How can useful climate knowledge make an impact ahead of COP21?

3rd July 2015
Amy Hall reflects on the recent Climate Knowledge Brokers (CKB) meeting and asks what role the group can play in the climate change arena and beyond. This blog post is part of a series of reflections in response to the upcoming 'Our Common Future Under Climate Change' conference in Paris.

Aldeburgh Beach Boat

Photo: Andi Campbell-Jones (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In the sea of research reports, policy briefs and data about climate change on the internet it is easy to feel overwhelmed. But while some people feel like they are drowning, others, often in the Global South, can struggle to find relevant and accessible information.

Climate Knowledge Brokers work in the spaces between the end users and producers of knowledge, tailoring it to suit context and need, building on it or translating for increased accessibility.

The Climate Change Knowledge Brokers (CKB) Group is made up of global, regional and national knowledge brokers, working mainly through online platforms and supporting open knowledge standards. It aims to facilitate peer learning, capacity building, collaboration and the development of shared tools, such as the ‘Climate Tagger’, which uses Linked Open Data to link content across climate-related websites.

The Group, coordinated by Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, celebrated its fifth birthday from 22-24 June 2015 at the UN City in Copenhagen, starting with a public outreach event, focused on ‘Creating a “Climate Knowledge Grid”’. This is the vision for the CKB Group: connecting tools and techniques, moving knowledge in all directions, rather than a ‘one stop shop’ for climate information.

The IDS led Open Knowledge Hub is working to make some of these links, particularly making knowledge created in the Global South, more available through Open technology.

Around 60 climate knowledge brokers gathered for the annual CKB Group workshop: two days of peer-learning, friendly networking and planning for the year ahead, building on 2014’s event which was held at the Institute of Development Studies.

A crucial year for climate change

Not only will the Sustainable Development Goals be finalised in September 2015, shaping the international agenda for years to come, but the world’s climate change negotiators need to reach a meaningful international agreement on climate change this year at the UNFCCC 21st Session of the Conference of Parties (COP), which will be held in Paris.

How will climate knowledge brokers cut through the noise of COP? This was the question raised by CKB Steering Group chair Geoff Barnard. Climate Knowledge Brokers play a key ‘translation’ role but, as highlighted by the Climate Technology Centre & Network’s Jukka Uosukainen, international negotiators are often still desperate for easily accessible, useful and high quality information to help them make effective decisions.

Learning from peers

The CKB Group puts a big emphasis on learning from each other’s challenges, going against the natural tendency to showcase successes amongst peers. Each annual workshop includes popular ‘knowledge sharing clinics’, in which participants present their problem or ‘ailment’ and the rest of the group act as doctors, providing advice and potentially a diagnosis. Small groups of doctors rotate so each ‘patient’ can build on their advice.

One major area identified for future learning is monitoring and evaluation. The issue was first raised by Helena Molin Valdés of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and continued as a theme throughout, including in many of the clinics.

Understanding the user beyond a homogenous group was another shared challenge and the workshop agenda was designed to get participants thinking beyond vague, generalised labels such as ’policy’ or ‘decision makers’.

The CKG Group is at a crossroads, keen to assert itself. Should it expand, including more regional activities, reaching more people but potentially losing some of the personal connections which support peer-to-peer learning? Are brokers themselves advocates or are they just trying to mobilise knowledge for those working in policy, advocacy or anywhere else where climate change may be an issue.

At the upcoming 'Our Common Future Under Climate Change' conference, from 7-10 July, global experts will come together to share and reflect on key issues in the lead up to COP21, How can a community like the CKB have more of a voice in spaces like this?

Later this year the Group will publish what is currently called titled ‘The Climate Knowledge Brokers Manifesto’, designed to lay out the key principles of the CKB, as well as the benefits of knowledge brokering. While the document is d still being finalised, it is hoped that it will shape the Group into an entity that is not only sustainable, but strengthens climate knowledge brokering and international climate action.

Find out more at the Climate Knowledge Brokers Group website, or follow conversation from the Copenhagen event, via #ckbrokers on Twitter.