes. Download her presentation. Watch the video at https://vimeo.com/153837675 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRmvcXhSPKA.

She cited the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed all discrimination, yet discrimination is still a major problem in America today. So she asked what is the problem that COP21 is trying to solve, a root cause or a symptom? Politics looks for causes mostly to assign responsibility for problems. We need to redefine accountability. Climate change is not a "technical" issue, but a moral imperative. Money is not the answer. Development discourses must address extreme poverty and wealth, yet we seldom talk about the latter. She listed some principles of accountability:
• Resilience
• Prevent harm to planet and people
• Cultivate capacity for action in multi-sector, interdisciplinary and cross movement spaces
• Expand understanding of human nature and cultivate latent capacities
• Support regional and local economic systems.

Finally she said we must be accountable to one another, and concluded with a quote from the Baha'i Writings: "Let your vision be world embracing rather than confined to your own self."

Implementing Commitments

The next presentation was by Prof. Victoria Thoresen of Hedmark University College, Norway, and UNESCO Chair for Education about Sustainable Lifestyles, on "Implementing Commitments". Download her presentation. She warned about juridification, the tendencies of law to replace informal means of structuring relations and activities by more formal, law-like approaches. While juridification can be positive, such as when notions of justice are imported into resolution of disputes, it can also lead to increasing bureaucratization and complexity, in which the individual is ultimately rendered less capable of protecting his or her own interests. The State does not necessarily have a monopoly on governance approaches or activities, and there are an increasing number of imaginative approaches to voluntary governance with public-interest-oriented dimensions. She quoted Sir Percy Nurun (1920): "Individuals are never more themselves, never more masters of their own fate, than when they recognize that they are a part of a greater whole from which they can draw inspiration and strength, and to which they can give inspiration and strength."

She described the processes leading to increased accountability. A thorough analysis of human nature and existing social structures and systems, retaining confidence in human's "propensity for good" despite evidence of greed, egotism, injustice and hate, should lead to identification of the basic principles and values leading to the "Future we want". The underlying material and spiritual principles of existence include connectivity and cohesion (a power of attraction), transference and transmutation (processes of change and augmentative power of growth), and finiteness (recognition of mortality and the existence of immortality). Empathy is a key value for social integration, and trustworthiness is essential for the stability of every affair. We need ongoing investigation of the consequences of present habits and aspirations (scientific, social and personal), leading to a constant process of social learning in homes, schools, local communities as well as regionally and globally. We also need reflection on actions and promoting a willingness to adjust and change (voluntary codes of conduct and practice like ISO 2600) and improved infrastructure which supports change (preventative regulations, laws, penalties).

1. Education can only help allay a threatening condition by addressing root causes.
2. Climate change education needs to happen within interdisciplinary frames.
3. There can be no ethical and adequately responsive climate change education without global climate justice education.
4. The educational response to climate change needs to be both local and global.
5. Wherever it takes place, climate change education needs to be a social and holist learning process.
6. There is a need for educators to urgently and radically think through the implications of the invisibility and uncertainty of climate change. (David Selby and Fumiyo Kagawa, Education and Climate Change, Routledge 2010, p.241-243)

She closed with a quote from the Baha'i International Community "Broader visions of human purpose and prosperity are moving from the periphery to the center of public discourse. It is becoming clear that the pathway to sustainability will be one of empowerment, collaboration and continual processes of questioning, learning and action in all regions of the world." Paradigm shift to a new culture of accountability will require new social norms and practices.

Personal and Professional Accountability: An Ethical Challenge

Dr. Arthur Dahl, International Environment Forum, Switzerland, and retired senior UNEP official, repeated for this different audience the presentation he gave the day before on "Personal and Professional Accountability: An Ethical Challenge" which is available at https://iefworld.org/ddahl15h and as a presentation. Watch the video at https://vimeo.com/152637286 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NULnwDZFvM0.

This was followed by a lively discussion that continued in the corridors long after the end of the session.

Values-based climate change education

On Friday 11 December, the last day of COP21, the IEF organized its last event on Values-based climate change education (Education pour le changement climatique sur la base des valeurs; Educacion para el cambio climatico basada en los valorous) in the Climate Generations area. The panel, chaired by Janot Mendler de Suarez, Visiting Research Fellow at the Boston University Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, shared experiences in values-based education for responsible living to motivate adjustments in mindsets and behavior individually and in communities. An audience of about 70 people crowded into the room meant for 50.

IEF panel . Peter Adriance's poster

Janot Mendler de Suarez

Values-based Education for Climate Change

Prof. Victoria Thoresen of Hedmark University College, Norway, Director of the Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living (PERL) and UNESCO Chair for Education about Sustainable Lifestyles, opened the session with a presentation on "Values-based Education for Climate Change". Download her presentation. Watch the video at https://vimeo.com/156980260 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfDjuIjT3oA.

