Thinking outside the box
George works for the department of Climate Change of the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment in the Seychelles. The PATPA workshops helped him push the topic of transparency in the Seychelles and become part of a valuable expert network.
The bleached coral forests in the shallow waters off the coast of the Seychelles are just one of the daunting evidences of what is still to come. As small island developing state, the Seychelles are threatened by floods, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and droughts alike. “Climate change is the highest issue that our country faces,” says George, who is working on mitigation and adaptation for the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment of the Seychelles and is the coordinator for technology development and transfer for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). “I am really pushing to bring more attention to the topic of climate change at the national, regional and international level and stand in for the concerns of Small Island States at the UNFCCC.”
For the Seychelles, climate action is a matter of course. The country has set up a climate change committee in the early 1990s and the National Climate Change Council in 2020. Seychelles pledges to reduce its economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions from 188 ktCO2e, stated in NDC 2015, to 293,8 ktCO2e by 2030, concomitantly increasing its mitigation contribution and improving its adaptation strategies to effectively respond to climate change in the context of sustainable development, with a particular emphasis on Seychelles’ Blue Economy, supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity building. Although the country is already implementing a significant number of climate measures, it is also facing problems in implementing climate action projects. “We are lacking access to international climate finance, because we have a high-income status and many of our projects are too small for financial entities, even if they would have a big impact on a small island, and the available domestic funds are insufficient” he says. The lack of capacity is another challenge. “Sometimes, we do not have the capacity needed for the implementation of a project and need to outsource to consultants from abroad, who often find it difficult to take on an island perspective.”
I realised that PATPA has built up a substantial network. I was really glad to become part of that.
It was for the reason of capacity building, that his supervisor sent him to a regional workshop of the Cluster Francophone of the Partnership on Transparency in the Paris Agreement (PATPA) in Rome in 2017 focussing on greenhouse gas inventories in the Energy and Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses (AFOLU) sectors. Back then, George had not heard of the existence of PATPA and had only briefly touched the topic of GHG inventories, but he was eager to find out. “I had to do some reading before I went, because my main focus was on technology rather than on transparency issues under the Paris Agreement,” he says. “I also realised that PATPA had been active for a while and has built up a substantial network. I was really glad to become part of that.”
When he arrived in Rome, everyone seemed to be already deep into the topic. 57 participants from 22 francophone developing countries had come together to extend their knowledge on GHG inventories and exchange their experiences and thoughts, 13 experts shared their knowledge in presentations and trainings. “My main fear was, that people would start talking about very specific paragraphs of the Paris Agreement, which I would not know from the top of my head,” George recalls. He was also not familiar with the technical software of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that was used during the workshops to track landscape changes and emissions in the AFOLU sector. “But I was not left behind, because both, the organizers as well the other participants, were willing to assist me.”
I like the fact that at the PATPA workshops, we think outside the box from onset, and only later look inside the box to see what is in it.
Because the Seychelles are currently updating their NDC, the expert knowledge on effective tracking and monitoring emissions offered during the workshop was more than useful.
“We took the methods and best practice examples with us and configured them in a way that they work on an island level,” George says. Generally, transparency has received more attention in the Seychelles in the last years, also because George and his colleagues have diffused the knowledge gained at the PATPA workshops. “We have been encouraging stakeholders to engage more in transparency because there is no point in doing a project and not reporting the impact,” he says. Also, other Ministries, such as the Ministry of Finance, have jumped on the bandwagon and are more devoted to transparency now.
George also valued PATPA’s workshop methodology. “In the usual meetings, you just sit behind the table in your regional or negotiation block and try to maintain your position, but at the PATPA workshops those elements are basically removed, the countries were all mixed and we discussed informal topics to get going,” he recalls. During the Douala workshop on monitoring, evaluating, and communicating adaptation measures in Cameroon a year later in 2018 for example, his group found out that they all had a passion for sports in common, so they were dubbed “les sportives” and retained that name for the rest of the meeting. “I also like the fact that at the PATPA workshops, we are encouraged to think outside the box from onset, and only later look inside the box to see what is in it,” he says. “This is really something that never happened to me before at an international meeting.”
The Comoros might have already overcome a challenge that we are facing and can share the experience with us.
After the last PATPA meeting in 2021, which was a virtual one due to the COVID-19 pandemic, George is now hoping for another in-person meeting. “It was very helpful that PATPA organized a digital meeting, but it is fairly difficult to network online, especially now that Seychelles has transferred to the Anglophone Cluster” he says and points out how important the language aspect of the PATPA workshop is, besides the actual capacity development. At the workshop in Douala, he made a valuable contact to a colleague from the Comoros, another Small Island State in the Indian Ocean which faces similar problems as the Seychelles. “She is still supporting me during meetings and we meet to discuss climate change issues, share experiences, and even connect again in early 2019, for example on the use of IPCC software,” he says. The Seychelles, up to now, only have three experts who can manage the rather complex software. Increasing the national capacity takes time, especially during a pandemic. “It is good to see that the Comoros are also using the software, so they might have already overcome a challenge that we are facing and can share the experience with us,” George says. After all, this is what the PATPA networks exist for, sharing knowledge to advance climate transparency.