Climate Action the ECO-System Way

A year ago just before going to COP21 in Paris I wrote a piece called “Climate Change for Mere Mortals” that suggested we should be more methodical and scientific about tackling climate and related global change by having more of an eco-system approach.

And by “eco” I actually meant education, communication and outreach, which together form a continuum ranging from long-term, even life-long learning through literacy and skills building, to shorter term communication of important ideas and information, to very short term (and often short attention span) outreach.

Think of “E” as being in-depth studies (whether formal classes or self-driven investigations) to master a particular area of interest or concern, “C” as sharing of information, often in an informal way, and “O” as being tweets, Facebook postings, gossip and other quick ways of inspiring and motivating someone or marketing an idea.

By recognizing that each area is really important but that each requires specific skills and metrics to measure success, we can better prepare ourselves and future generations for changes that are already happening now.

We can’t tweet our way out of the climate crisis, but also don’t have the time for us all to become climate scientists or renewable energy experts either. We need all the above to be working in synergy, diving deep where we can, and then sharing what we learn as effectively as possible. And like in all ecosystems, diversity is strength.

What if we used the ECO-system approach to more effectively build our own individual and collective capacity to make informed climate decisions? And what if we transformed schools around the world into engaging, inspiring living laboratories for a low carbon future?

Long story short, just after COP21 I suggested to the UNFCCC Secretariat — the organizers of the Conference of Parties that negotiated the Paris Agreement last December that is now in effect — that a new community for individuals and organizations supporting climate action through effective education, communication and outreach (ECO) should be started. Such a community could help support the original goals of Article 6 — education, public awareness and engagement, international collaboration and cooperation to develop “adequate responses to climate change” of the original UNFCCC framework signed in 1992.

And just two weeks ago, two weeks before the start of COP22, they said “yes”!

They told us our new organization, with the working title of ECONGO (Education, Communication and Outreach NGOs’) could have a room at COP22 in Marrakesh for daily meetings. This allows us to start to build a robust, international community to help increase our collective capacity to address climate change at every level of society. It’s a great opportunity, for sure.

One little snag: because of prior commitments and complications, I can’t go Marrakesh to help run the daily meetings and kick this off.

Luckily, several movers and shakers have stepped up and offered to help facilitate the daily meetings in Room 7 at 8AM GMT, starting Tuesday, November 8th and running through November 18th. We plan to have video conference calls at that time since I’m not alone in not being able to be at COP22.

Here’s more information on the goals of this fledgling community:

What is ECONGO?

As a new special community supporting Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and related capacity building recommendations in the Paris Agreement, ECONGO is made up of organizations and individuals interested in forging a broad, diverse, robust, international community of professionals and enthusiasts involved with developing adequate responses to climate and related global changes.

What are its goals?

ECONGO will aim to help address a current gap by helping facilitate effective climate-related education, training, public awareness and engagement efforts led by organizations and institutions that have not been well represented in recent climate conventions and negotiations. It will also support and enhance the nine official constituency groups, and work toward informing and engaging the public and key professionals to minimize climate risks and maximize resilience.

ECONGO mission is to clarify and amplify a shared vision for informed climate action through education, public information and engagement, training, and international collaboration and cooperation. It will aim to provide ongoing, broad communications throughout the broad community, and assist in developing shared and distinct measures of success. Clearly, metrics measuring literacy and knowledge will necessarily differ from those measuring motivation, behavior change, or effective social media responses, but tracking progress is essential. ECONGO will also generate the regular, mutually reinforcing activities that are important elements in countering climate confusion and denial.

ECONGO is a supporting backbone

ECONGO will serve as a supporting backbone for fostering climate literacy, knowledge, and the know-how to make informed climate decisions at every level of society. It will strive to work closely with the Secretariat, the Parties to the Convention and Agreement, and all those in civil society who work to build long term literacy through education and training, information sharing through effective communication, and more immediate, time-sensitive motivation through strategic, engaging outreach.

The ECONGO-System

This three pronged approach of education, communication, and outreach (ECO), each with their own best practices and methods for measuring effectiveness, span the range from life-long learning and literacy-building, to intermediate information conveyance, to short and sweet messaging and memes. When efficiently integrated, the threefold approach of ECO holds strong promise for more effectively informing and engaging professionals and publics.

ECONGO Needs You!

ECONGO will need the talent and collaboration of individuals and organizations of artists, scientists, educators, professionals and learners from all walks of life. It will require climate finance experts, journalists, politicians and ministry officials. It will need parents and their children. Most of all, we need you to step up and contribute your skills and insights to helping foster an informed and engaged people for the planet.