By Dawn Bonfield MBE (CEC Executive Committee)
After over a week at COP26 I spent my final day paying some attention to the position of the Commonwealth countries at the conference, and looking at the role of the Commonwealth Engineers Council through the lens of climate action. The Commonwealth Engineers Council is one of a number of organisations affiliated to the Commonwealth, but its role in addressing the current climate challenges must be central. The CEC is made up of member organisations who represent the engineering professional institutions of the countries they represent, so what is our role and how can we make a difference?
As with the Commonwealth Secretariat itself, the role of the collective representative organisations is one of diplomacy and advocacy, in particular on behalf of the small island states and other front line countries which are disproportionately affected by climate change. The CEC also has a dissemination role to spread best practice, and to share not only learning, but also to share real stories of how climate change is affecting the lives and livelihoods of its members, so that we can understand how best to address these impacts. And of course, coming up with innovative solutions is what we are all about in engineering. Our strength as an organisation is our ability to bring different countries together, and to use the power of our collective voice to speak louder in unison than any of us can do individually.
The 54 commonwealth nations are home to one third of the world’s population, 60% of whom are under the age of 30. There is a great opportunity – and need – to engage with these young professionals.
The Secretariat has an Innovation Agenda that is made up of five pillars, which are:
One of the things I have heard a lot about whilst at COP is the need for finance to reach the most affected countries in a timely way, which is not happening at present. The other big theme is around representation – to have a voice, a seat at the table, and a say in decision making. This COP has been particularly criticised for lack of inclusion, so advocacy on behalf of those not present is even more important.
Having the option of representation at COP26 in future years, through enrolling as an observer organisation with UNFCCC would seem like a useful step to take, but coming with a clear position, and an engagement strategy is crucial to getting the most out of the event. Speaking to a colleague from the Youth Activities for Nuclear Power in Climate Change group, who attended COP26 for the first time this year, having a clear mission and strategy is key, and they certainly had one which paid off. https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/key-role-for-nuclear-power-in-climate-change-urged-by-youth-activists-at-cop26-event
Next year, I believe that there will be much more of a Built Environment focus, so maybe this is an opportunity for CEC to engage? Or maybe we wait for the next Commonwealth COP? But whether we decide to attend or not, having some clear goals and ambitions around our response to climate change as a Commonwealth organisation is an important thing for us to address.