RCE Greater Portland - 2020

Virtual Bridge to the International Climate Process
Basic Information
Title of project : 
Virtual Bridge to the International Climate Process
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Greater Portland
Contributing organization(s) : 
Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network (GPSEN)
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)
Lewis & Clark College
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Frank Granshaw
Organizational Affiliation: 
GPSEN/RCE Greater Portland
Vicki Coats
Organizational Affiliation: 
Jessica Kleiss
Organizational Affiliation: 
Lewis & Clark College
Format of project: 
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Friday, August 28, 2020
Additional resources: 
Virtual Bridge Kit - A guide for communities looking to organize their own virtual bridges.
COP25 Talanoa Dialogues Report - https://gpsen.org/cop25-talanoa-dialogues-report/
Paris Agreement; Sustainable Energy; Climate mitigation and adaptation
At what level is the policy operating?: 
Geographical & Education Information
United States
Portland, Oregon, USA
Address of focal point institution for project: 
PCC Sylvania
12000 SW 49th Ave.
Portland, OR 97219
Target Audience:
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
The project is hosted for the diverse community stakeholders in Portland Metro and surrounding areas that are geographically included in GPSEN’s work. These include Clackamas, Clark, Multnomah, and Washington counties in Oregon State and Washington State.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
This effort was designed to increase engagement in the international climate process (most notably UNFCCC events) by providing real-time, two-way linkage between local citizens and these events. The events focused on SDG 13 - Climate Action.
December, 2019
Disruption of global climate systems is a challenge that impacts everyone. Mitigation and adaptation requires the skills, creativity, insights, and effort of all levels of global society. However, the current model of the UNFCCC process severely limits the number of people who can participate, with events centered on participation in negotiations by representatives of nation states.

Since the adoption of the UNFCCC in 1992, civil society engagement has grown. At the same time, as various nations have failed to act or retreated from their commitments, subnational actors have stepped up to drive needed climate actions. Given these trends and the urgency for action, the need to expand the scope and role of civil society actors is all too apparent.

This expansion is challenged by a lack of resources and ways for local communities to engage in the global process. GPSEN’s pilot virtual bridge to COP25 hosted in 2019 was an effort to address these challenges. The pandemic has opened new possibilities as communications are increasingly moved on-line. Consequently, digital participation in the international climate process more effectively links local, regional, and international action.
* Increase general public awareness of the UNFCCC process.
* Expand the number of people and diversity of stakeholders involved in this process.
* Create a conduit for more people to have input into the process.
* Do all of this in a less expensive and less carbon intensive way than physically traveling to UNFCCC events.
Activities and/or practices employed: 
1) 2019 – PDX Virtual Bridge to COP25: This pilot effort was organized by a group of Portland-based educators with the aim of linking local people to COP25 activities in Madrid, Spain. It included two local public gatherings in which participants talked with local climate activists, researchers, and public officials, as well as observers in Madrid via video conferencing. Participants also engaged in a Talanoa-style dialogue designed to provide comment to the UNFCCC secretariat and negotiators.

2020 – Planning for future events: This has included members of the PDX organizing team reaching out to other communities, encouraging the organization of additional virtual bridges around the globe. A major product of this activity was the Bridge Kit, a guide to organizing a local virtual bridge (see the results listed below).

Size of academic audience: 
1) Bridge Gathering #1 (2 December 2019): Public meeting at OMSI
2) Bridge Gathering #2 (7 December 2019): Public meeting at Lewis and Clark College
3) Bridge Gateway: The on-line component of the virtual bridge provides links to UNFCCC and partner sites, background on the international climate process, and a showcase of student and other climate work.
4) Talanoa Dialogues-Pulse from Portland A report of Portland community voices engaged in the Talanoa dialogue.
5) Bridge Kit: An on-line guide to organizing a local virtual bridge.
6) Follow-up presentations:
Broadening engagement at a critical time - Virtual bridges to the COPs: CLEAN Teleconference presentation by Frank Granshaw and Neeraja Haviligi on 21 April 2020
Broadening engagement at a critical time - Linking local action to the international Effort: A segment of a panel discussion in the Wuppertal / German Development Institute workshop Its the End of the COP as we know it.

Lessons learned: 
1) Though our pilot event was modest in scope, there was strong interest in our local community for learning about, participating in, and having input into international climate events.
2) A challenge to organizing a local bridge was coordinating local gatherings with UNFCCC and host country events. Clearer and more timely lines of communication between local and international efforts are needed.
3) Infrastructure to telecommunicate are critical to local bridge events.
4) Local partners are critical to providing participants with a perspective on how what happens in the international arena translates into local climate action.
5) Because of the diversity of stakeholders and issues, bridges need to be composed of multiple rather than single gatherings, with each gathering being organized around a theme related to the international event.
6) Organizing a local virtual bridge should be about constructing a framework for local stakeholders to organize and host their own events.
Key messages: 
Given current global circumstances, the urgency of our climate crises, and the status of the UNFCCC process, there is an increased need for involvement of non-state actors in climate change work. Digital technologies and local virtual bridges provide a valuable framework for facilitating engagement.
Relationship to other RCE activities: 
The Virtual Bridge to the International Climate Process model emerged as an event and model through RCE Greater Portland’s Research & Curriculum Committee. The model seeks to engage the wide variety of stakeholders in the greater Portland region in the UNFCCC process. This is an aim consistent with the goal of RCEs being able to connect local sustainability efforts with international efforts such as the SDGs.

By including Talanoa Dialogues in bridge events, the model seeks to develop community among local stakeholders and provide them with a voice within the international process.

Most importantly, local RCEs provide a platform for creating additional virtual bridges with the goal of increasing citizen participation in UNFCCC and other international climate events.
The past activities described in this report were made possible by individual donations to develop a webpage, GPSEN’s operational budget to fund event space, and in-kind support from OMSI and Lewis and Clark College.


File Name Caption for picture Photo Credit
Image icon Bridge to COP.jpg (67.5 KB) View of Downtown Portland and Mount Hood
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 7 - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 
SDG 17 - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development 
Disaster Risk Reduction 
Curriculum Development 
ESD for 2030-Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 1 - Advancing policy 
Priority Action Area 3 - Developing capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 4 - Mobilizing youth 
Priority Action Area 5 - Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level