The Women’s Climate Action Agenda: Presenting a Path Towards Justice & Solutions

“The opportunity to prevent the worst impacts of climate change will be lost forever unless the global community changes course immediately…If we do not act now, our children will look back at us wondering why we did not act when we still could have made a difference.”

Women’s Climate Action Agenda, Introduction


We live at a time of both overwhelming crisis and unparalleled opportunity. A time of bleak destruction and blooming hope. We face not only an environmental crisis, but an existential one; will humanity rise to the greatest challenge we have ever faced, or recklessly defend ‘business as usual’ at the expense of life itself?

Released by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) on September 9th, 2014, the Women’s Climate Action Agenda provides a bold answer to this question; we must and we can rise to transform a broken system and re-vision our collective future.

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The initial vision of the Women’s Climate Action Agenda emerged with input from more than 100 women leaders from across the globe, united at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit in 2013. In its final form, the 80 page document represents the synthesis of decades of academic research, policymaking, and on-the-ground activism and experience in frontline communities.

The vision presented is wide ranging yet holistic:

 “The same forces that drive an economy reliant on fossil fuel energy perpetuate the exploitation of workers and Indigenous peoples, compromise community health and the environment, implement environmentally racist policies, and prevent people worldwide from achieving income security and food sovereignty… We need a paradigm shift—for global environmental sustainability, for social justice, for new economies of scale, for respect and understanding of Nature. All four of these factors are inextricably linked; we cannot bring one into stable being without the others.”

Crucially, in both its authorship and its vision moving forward, the Action Agenda bridges North/South divides and encourages cross-sectoral collaboration between academics, activists, scientists, policymakers, businesspeople, and everyday Earth citizens. The Action Agenda does not treat the climate crisis and social and environmental injustice as abstract concepts, but rather recognizes that communities across the globe are already feeling the impacts, and that women and Indigenous peoples are facing disproportionate threats. Deeply aware that we have no time to loose, the document provides concrete solutions and policy recommendations that we can begin to implement now.

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Delegates at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit. Photo by Lori Waselchuk.

The Women’s Climate Action Agenda includes sections on fossil fuel extraction and resistance, green business and 100-percent renewables, agriculture, food and seeds, forests and biodiversity, fresh water and oceans, cities and lifestyle, climate finance and economics, indigenous peoples, and women and climate leadership. Each section contains an analysis of the issue and its root causes, an action plan outline, and policy recommendations.

A sample of the key solutions put forth includes immediate fossil fuel divestment, the implementation of legal Rights of Nature, the end to market based climate mechanisms, the localization and democratization of food systems, and the amplification of the voices of Indigenous peoples and women in all decision making processes.

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Patricia Gualinga of Sarayaku, Ecuador at the Women’s Earth & Climate Summit. Photo by Lori Waselchuk.

Since it’s release in early September, WECAN International members and allies have been circulating the document widely and striving to build the momentum and alliances needed to implement solutions.

On the ground in New York City in for the United Nations Climate Leadership Summit, People’s Climate March, and Climate Week 2014, WECAN International worked ceaselessly to distribute the Action Agenda to activists from across the globe, as well as to key international policy makers, businesspeople, and indigenous and civil society leaders.

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WECAN International Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake with Vaishali Patil, global climate ambassador and activist from India. Photo by Emily Arasim.

On Sept. 22, WECAN International co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, attended the ‘Leaders Forum on Women Leading the Way: Raising Ambition for Climate Action’, presented by the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice and UN Women.

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WECAN Executive Director, O.Lake, presents the Action Agenda to UNFCCC Secretariat C. Figueres. Photo by Emily Arasim.

The following day, Sept. 23, Lake was joined by WECAN International co-Founder Sally Ranney, WECAN Coordinator for the Middle East/ North Africa Region, Fadoua Brour, and WECAN Coordinator for Latin America, Carmen Capriles, at the official United Nations Climate Leadership Summit. In attendance as part of a small civil society delegation, the four were able to evaluate proceedings first hand and speak with representatives from across the globe.

