‘Talanoa’: How can a traditional Fijian gathering bring people and nature together to stop climate change

News 10.05.18


The term ‘Talanoa’, used in Fiji and across the Pacific, describes a process of inclusive and transparent dialogue. Lisa Schindler Murray, Policy Advisor, International Climate Change at The Nature Conservancy shares her story, as she was honored to present at the Talanoa Dialogue on behalf of the Environmental NGO Constituency.



The term ‘Talanoa’, used in Fiji and across the Pacific, describes a process of inclusive and transparent dialogue.

By Lisa Schindler Murray, The Nature Conservancy

The mid-year UN Climate Conference is taking place this week in Bonn, Germany. While the negotiators have focused on finalizing the rules needed to implement the Paris Agreement in advance of the COP24 at the end of the year, a powerful storytelling process known as the Talanoa Dialogue is ongoing. This process uses stories to encourage enhanced ambition on climate action and to inform revised nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by 2020.

On Sunday, the Talanoa Dialogue was held in an unconventional setting. Unlike the rest of the conference, participants sat in a circle around traditional Fijian ceremonial objects.

There was a feeling of good intentions. Boundaries in the room were eased as people sat together to listen to each other without prejudice or judgment. Together, sharing stories about vulnerability and assessing current climate action with the intention to look for concrete solutions to tackle climate change. As the Gabon representative said in their intervention, ‘we should think of each other as ‘people of the world’ rather than ‘Parties of the Paris Agreement.’

I was honored to present at the Talanoa Dialogue on behalf of the Environmental NGO Constituency and focused on the critical role of nature in tackling climate change. Natural systems, including forests, grasslands and wetlands have significant untapped mitigation potential. Last year a study by 16 organizations was published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Science found that natural climate solutions can provide 37% of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Our vision is to shift gears, moving from climate commitments to action on the ground, today, using nature’s significant untapped potential and making it an essential part of the solution to climate change. Action on land and coastal areas will also deliver additional benefits beyond emissions mitigation. Natural climate solutions can help communities and biodiversity adapt to climate change, they can improve water quality, reduce flood risk and boost agricultural yields through improved soil health.

Moving forward, the Talanoa Dialogue holds promise as a way to foster ambition and trust needed to act collectively on climate change. By bringing cities, businesses and civil society into the process in such a setting should be a model that we can continue to build on. I hope these inspiring stories can be explored further in countries around the world and to learn from them. Building on experiences and newly identified opportunities, I hope governments and civil society can lay the groundwork for enhanced national climate plans and wider political outcomes at COP24 and beyond.