Concept Paper

Theme: Transforming the Public Sector for Climate Governance

The effects of our changing climate are being felt to varying degrees around the world.
With many regions experiencing both shared and unique climate challenges, it is clear that effective and efficient climate governance must occur across government systems and through a multitude of sectors and industries to better tackle complex environmental matters. Within this context, nations and their public service professionals are increasingly being called upon to urgently address, mitigate and proactively manage this global transformation. At the same time, the reality of ensuring strong economic growth for a nation and its citizens is all consuming. How does the public sector manage this duality? Are there policies, strategies, and approaches that account for both climate responsibility and economic prosperity?
An online interactive tool ( was recently developed that matches strategic planning and action with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  When the names of Commonwealth countries are entered, their SDGs priorities rise to the top.  Almost every nation lists #13 Climate Action, #14 Life Below Water, #15 Life on Land, or any combination of these three among their top five concerns, along with #5 Gender Equity and # 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth. These concerns aptly demonstrate the tension between governments’ responsibilities for the environment, and their accountability to ensure continued economic growth. Further illustrating this friction is the fact that 60% of the Commonwealth’s 2.4 billion citizens are under the age of 30.  One in three is aged 15-29.  These young and future adults need to work, support families and prepare a future. Likewise, of the 30 small-state Commonwealth countries, 24 are small island states where the ecological footprint may be small, but the water levels continue to rise alongside any number of economic issues.
Today, the public sector must produce not only economic and social analysis as a background to action but scientific and environmental considerations that take into account the immediate wellbeing of citizens as well as the interests of future generations.  Climate change has all but skyrocketed to the top of government priority lists while fostering economic growth and wealth remains high among citizen expectations.  To what extent then, might economic growth and environmental sustainability exist in parallel, in combination or even in the same conversation? How does the public sector structure itself to ensure that these dual priorities are considered across government and between governments?
CAPAM will hold its 12th Biennial Conference in Guyana, 22-24 October 2018, focusing on the theme Transforming the Public Sector for Climate Governance. This event is not intended as a platform for gloom-and-doom scenarios, but rather an opportunity for experts and practitioners to set out arguments for a prosperous future that includes the public service being responsible custodians for the environment. The conference will provide attendees with background information that meets the economic and environmental challenges at their doorsteps while pointing out the risks with which the public service should be preoccupied to achieve results and be accountable.
In recent years, we have seen climate change climb to an ever-higher position among priorities for most countries.  The public service, dealing with the mounting pressures of budgets, higher citizen expectations, digital adoption and a wide range of environmental concerns must be equipped to address these issues through research, policy development, service delivery to citizens, and regulation and enforcement.  More and more, it becomes evident that strategic partnerships, consultation across political and bureaucratic boundaries and leading practices will advance innovative solutions and support the public service in determining and advising governments on ways to promote economic prosperity while protecting the natural productivity of our world. 

Conference Sub-themes

1. Confronting the Duality of Climate Action and Economic Growth

In an era where renewable energies are touted in some counties as one path to sustainable living, other nations are newly discovering oil, exploring new methods for its extraction, and mining coal in ever-greater quantities. Policy decisions regarding a country’s approach towards climate action and economic growth are ultimately directed at the political level, and it is up to the machinery of government to implement those directives. In most cases, however, the public service is expected to present analysis and evidence to inform policymaking. How do public service professionals reflect an increasingly evident interdependence between environmental sustainability and economic wellbeing? What are the ethical implications? Where have there been successes in influencing this dichotomy?
This sub-theme will focus on the public service role in determining a nation’s climate and economic agenda, including its challenges, opportunities and responsibilities.

2. Structuring the Public Service towards being Climate Proactive

Many public sectors have been organised, intentionally or not, so that their departments operate in silos with specific mandates and priorities. At times, these priorities can be conflicting, resulting in government sectors operating at cross-purposes. Do examples exist of economic growth and/or climate change experts working across sectors? Is research on climate change, environmental risks, sustainable development, alternative practices and transitional economic growth encouraged, made available and consulted? Is legislation/regulation changing at an appropriate pace to address the coordination and implementation of environmental policies across programmes? How are departments working together to ensure the preservation and enhancement of the natural environment, as well as conservation and protection of its natural resources within the framework of striving to improve national prosperity?
This sub-theme will focus on structuring the public sector so that it is increasingly aware of, and coordinated in, being climate proactive.

3. Managing National Climate Priorities within a Global Context

Climate issues are, of course, global in nature and require a degree of cooperation and understanding among nations for real change to take effect. Many governments are cautious that their efforts at improving the climate will put their country at a competitive disadvantage on the world stage. In addition, some feel that their efforts are wasted without wholesale buy-in and contribution from all countries. Is there now a compelling case and economic imperative to “go green” in government policy? How is that imperative negotiated, enacted and implemented across nations? What are public sectors doing to ensure that their national climate priorities fit within a global context?
This sub-theme will focus on public sector efforts to work within an international community to further their climate priorities while maintaining economic competitiveness with other nations.