The 411 on SB56: why is this event important for climate policy?

Right now, the SB56 conference is underway in Bonn, Germany.

International climate change policy is riddled with acronyms. UNFCCC, COP, L&D, etc. If you’re already overwhelmed, stick with us. Climate policy language inherently creates a barrier for the world to truly understand how climate change solutions are negotiated and created by global leaders –– which is why we’re excited to break down what SB56 hopes to accomplish.

As an environmental organization accredited by the United Nations, Climate Generation brings a delegation of individuals to the yearly United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP). The COP event gathers representatives from the 197 countries (or “Parties”) of the UNFCCC where nations’ leaders shape the collective work to address climate change through international commitments –– like the Paris Agreement –– agreed upon at the COPs.

Since COPs are only one two-week period of the year, this international work also continues through working group meetings known as subsidiary bodies (like SB56) that happen throughout the year in the lead-up to COPs.

What is happening at SB56? 

To start with the basics,196 countries finalized and signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 at COP21. The Paris Agreement is the first global climate accord that commits all signatories to climate action and acts as a plan for the international community to address climate change, but there is still work to be done.

The Subsidiary Bodies (SB) includes a few key players/groups:

  • Technical conferences of countries signed on to the Paris Agreement and to the Kyoto Protocol
  • Ad hoc groups for specific issues like human rights and climate change
  • Two permanent bodies (or committees) for technical advice and implementation.

These two permanent bodies provide strategic direction for how the United Nations can advance the process towards greater ambition of climate change action. In other words, varying degrees of officials come together at SBs to talk logistics, details, and mechanics for how the commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement will actually work –– and how we will increase their effectiveness to keep the world on track for the least amount of warming possible.

At SB56 (the 56th gathering of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation), Climate Generation is excited to support and feature Mónica A. Flores–Hernández and Chris Cameron as they attend to represent the work of Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE). This is in advance of our Window into COP program for COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2022.

Climate Generation’s Window into COP program seeks to educate, inspire, and galvanize individual and collective commitment to climate action through an immersive experience that highlights our global interconnectedness. We have supported delegates since 2009 to work alongside other international members of civil society at the COPs to pressure national negotiators. Our delegates have included educators, youth, Indigenous peoples, technical experts, businesses, media, and other academics.

This is our first year providing accreditation to two individuals for an SB gathering, representing the work of Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE). We work with partner organizations advancing ACE, a framework for engaging communities in climate solutions that are part of the strategy for climate action outlined by the UNFCCC.

Our role in ACE at the SB: pushing for community-based solutions 

At SB56, there will be a technical workshop and international dialogue to negotiate terms and guidelines for ACE implementation to pass at COP27. This process is open to all observers at the event, including virtual and in-person participants. SB56 will focus on how youth and children are effectively engaged in climate commitments through national ACE focal points (government representatives that support ACE implementation at the national level.)

As a leader with the US ACE Coalition we have been working to influence our US negotiator for inclusive and ambitious youth leadership in national climate strategies. We collaborate with international ACE partners as well through our membership in the Climate Action Network International (CAN-i) coalition.

Observers play an important role elevating issues that communities need strengthened and pressuring negotiators, especially in solidarity with developing nations who often have limited resources to access negotiations.

We are participating to support the incorporation of youth and education in the implementation of the Glasgow Work Programme, which was adopted at COP26 as a 10-year plan to strengthen the implementation of ACE for community empowerment in climate action. In session dialogue is the best opportunity for negotiators to hear from ACE partners, ensuring back and forth dialogue with civil society communities, young leaders, academia, and others who work to make our voices heard in these sessions.

As the world undertakes systemic shifts to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in an equitable way, it’s critical that everyone understands what the SB56 conference and upcoming events aim at accomplishing, from the local to global level.

View the COP Classroom Toolkit

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