Here’s why we need a world climate parliament now

A general view of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 12, 2021

A general view of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 12, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman

We can no longer wait a year between U.N. negotiations to advance climate action

Dennis Tänzler is director and head of programme for climate policy at adelphi.

Let’s remember: COP26 in Glasgow was a veritable fireworks display.

The UK and other heavyweights launched numerous initiatives to finally implement and meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. They forged new alliances to stop the financing of fossil-fuel energies, advance technological innovations together with the business community, and secure the climate financing contributions already pledged for 2020.

One year on, in Sharm El-Sheikh, the Global South and others will likely ask those heavyweights: What has come out of this fireworks display? Sadly, not much.

The gap between ambition and measurable results is still far too wide. One does not have to agree with the Fridays for Future movement saying, COPs are just "blah blah" to realise that we lag far behind the scale and speed of transformation needed to avert climate disaster.

So now that states have set the goals and launched the initiatives, COPs need to focus on implementation. This is not something the roving annual climate conference caravan can deliver.

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In view of tipping points getting closer and closer, we can no longer afford to wait for another year after deadlocked negotiations.

We need regular reviews of mitigation progress. And for that we need a permanent assembly of the global climate community. It would convene the representatives of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Parties to deal with climate policy progress 24/7.

A world climate parliament could accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement in a representative, transparent, and accountable manner. Negotiating groups could jointly clarify pressing issues of international climate policy that could not be solved at or between the COPs so far.

Three examples:

1. Enabling joint mitigation efforts

At COP26, states have finally translated almost the entire Paris Agreement into a set of rules, so now implementation can actually move forward.

But it took them six years to reach an agreement on Article 6, which stipulates how countries can implement joint climate projects. A permanent assembly could resolve such unfortunate deadlocks more quickly.

2. Financial issues

Over the past decade, the international climate community has committed to providing $100 billion in climate financing annually from 2020 onwards. This leaves much to be discussed, for example questions concerning the role of the private sector, loss and damage and the renewal of funds.

But above all: Will states use the funds in a responsible and transparent manner? The answers to all these questions will be decisive for an efficient and credible climate policy.

Rather than looking at them only once a year, a standing committee should deal with them permanently.

3. Global responses to crisis events in real time

Floods in Germany and Pakistan have shown that industrialised and vulnerable states alike will need ever more emergency support in coping with increased weather extremes.

A permanent assembly of the global climate community could coordinate these services accordingly. The parliament could be a control body that quickly disburses funds and initiates multilateral cooperation for crisis management.

Will this ever happen?

Will states agree to transform the COP process into a permanent assembly? The never-ending debate over Security Council reform might not seem encouraging.

But I do not think a world climate parliament is politically out of reach. The minimum requirement for the parliament would be to develop draft resolutions in committees that are ready for decision by the heads of government.

The UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and its General Assembly (GA) also meet permanently but cabinet members join them once a year during the ECOSOC High Level Segment or the GA’s General Debate.

What should it look like?

In order to obtain legitimacy for binding decisions, all 193 parties from the United Nations need to be represented. The representatives in the parliament would be sent by the individual countries.

Initially, a delegation of three representatives and their staff could be envisaged per state, with representatives of non-state actors as permanent observers.

The location could be fixed in a city like Bonn, Nairobi, or New York or it could rotate every four to five years. Such questions are not necessarily deal-breakers.

Climate conference? Or climate parliament? No either-or!

World climate conferences have many useful functions. Yes, they raise global awareness. Yes, they are gradually turning into important trade fair events. And yes, they build up civil society pressure, which states need to bring about the necessary decisions.

But especially in view of the positive signals from Glasgow, this is not enough. A world climate parliament would consolidate and expand momentum for global climate protection and strengthen the legitimacy of the process.

The 2020s can set a transformative course that also adequately represents the interests of the Global South and future generations. Perhaps COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh will see an initiative for a world climate parliament to lead global climate policy into a sustainable future. Who wants to go first?

Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Context or the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


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