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Fadoua Brour presents the Action Agenda to John Holdren, science advisor to President Obama.

“We are very honored to have participated in the U.N. Climate Summit,” Osprey reflected after the event, “With our ‘Women’s Climate Action Agenda’ in hand, WECAN members were able to provide an analysis of the root causes of the climate crisis and interrelated social injustices, presenting alternative visions and suggestions for action. We attended the Summit to advocate against false solutions and in favor of transformative leadership and structural change.”

At the two events the women presented copies of the newly released Women’s Climate Action Agenda to several top international political figures, including UNFCCC Secretariat Christiana Figueres, former President of Ireland and current U.N. Special Envoy to Climate Change, Mary Robinson, and John Holdren, science advisor to U.S. President Obama. Throughout the week, WECAN International women were also able to engage with countless grassroots and community leaders, undoubtedly the true heart of the movement for climate justice and solutions.

In the coming months, WECAN International will continue to work to share and implement the analysis and plans of action set forth in the document. The Action Agenda will further serve as a key tool for advocacy work at the 2015 UN Climate Negotiations in Lima and Paris.

The Women’s Climate Action Agenda is available to download and share at: http://wecaninternational.org/pages/womens-climate-action-agenda-2014

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Blog by: Emily Arasim, WECAN International Special Projects & Communications Coordinator

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Re-Visioning Our Relationship with the Earth: Lessons from ‘Rights of Nature and Systemic Change in Climate Solutions’

Deeply aware of the crisis created by systems that value growth and profit above all else, an extraordinary group of panelists gathered to speak out at ‘Rights of Nature and Systemic Change in Climate Solutions’ on September 22, 2014. The event, presented by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) and the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, was held as part of the mobilization surrounding the People’s Climate March and U.N. Climate Summit in New York City.

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Photo by Emily Arasim.

Rich with varied voices and perspectives, the event focused on the need to redesign our social, political, economic and legal structures to function with respect to the rights of the Earth and the knowledge systems of the original stewards of the land, the worlds indigenous peoples.

“If our environmental law and economic systems were working we would not be in this crisis,” explained Osprey Orielle Lake, Co-Founder and Executive Director of WECAN International, in her opening statement. “Our current laws do not stop pollution, they ‘regulate’ it and allow it to continue. We must disrupt this broken framework.”

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Photo by Emily Arasim.

Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network), Shannon Biggs (Global Exchange), Gloria Ushigua (Association of Sapara Women, Ecuador), Linda Sheehan (Earth Law Center), and Casey Camp-Horinek (Ponca Nation, Indigenous Environmental Network) joined Lake to expose fundamental flaws in our current laws and management schemes, while presenting bold strategies for re-visioning them. The issue could not be more critical, presenters explained, as a shift to a legal framework and knowledge system that sees the Earth as a living being with inherent right is a requirement for any genuine climate solution.

Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network took the floor first, focusing on the need to learn from and re-align with indigenous knowledge which conceives of the Earth as a vibrant, living Mother who must be cared for and respected.

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Photo by Emily Arasim.

Tom explained how many climate action plans currently being considered, such as REDD carbon projects and biotechnology schemes, continue to violate the laws of nature and rights of the Earth in attempts to divide, conquer, and profit, ultimately making them false and highly destructive proposals. He emphasized that communities across the globe must reject climate policies which continue to commodify and manipulate, instead coming back to “our true nature of working in harmony with Mother Earth.”

Linda Sheehan of the Earth Law Center spoke next, reaffirming and expanding up Tom Goldtooth’s sentiment that our plans of action, movements, laws and policies must function with respect to the Rights of Nature.

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Photo by Emily Arasim.

According to Linda, our current legal structure overwhelmingly views the Earth as an entity to be traded and degraded, resulting in continued exploitation and failing policy. “We think we can chop up nature, we can control it. This is simply a misunderstanding,” she explained.

Working to challenge this flawed vision, Linda and allies at the Earth Law Center have joining forces with groups across the U.S. to create and instate new laws that put the rights of the Earth and communities above those of corporations, including notable successes in Santa Monica, California this year.