She described the "value/action gap", a disparity between what people mean they value, say they value and how they actually implement these values in everyday life. Some issues in dealing with this include a lack of common language by which to discuss values, a lack of sufficient understanding about how values and core life skills relate to the complex and highly interconnected systems and processes that drive our lives, the traditionally "top-down" pedagogical approaches which are used when teaching values, and conflicting interests that are so deeply embedded in our market-controlled societies and reflected in our curricula that teachers are often at a loss as to how to deal with diverse values simultaneously. One approach is through participatory pedagogical approaches, such as the manual "Here and Now: Education for Sustainable Consumption" published by UNEP. The EU-funded project on Values-Based Indicators of Education for Sustainable Development (www.esdinds.eu) and its WeValue methodology also addressed this. The Dignity Principles are based on both ethics and enlightened self-interest. (www.globaldignity.org) LOLA: Looking for Likely Alternatives is a didactic process for approaching sustainability by investigating social innovation through one-on-one interviews, reports, exhibitions, etc. There are toolkits for teachers, and other materials available. The UNEP/UNESCO YouthXchange includes a toolkit, website and network of activities based on case-studies of alternative, sustainable products, services and ways of living (www.youthxchange.net).

She then discussed how values-based education influences actions, starting with a quote "We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it." (Shoghi Effendi, 1932). It stimulates a transformation of both our inner life and external conditions. It helps us become more fully human and achieving a dynamic coherence between material and non-material requirements of life. Students acquire an understanding of systems and processes, and gain insight into interconnections. They recognize that their understanding changes and grows, and that what they once thought was right may not always be so. They develop trust and compassion and inspire the capacity for service.

Values-based education fosters a vibrant community life in neighborhoods and villages, characterized by a keen sense of purpose. Global citizenship is not only personally responsible citizenship (how one leads one's own life), nor merely participatory citizenship (how one interacts with others), but transformative citizenship leading to compassionate connectedness based on empathy, collective social learning, moderation and sharing.

Values-Based Climate Education: Cracking The Behaviour Change Challenge

The next presentation was on "Values-Based Climate Education: Cracking The Behaviour Change Challenge" by Ismael Velasco, Director of the Adora Foundation. Download his presentation. Watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xy81MG-5VY0. He referred to the connection between values and behaviour, and the need to translate words into deeds. The goal of education for sustainable development (ESD) as defined by the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development is: "To integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning. This educational effort will encourage changes in behaviour that will create a more sustainable future in terms of environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations."

He described the three components of values-based behaviour change: Information, motivation and behavioural skills, which combine to produce ethical behaviour. There are also three moderators of values-based behaviour-change interventions. The first is personal conditioning, including habits, beliefs and attitudes; competing priorities and affects; neurological functioning; and moral predispositions (cultural or innate). The second is situational conditioning, with priming effects and group effects. Third is institutional conditioning resulting from legal norms, the institutional climate, opportunity to practice, and institutional incentives and disincentives.

Behaviour balances between moral integrity and the values action gap, with integrity enablers including value-consonant conditioning, behavioural skills, moral affect and espoused values. Integrity inhibitors include value-dissonant conditioning, skill gaps, competing affects, and competing priorities.

Designing effective values-based climate education requires:
1. Evidence-based, values framed information
2. Priming: verbal and non-verbal
3. Affective/experiential multi-sensory group learning
4. Elicitatory reconceptualization
5. Personal application - service
6. Institutional accompaniment and support
7. Iteration

He concluded with a quote from the Baha'i sacred writings: "Whoso ariseth among you to teach... let him, before all else, teach his own self, that his speech may attract the hearts of them that hear him. Unless he teacheth his own self, the words of his mouth will not influence the heart of the seeker. Take heed, O people, lest ye be of them that give good counsel to others but forget to follow it themselves."

Implementing Values-based Climate Change Education

The third presentation was by Dr. Arthur Dahl, President of the International Environment Forum, Switzerland, and a partner in the EU-funded project on Values-based Indicators of Education for Sustainable Development (http://www.esdinds.eu/). He gave examples on "Implementing Values-based Climate Change Education", responding to the need for values in climate change education to motivate changes in behavior and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from consumption. Download his presentation. Watch the video at https://vimeo.com/157894789 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsmfsGY1QLY.

The Paris Agreement will start us on the transition to a sustainable economy and society, but only a fundamental change in peoples' aspirations and lifestyles will allow us to meet the Paris commitments. Education will be the main channel for doing this. Beyond scientific knowledge and intellectual understanding of climate change and its impacts, values-based education is necessary to change behaviour.

This requires making the invisible visible through a process of crystalizing values, identifying values that encourage responsible and sustainable lifestyles, and reinforcing them. He summarized the approach developed during the ESDinds project (http://www.esdinds.eu/). It started with some values for which the project developed indicators: unity in diversity, trust/trustworthiness, justice, empowerment, integrity, and care and respect for the community of life (the environment). Case studies were conducted with a variety of groups, including a university sustainability programme in Mexico, a cosmetics company in Italy, a Red Cross youth programme for former child soldiers in Sierra Leone, a youth theatre group in Germany, and Moslem women in inner city London. A program of Echeri Consultores, Mexico, working with 9-13 year olds in 15 schools in the Purepecha indigenous communities, included arts workshops on environmental conservation and values; guided reflection on local ecosystems; and tree planting workshops, enabling the children to establish tree nurseries in the school grounds and conduct reforestation activities in the wider community. The values-based indicators developed with the help of Ismael Velasco enabled them to measure the empowerment of the children to improve their own environment.

