“It’s about our future and it’s about us”
Are you an activist?
Activism is the practice of taking direct action to achieve political or social goals. You taking the time to open this post is an example of a direct action. Welcome to the beginning of a new world.
Glasgow was immersed in direct action during the two weeks of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26). The Green zone and the EU side events, as well as the Cop26daily podcast are examples of it. The Green Zone was the area of the Cop26 that was open to the public. There was a zone that was closed to the world: the Blue Zone, where the fate of our planet was to be decided by a male-dominated bunch of world leaders who secretly made important decisions. Was the world population fairly represented in that room? Unfortunately, no. And if there is one thing we should get out of COP26 is that everyone needs to be represented at the table of negotiations, if we are to make it through this crisis.
What happened in the blue zone wouldn’t have been possible without the action that took place everywhere else, though. We wouldn’t have seen the words coal and fossil fuels in the final pact if it wasn’t because there are people out in the streets, in schools, parks, homes… pushing for equal and just representation of minorities, innovating, fighting for everyone’s rights and for climate and social justice. But who is out there and why is it important to listen to them?
The youth is speaking because they are tired of empty promises. Not only are they inheriting an environmentally and socially degraded planet, but also, in many countries, a huge national debt that will take a whole generation to repair. Right now, they don’t have a voice in the negotiations. “This should have been a COP of action, not a COP of ambition”, stated Paulina from Plant for the Planet.
Indingeous peoples are speaking because they are the first ones suffering the effects of climate change. Alberto Terena, from Articulations of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, attended the COP26 to push for international agreements and condemn the anti-indigenous policies that his government puts his people through. Tibetan people, who have been for decades under illegal occupation of China, do not have a voice at the COP because they are not recognised as a country or a culture, but they were there too. They came to tell us that 1.4 billion people depend on the water resources of Tibet, which are being destroyed by climate change, and with that so is its wildlife, so their existence and struggle needs to be part of the climate debate.
Female leaders are incredibly unrepresented too: they only make up 27% of the heads and deputy heads of delegations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), of which the COP is the supreme decision-making body. They are at the front line of the struggle and are more vulnerable than their male counterparts. Did you know that 80% of climate refugees are women? Fatou Jeng, the founder of Clean Earth Gambia, stated in a talk at the Green Zone that when it comes to Nationally-determined Commitments (NDCs) mentioning gender, there is no clear plan on how to include minorities in the climate debate and the decision-making processes. An example of inspiring female leaders in the climate movement is Patricia Zerita, the global CEO of Birdlife International and the first woman from a developing country to lead an international conservation organisation, who talked to Cop26 daily about the importance of implementing solid restoration and conservation of nature alongside phasing out fossil fuels. Another example is Dr. Tasila Banda, the National Project Coordinator for the Zambia Integrated Forest Landscape Project, who brings up the issue of intersectionality to the table. People of Colour are widely known to suffer from discrimination and the climate debate is not an exception. Imagine how difficult it can be for women of colour to get their voices heard! Tasila reminds us that change begins with ourselves and our choices: “the more people make similar choices that are greener, the better our globe is going to become”.
And talking about gender representation, we can’t forget that gender identity is a non-fixed spectrum of possibilities. We hear the voice of Gaby Baesse, the Regional Director of Youth4Nature in America and the Caribbean, a Brazilian, non-binary transgender environmental activist who states the need for better representation to be able to find a bigger diversity of solutions to the climate crisis and any crisis.
People with physical impairments need to have a say in the negotiations about climate change too because accessibility in the cities affects how environmentally-friendly people’s choices are when it comes to transport, as explained by Sandy Tailor, the chair of National Federation for the Blind in the UK. How easy is it for a blind person to take public transport?
Can someone sitting at the high-level table of the negotiations think about all the issues mentioned here without including the people who have such experiences? What other minorities have not been mentioned here and need to be further represented?
The good news is that thanks to initiatives like the Cop26 daily podcast, online events from the Green Zone and the EU side events, the reality of climate justice is shown to the world.
Written by Alba Saez