From the frontlines of the fight to end fossil fuel extraction in the Amazon Basin, Gloria Ushigua of the Association of Sapara Women, Ecuador shared her story next.

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Photo by Emily Arasim.

“We are here to defend our rights, our spirits, our forests,” Gloria explained, highlighting the ways that indigenous communities across the world, embedded firmly in a tradition that sees the Earth as a flourishing and living being, are already challenging conventional models and leading the way towards climate solutions.

Gloria’s words however, shook up the conversation as she explained how despite Ecuadorian law that officially gives rights to Nature, massive corporate and political violations continue. Ultimately, changing our legal framework must thus be but the first step, to be followed up with ceaseless civil society action to insure that these rights are respected on every level.

Shannon Biggs of the Global Exchange spoke next, expanding upon Gloria’s declaration that systemic change in climate solutions and our relationship with the Earth must come not only at the policy level, but at the level of communities and individuals across the globe.

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Photo by Emily Arasim.

“It all comes down to community, it is up to our communities to be stewards of the land,” Shannon explained, “we must challenge unjust law that says nature is property.”

Shannon continued on to detail the concrete ways that the Global Exchange and its partners are working to expand local ability to implement and enforce the Rights of Nature, focusing on community applications of these principles as tools for climate resiliency and the protection of the Earth.

Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Nation and Indigenous Environmental Network took the floor as the final presenter of the day. Her speech was one of hope, explaining to the audience that while the task of uprooting and re-visioning the dominant system seem daunting, this is only so when constrained under the impression that politicians and economists are the center of ultimate power.

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Photo by Emily Arasim.

“If the sun did not rise today, would you be here? If you did not have a drink of water, would you be here today? THAT is the true power,” Casey explained, the audience erupting in applause.

Following the series of presentations, audience members and speakers engaged in a question and answer session that kept many in discussion for more than an hour after the official end of the event. Expanding upon earlier discussion surrounding mal-aligned economic and climate policy that seeks to control and subdue nature, Linda Sheehan poignantly remarked, “they call it ecosystem management as is the earth has been unruly. No. We need to regulate ourselves.”

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Photo by Emily Arasim.

All of the presenters are engaged with a dynamic process of conducting Rights of Nature Ethic Tribunals. The first was held in Ecuador earlier this year, followed by a October 5th  Tribunal in the San Francisco Bay Area (click here to read more!) and upcoming December 2014 Tribunal in Peru. Crucially, these Rights of Nature Tribunals demonstrate how a new legal framework, embedded in principles of the Rights of Nature, can be successfully used as a tool for ending corporate exploitation and building climate resiliency and solutions.

Reflecting on the afternoon panel and plans moving forward, Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN International stated, “to truly live sustainably and live in harmony with the Earth, we need to change the very DNA of our economy and legal frameworks to adhere to the natural laws of the earth and for this, Rights of Nature can play a central role. Please join our efforts at WECAN and in the growing movement for the Rights of Nature.”

For more information about the Rights of Nature movement, check out:

wecaninternational.org/pages/rights-of-nature-international-advocacy-trainings

therightsofnature.org

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Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Special Projects & Communications Coordinator

The Economics of Sustainability: Emerging Models for a Health Planet

Building momentum after the People’s Climate March and U.N. Climate Summit, WECAN International and the Praxis Peace Institute will hold ‘The Economics of Sustainability: Emerging Models for a Health Planet’ Conference in San Francisco, California between October 6th and 9th, 2014.

Recognizing that addressing the climate crisis requires an entirely new economic structure and vision, the conference will seek to answer the central question:

How will we mitigate the effects of climate change and build a new economy in a way that honors the Earth and puts people before profit?

The Conference will include workshops, networking meetings, action groups, and outstanding presentations from economists, scientists, activists, and leaders in the environmental movement. Ultimately, the goal of the multi-day event is to launch a platform for systemic economic, cultural, and political change, and to provide a space for organizations and individual to work collaboratively in this pursuit.