This methodology was applied through the Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living (PERL) (http://www.livingresponsibly.org), directed by Victoria Thoresen, to produce values-based learning toolkits for secondary schools, for teachers, students and the school learning environment, which can be downloaded from IEF at https://iefworld.org/node/665. These address the foundations of sustainable lifestyles and responsible consumption, upon which climate change education can be built.

The International Environment Forum (IEF) has also prepared climate change courses for community use, in English and French. Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change is an interfaith study course of 9 classes for group study which is available on line at https://iefworld.org/ssdcc0.html. Its modules include Spiritual Reflections on Nature and Humankind, The Impacts of Climate Change, The Causes of Global Warming, Spiritual and Practical Dimensions, Climate Change Mitigation, Spiritual and Practical Dimensions - the Role of Society, Some More Climate Science, and A Challenge to All of Us. The French version, Cercle d'étude en 5 parties: Les dimensions scientifiques et spirituelles du changement climatique, is available on line at https://iefworld.org/ccFr0.

Another IEF initiative has been the development of courses for the Wilmette Institute, an on-line learning center of the Baha'is of the United States. The climate change course runs for 8 weeks, and covers: Nature and Humankind, Science of Climate Change, Impacts of Climate Change, Spiritual and Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change, Mitigating Climate Change, and A Challenge to All of Us. There is a complementary course on Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind (8 weeks), including: Introduction to the Concept of Sustainable Development; Economic Development and Sustainability: Poverty and Wealth; Social Development: Crises and Solutions; The Environmental Challenge and Bahá'í Approaches; Future Perspectives on the Prosperity of Humankind; Education for Sustainable Development: Individual and Community Action; and Integration and Application of Learning for Sustainable Development.

There is also an association in the USA called Full Circle Learning which has prepared a Climate Change Agents curriculum for schools which could be adapted to other countries and cultural contexts (http://www.fullcirclelearning.org/).

Moving Forward Together

The final presentation was by Peter Adriance, Representative for Sustainable Development in the U.S. Baha'i Office of Public Affairs, who described their interfaith work on climate change, and the resulting approach to climate change education. Watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6Mp_WiGNWc (sound is poor). Values are interwoven with faith as well as psychology and sociology. In the U.S. Partnership for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, Peter led a faith component that looked at values for sustainability in action. It has become clear at COP21 that deep ethical and moral values are at the heart of the climate change problem. In the USA, in addition to the Wilmette Institute mentioned in the previous presentation, the Baha'is run three schools or retreat centers with programmes of education for sustainable development and climate change.

The aim is a deeper emotional connection with the environment, to address what has been called "nature deficit disorder", such as for city children who never have had contact with the natural world. Drawing on Joseph Connell's work on sharing nature world wide (http://www.sharingnature.com/), they develop four stages of excitement, focusing, experience and reflection. For the junior youth or pre-adolescents, the experience is transformative. Those who had never been in the woods and had no desire to go there discovered a deep calm their chosen "magic spot" outdoors. The programme has grown into families as agents of change for a sustainable world, using selected quotations from the Baha'i writings that can be found on the IEF web site at https://iefworld.org/cmpchange. The content includes food and food systems, which are closely related to climate change, consumption and materialism (in a world with either too much or too little), justice, interconnectedness, and the oneness of humankind. There is also hands on learning through the arts, such as jointly painting a mural. In one exercise, a blindfolded participant is led to find and feel a tree, and then tries to go back and find it without the blindfold. The Baha'i writings include many allusions to nature, so discovering the reality of nature gives them new meaning. In another exercise, the "council of all beings", each participant selects one species (from a choice of 50), studies their profile and the impacts that climate change will have on them, creates a mask to become that species, and then speaks on behalf of that species in the council of all beings about climate change.

The event concluded with an experiential exercise led by Janot Mendler de Suarez in which each participant closed their eyes and imagined a place or a creature with which they felt a deep connection, chose words to describe their feelings, shared them with the group and joined with those with similar feelings to discuss what they had in common in their diversity.

The IEF team met regularly during the conference to share experience and plan for our events.

IEF team meeting . a working lunch
IEF team meeting; a working lunch with Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Arthur Dahl, Peter Adriance, Mo Sami and Victoria Thoresen

The full programme for the Climate Generations Area is available at http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en/climate-generations-areas/

In addition, IEF board member Peter Adriance was an official Baha'i delegate for the two weeks of the intergovernmental conference, with Serik Tokbolat of the Baha'i International Community as the second delegate for the first week and IEF president Arthur Dahl replacing him for the second week.

An album with more photographs of the conference is at http://yabaha.net/dahl/travel/t2015/Paris_COP21/Paris_COP21.html

Last updated 11 April 2016