The Scotia Communiqué

An open letter from the Scotia Group Fellows

The Scotia Communiqué


Towards a contract for intergenerational justice. An open letter from the Scotia Group Fellows

The Scotia Communiqué is also available in Arabic here

To: COP26 heads of state

From: The Scotia Group Fellows

Dear COP26 heads of state,

It’s the year 2050. The world has warmed by 2 degrees Celsius. Entire regions have been lost to the oceans and desertification; people affected by droughts and floods are fleeing their homes in search for a place to survive; natural disasters have cost millions of lives over the years and new diseases have spread across the globe. 

In the midst of this chaos, your successors, country leaders at COP 56 gather together; they debate fiercely how to best deal with the intensely urgent issues for which few solutions remain. But COP is just a side-show. The dire urgency of mounting a crisis response requires emergency diplomacy. A small club of selected countries force through major decisions; inclusive processes are abandoned; those not at the table are left frustrated about their voices not being heard. 

We will be the ones sitting at these tables. We will face a planet suffering and under dire urgency will be forced to negotiate a future that is being created today, this year, at this COP.

It is in your power to prevent this scenario from becoming reality.

We ask you to put intergenerational justice at the center of climate negotiations for this year and for the years to come. We urge you to respect an important principle of an intergenerational climate contract:

Take decisions today that do not place the burden of much tougher decisions on us tomorrow!

It is a principle for fairness in light of the Earth’s finite resources and indefinite ability to cope with harmful activities. Our end of this contract is to promise our full support when making and implementing such decisions. We will work with you to create this future, if you give us opportunities to engage and the tools we need.

With the overriding principle of intergenerational justice in mind, you can enable us to work with you by respecting two key requests:

Give us the power to hold you accountable for what you promise!

Empower us and future generations to take part in decision-making!

Give us a seat at the table of our future to hold you accountable for what you promise! 

Our current international system and national systems of climate action are mostly predicated on “do-gooding.” Positive climate commitments and virtue signaling are rewarded and celebrated. But failing to meet those climate commitments  is not penalized. A Scotia Group member summarized this: “The current system is like asking your students to do their homework and have them grade it themselves”. Climate action cannot rely on the benevolence of decision-makers; not because we believe leaders are heartless. It is simply too much to ask of a leader to act decisively under the vast pressures of many constituencies solely based on their conscience. This is further complicated by short election cycles and political uncertainty. That is why non-action must be costly.

First steps for an accountability regime are strengthening legal enforceability and transparency

  1. We ask you to create and strengthen provisions in national law that enshrine emissions reduction pledges.

Allow us to take it to the courts. In the absence of binding international commitments, all legal persons should be able to enforce national commitment through the recognition of a constitutional and human right to a clean and healthy environment.

In addition, we urge you to substantiate your national emissions targets at the company and industry level. On the backbone of an emissions trading system, set ambitious emissions targets and transition plans at the industry level and create a legal basis whereby we can resort to courts if those plans aren’t realized. 

  1. We ask you to practice and require radical transparency at the company, national and international level. 

A system of enforcement requires a reliable information base. We urge you to create common reporting standards, to publish transition plans and report on emissions reductions and to mandate the same for companies. The UNFCCC is well positioned to become the watchdog and enforcer over national implementation promises and should be granted the powers to do so.

  1. We ask you to commit to shorter national implementation horizons.

All COP countries break down emissions reduction plans until 2050 into short-term targets with a target horizon no longer than one elected administration. Accountability means holding those to account that did not act rather than allowing them to push it off to future administrations.

In return, we promise to hold you accountable. This may seem counterintuitive. But we firmly believe that knowing that you will be held accountable will make many of your choices easier. Non-action will become a non-option. This will also allow debates with all communities and stakeholders to shift towards making action feasible. We promise to be the constituency to support you in that process, to demand action as loudly as others may demand non-action. 

Empower us and future generations to take part in decisions!

Many from our generation have taken to the streets. It is time for us to move our actions from the streets into parliament, the boardroom and decision-making processes at the international level. We ask you to help us do so, to empower us to voice our concerns, to give us the information we need to consult you and to further educate us and future generations.

  1. As first steps we ask you to and organize international networks representing young citizenship.
    From the outside, negotiations such as COP are opaque. We cannot be as organized as most advocacy organizations; And we cannot easily understand the intricacies of complex negotiation processes without ever having been present. We want to contribute productively but often lack points of influence. We ask you to support the design and implementation of global and national youth networks and to establish institutional vehicles that allow us to take part in negotiations.
  2. We ask you to educate us and the next generations.

We come from many countries – from Brazil, the UK, Rwanda, the US, Germany and others.

We want to be part of the solution to our future and we want to help you but for that you need to give us the tools and trust to sit with you at the table. We ask you to embed an understanding of climate change within national education systems at all levels of education so that we can in future create and embed transformation throughout society.

In return, we promise to help you in developing innovative ideas and new approaches.

We came together as the Scotia Group Fellows to advise key stakeholders on how to advance negotiations where gridlock is preventing progress. We learned that we can help develop new ideas. We had the chance to discuss with experts and to leverage their insights but to think about them in new, more creative ways. We developed a strategy for Germany to lead a coalition for increased disclosure and strengthened legal action. We laid out how the United Arab Emirates can become a regional climate leader to reimage the Gulf States for the 21st Century. We analyzed the energy interdependency between Japan and Australia and proposed a roadmap for a joint coal phaseout that is mutually beneficial. And we outlined ways for COP Secretariats to operationalize and strengthen the complex issue of Loss & Damages. We will continue developing many more such ideas if you ask us to help, if you engage us and inform us!

It is abundantly clear that the steps we propose here are simply small starting points. They certainly cannot address climate change on its own. But they offer a starting point to establish a larger principle of fairness. Of fairness between you and us and future generations. Our last promise is a promise to future generations: We will not take decisions that force harder decisions on you in the future. We sign the intergenerational contract.

Dear heads of state and in fact, dear everyone: We kindly ask you to do the same!

Sincerely yours,

Anjali Balakrishna, 29, USA

Arthur Azerêdo, 26, Brazil

Carl E. Stenberg, 25, Sweden

Edmund Crawley, 24, UK

Jessica Crow

Kate Cullen, 27, USA

Kate M. Wilcox, 24, USA/UK

Léa Weimann, 23, Germany/Scotland 

Nick Küspert, 24, Scotland

Margaret Vatter, 21, USA

Maria Lemos Gonzalez, 29, Colombia 

Maxence Fontaine, 24, France

Samuel Ngoga, 22, Rwanda

Tara Theiss, 23, Germany/UK

Ysaline Bourgine de Meder

Montague Jones, 21, USA