Osprey Orielle Lake, Co-Founder and Executive Director of WECAN International, will present a keynote speech at the event, surrounding the theme ‘Rights of Nature and Earth Economics’.

“If our environmental law and economic systems were working we would not be in this multitude of crises. We need our legal and economic frameworks to abide to by laws of Nature and to address social injustice,” explained Lake, providing a sneak peak into her presentation at the conference.

To register, visit: www.praxispeace.org/conference14.php

The Earth is Not for Sale: Taking a Stand at the People’s Tribunal for the Rights of Nature

This Sunday, October 5th, allies in Oakland, California will unite to hold a ‘People’s Tribunal on the Rights of Nature’.

The proceedings stem from a growing movement that seeks to highlight and protect Mother Nature’s inherent and inviolable rights, exposing and putting on trial violations of the Earth and its communities at the hands of the Chevron Corporation.

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Photo by Emily Arasim.

Using a recent refinery explosion in Richmond, CA as a case study, the People’s Tribunal will demonstrate exactly how a new legal framework, embedded in principles of the Rights of Nature, can be used as a tool for ending corporate exploitation and building climate resiliency and solutions.

The event, organized by the Bay Area Rights of Nature Alliance as part of a global Earth Rights Day of Action, will be held between 10 am and 2 pm at the Laney College’s Forum in Oakland, CA.

Crucially, the Tribunal will serve as forum to strengthen tactics used at the first International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Ecuador last year, and to prepare for upcoming international Tribunals in Peru in December 2014. Taken together, these three powerful tribunals have the potential to chart a new course and provide tools for communities to exercise their rights, protect Natures Rights, and begin to stop environmental and social degradation.

WECAN International Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, will serve as a moderator of the People’s Tribunal on Sunday.

“We have seen decades worth of environmental protection laws that have failed to prevent the increasingly grave threats of climate change, degradation of our planet’s ecosystems, and the growing displacement of humans and other species,” stated Lake, explaining the impetus for events such as the People’s Tribunal. “To achieve sustainability, even at its most basic level, the time has come for society to restructure the fundamental framework of our governance and economics systems as they relate to the relationship of humans and our Earth.”

The event is free and open to the public, however requires registration at http://therightsofnature.org/events/bayareatribunal.

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Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications & Special Projects Coordinator

Global Women Leaders Raise their Voices at ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

“As governments meet tomorrow at the UN Climate Summit, women worldwide are joining in solidarity to speak out against policies and activities that not only threaten the climate and their communities but the very future of all life as we know it,” began WECAN International Co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, welcoming the tightly packed crowd to ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’, held at the U.N. Church Center in New York City this past Monday, September 22nd 2014.

“We need system change,” she continued, “Women are standing for our Mother Earth, women are standing for future generations, women are standing to protect the web of life and front line communities.”

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

The event, held as part of the mobilization surrounding the People’s Climate March, Climate Week NYC and the U.N. Climate Leadership Summit, served as a forum for global women to share why and how they are standing and leading the movement for climate justice and equitable solutions to the climate crisis.

First Nations acapella group Ulali opened the event with their song ‘Idle No More’, so powerful in its words and rhythms that goosebumps and tears overcame many of those gathered. Blending poignant lyrics on taking action and the coming “human awakening” with traditional drumming and singing techniques, the song set the stage for a compelling event.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

Sally Ranney, co-Founder of WECAN International, introduced the organization further and congratulated everyone present for participation in the People’s Climate March the previous day, urging that, “we have to move now with a lot of solidarity, a united voice”. Her speech highlighted biodiversity protection and unity with frontline communities, two themes which reverberated throughout the panel discussion.

Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Treaty 6 Alberta Canada, and Sierra Club Canada opened the panel with an impassioned speech reflecting her experiences living in “ground-zero” of the tar sands.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

Crystal spoke of dire levels of soil, water, and air pollution engulfing her home, explaining that more than 84% of her people traditional land has been leased to oil companies without community consent, making them “economic hostages” on their own homelands. However Crystal also spoke of hope, “this is an everyone movement. If you are living, breathing, walking, this fight belongs to you too… we are here, and we are not going anywhere.”

