Climate action and inclusive policy processes

May 4, 2023

With impacts of climate change being heightened across the world, the need to take immediate climate action and its urgency is noted now more than ever before. From governments to civil society, and vulnerable communities to private sector, all stakeholders have recognized the need for integrating climate resilience as a key priority across their decision-making processes. To ensure that climate action leads to long term resilience of all, and contributes to the development processes that enhance sustainable development efforts, it is important that public participation and awareness; access to information and data sharing; education and training; as well as inclusive processes, collaboration and cooperation are prioritized in climate processes at all levels. 

Action for climate empowerment

Action for climate empowerment is recognized under the Paris Agreement, and forms a key area of focus under the UN climate process. This includes focusing on youth as well as scaling up climate action through the above-mentioned focus areas, as well as enhanced stakeholder engagement. 

Inclusive and participatory processes would be vital in achieving the objectives of ACE which aim to enhance climate action through multiple stakeholder engagement and commitments by state as well as non-state actors. 

Additionally, youth engagement is one of the key areas of focus of the ACE programme. With the engagement and contribution of youth organisations and organisations working on youth, the process aims to provide access to youth to better engage in decision making level at international level as well as facilitating youth engagement in climate action at national and local levels with the engagement with the focal points of ACE through governments. 

Public awareness and participation

Public awareness and literacy on climate change plays a key role in the ability to scale up climate action. This includes the understanding of what climate change is, as well as ways to address the impacts of climate change. 

To ensure that decision making is inclusive and participatory, as well as contributing to the enhancement of the engagement of different stakeholders in climate related governance processes, climate literacy remains a priority. Among key stakeholders are policy makers, practitioners including civil society and community based organisations, youth, private sector, as well as media and communicators who could contribute to the strengthening of climate awareness. 

Most importantly, the participation of front-line communities in climate related decision making is of great value which will allow to provide evidence of climate impacts and share their experiences and lessons learnt on how to effectively address climate impacts. To this end, it is of importance to ensure that their participation is facilitated, and considered a priority in decision making processes. This could be through evidence generation to identify communities and groups that are most impacted to climate change, and then building their awareness on climate related thematic areas which will allow working with them to find solutions to addressing climate impacts.  

Access to data and information

Under the ACE work programme on climate change, access to information is considered as a key element for scaling up climate action. This is understood as a priority through many consultative processes related to climate action in the country, where multiple stakeholders have identified the need for more data and information for informed climate decision making. 

The need lies in availability of data in different sectors for climate risk assessing as well as information sharing processes among different stakeholders. Limitations and challenges related to information sharing and the efficiency of common platforms for engagement have been noted by different stakeholders as reasons that pose challenges for effective climate action in the country. 

Additionally, publicly available data on climate change, including climate projections that are accessible to all at national and local levels are needed. This includes the ability to access such projections by the public that could contribute to increasing avenues for designing solutions to climate impacts through holistic processes, with contributions from all actors. 

Education and training

For innovative and timely action on climate change, it is important that the stakeholders are equipped with climate education and literacy. This includes formal and informal education, including skills and capacities developed through training programmes that address identified needs relevant to skills and capacities to implement climate action and develop evidence-based policy and planning processes.  

It is important to identify the education and training related needs to be addressed which will help enhance climate literacy among all, with a focus on children and youth. The school curricular could include climate change as a subject of education which is integrated into the existing curricular, or through a specific subject being introduced to the system. Universities could include modules for all areas of education so as to have climate literacy as a basic skill which will allow all those receiving a university education to gain capacities to contribute to climate resilience building through whichever stream of work that they may embark on post university education. Additionally, university and research -base on climate change could be scaled up to provide more education, which could potentially play a role of a regional knowledge generation and dissemination hub where Sri Lanka plays a key role. 

In addition to the above it would be important that education through different channels is promoted and encouraged. Media and communication could facilitate this, through evidence-based communication which will enhance climate knowledge of the population. This includes communication which is in language that is accessible to those vulnerable to climate impacts, as well as communication approaches that contribute to education and skill building through innovative approaches and tools. 

Evidence for effective climate policy

Climate related policy and decision making need to be inclusive and with the participation of those who are dependent on the climate impacted natural resources, which create impacts on their livelihoods as well as quality of life. 

At present Sri Lanka is developing a climate policy which is aimed at updating the policy process related to climate action in the country and to fill the needs liked to addressing the key climate vulnerabilities faced by Sri Lanka. Further, over the years there has been discussions in enacting climate change law, which will support the better coordination and implementation of climate related activities. 

In all processes related to policy and law, it is extremely important that they are built on evidence, as well as inclusive and participatory processes. This includes the inclusive and participatory aspect of consultations which will bring the voices of those affected to climate change in the development of policies and laws, recognizing the different impacts of climate change by different sectors. It would also be important to recognize an intersectional approach to policy and planning processes. This includes the  contribution of multi-disciplinary technical expertise within the policy and planning processes, and facilitating the development of holistic policies and laws which will address impacts of climate change through comprehensive efforts that lead to long term and sustainable resilience for all. 

Note: This article has been published on The Morning as part of the author’s weekly column.

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About the Author
Vositha Wijenayake

Vositha is an attorney-at-law specialising in public international law, with a focus on international environmental law, UN human rights law, refugee law and EU law. She has over a decade of experience in working on climate change, at national and international level. Vositha is a member of the national expert committee on climate change adaptation of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, national expert on vulnerability and adaptation measures for the Third National Communication of Sri Lanka to the UNFCCC for the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, and is a delegate focusing on compliance, adaptation, loss and damage, and gender for the Sri Lankan delegation to the UNFCCC since 2016. She is also a consultant to the UNFCCC national adaptation plans and policy unit, and worked as a country support consultant to the UNDP NAP Global Support Programme. Vositha has an LLM in public international law from University College London, and an LLB from University of London. ‍