Taking the audience on a journey from the tar sands of Alberta to the oil fields tearing at the Amazon rainforest, Patricia Gualinga, Kichwa leader of Sarayaku, Ecuador spoke next. Her speech focused on her communities fight to protect their cultural and ecologic heritage from the expansive fossil fuel and mining projects being pushed under a false development paradigm. Clean air and water, organic foods, and the ability to walk barefoot without fear of contamination is true wealth, Patricia explained, with poverty emerging only from destruction of the Earth.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

In reaction to the exploitation of nature and indigenous communities the women of her region marched hundreds of miles in October 2013 from the Amazon basin to the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, denouncing continuing violations and demonstrating an unwavering resolve to stop the destruction.

Highlighting the simultaneous diversity and unity of the voices of the global climate justice movement, Dr. Fatimata Diop took the floor next to discuss climate vulnerability and solutions in her West African home of Senegal.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

Fatimata discussed her work leading the UNDESERT program in its efforts to combat desertification and biodiversity loss through reforestation and agroforestry initiatives. Dr. Diop also spoke on issues of deep social inequity;

“In Africa people did not have lunch because of the climate change issue. Some of them will not have dinner because of the climate change issue. African people are not responsible. We need climate justice, we need more solidarity… let us work together to inspire real change, change that empowers women and gives them a central role in decision making,”

Angelina Galiveta, founder of 100% Renewables Policy Institute presented next on the reality of the transition to a zero carbon future. Speaking from years of first hand experience working within the energy industry, Mrs. Galiveta made it clear that we already have the tools and solutions needed to transform our system, if only we move forward boldly now.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

Nobel Laureate Jody Williams spoke next, demonstrating first hand the power and importance of the solidarity work discussed by her fellow presenters. She focused much of her speech on issues of leadership that have consistently resulted in policymakers putting profit over the planet, at the expense of life itself.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

“Perhaps we take them [our leaders] out to the middle of a field and have them negotiate there, or perhaps, where we should really put them is in the middle of the tar sands… let them see the realities of their policies,” stated Mrs. Williams, reflecting on the U.N Climate Leadership Summit to be held the following day.

Closing the panel was Ponca Nation elder Casey Camp-Horinek of the Indigenous Environmental Network, speaking on reconceiving and reviving our relationship with the Earth and each other. Casey described how true power resides not in any economic system or governement, but in the water, air, soil, and biodiversity that sustain us every single day.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

The event also served as part of WECAN International’s launch of the Women’s Climate Action Agenda. Lake held up the 80 plus page document and explained, “The Women’s Climate Action Agenda analyzes the root causes of environmental degradation and social injustice, ultimately presenting powerful recommendations and alternative solutions to the climate crisis. We can act now and we must act now, this is what the Action Agenda declares on every page.”

Following the panel discussion, WECAN International women from across the globe delivered updates on climate issues and solutions in their regions. Thilmeeza Hussain, founder of Voice of Women Maldives, spoke on the dire political, social, and environmental conditions in her country and on the imperative for concrete action now. She was followed by Carmen Capriles, WECAN Regional Coordinator for Latin America and Founder of Reacción Climática in Bolivia; Neha Misra, Chief Collaboration Officer of Solar Sister; and Claire Greensfelder, long time activist and media aficionado who has served as a consultant to WECAN International.

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The event closed with a Wall of Women Action, bringing presenters and audience members together in physical demonstration to highlight women’s roles as guardians of the Earth, their communities, and generations to come. Looking out over the group of men and women of all ages and heritages, shoulder to shoulder with their hands over their hearts, the words spoken minutes before by presenters echoed in my head. “Our struggle is united”, “WECAN, we are women of action”.

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Photo by Emily Arasim, 2014

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Blog by: Emily Arasim, WECAN International Special Projects & Communication Coordinator