WECAN Women Mobilizing for Climate Justice at COP20 in Lima, Peru

This December 2014, policymakers representing 195 countries will meet in Lima, Peru for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP20. Building on the September 2014 U.N. Climate Summit in New York City and talks held in Bonn, Germany last month, COP20 is the first round of negotiations as policy makers work to finalize a new global climate agreement in Paris in 2015.

At this critical time, social movement leaders and climate activists will also be gathering in Lima to further push for an agenda which is founded in climate justice, and which matches the scale and severity of the crisis we face.

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WECAN International advocating with other women’s groups at COP19

As scientists have made perfectly clear, if we do not move forward boldly within the next decade, we will pass irreversible climate tipping points with catastrophic impacts. And, until we act in the name of climate justice, diverse ecosystems and communities will continue to be polluted and destroyed, defenders of the Earth will continue to be persecuted, species will continue to be lost at an unfathomable rate, and we will continue to bet on the lives of our children.

Ignited by these facts, and deeply concerned that the voices of women and Indigenous and frontline communities have not been heeded in previous discussions, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) is headed to Lima. WECAN International will advocate inside the U.N. negotiations, and will lead and join in the diverse grassroots mobilization efforts happening in parallel.

On December 9th, WECAN International will host a formal side event inside the UNFCCC COP20, with allies from Amazon Watch and TakingItGlobal. We will showcase examples of youth and women as agents of local and global change, with particular focus on Indigenous women at the forefront of climate change impacts and solution building.

As part of the event, WECAN International will present the newly released ‘Women’s Climate Action Agenda’ as a blueprint for our path forward. The UNFCCC does not have an overarching mandate on gender to guide policies, so, with the Action Agenda in hand, WECAN will be advocating for gender sensitive policy-making, in collaboration with expert leaders from the Women and Gender Constituency.

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Indigenous Leader, Patricia Gualinga of Ecuador, speaks at a recent WECAN event.

Outside of formal U.N. proceedings, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network will host and take part in a series of public events and actions addressing issues of women and climate, climate justice, and rights of Nature and Indigenous peoples.

On December 8th, WECAN International will present ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change-Lima’, bringing together a diverse group of women leaders from across the world to speak out against activities and policies threatening the Earth and their communities, and to share the visions with which they are working to shape a more equitable and healthy world.

Panel discussions and strategy circles will focus on extractive industries and mega-dams, forest protection and territory rights, renewable energy alternatives, new economic frameworks, rights of nature, systemic change, and how relationships between women of the Global South and North can further grow the climate justice movement. WECAN International’s ‘Women’s Climate Action Agenda’ will be explored as a tool for creating systemic change and implementing on-the-ground solutions. The event is free and open to the public, with more details available at wecaninternational.org/pages/unfccc-cop20-2014

While in Peru, WECAN International will also take part in the ‘International Rights of Nature Ethics Tribunal ’, hosted by theGlobal Alliance for the Rights of Nature, on whose Steering Committee WECAN serves.

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The Tribunal model uses the ‘Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth’ as a foundation for adjudicating and disseminating judgments on violations of Nature happening across the globe. The Tribunal shows us what a legal framework that works within the planets limits really looks like, and provides a potent tool for communities working to defend the Earth and their health and heritage.

At the Lima Tribunal, a diverse panel of international experts will hold trials on 12 different cases linked to COP20 proceedings, including the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, threats to the Great Barrier Reef, hydraulic fracturing in the US, mineral and petroleum extraction in Latin America, mega-dam construction in Brazil, and the violent persecution of individuals and communities working to defend the Earth. In adjudicating these critical cases, Tribunal organizers hope to compile the information and compelling analysis needed to catalyze real international action on these cases.

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Panel members at the first International Rights of Nature Ethics Tribunal in Ecuador.

The Tribunal, to be held on December 5th and 6th, is free & open to the public. To register and get further information, visit therightsofnature.org/events/ron-ethics-tribunal-lima

Continuing the week of mobilization in Peru, WECAN International and Indigenous allies will take to the streets as part of the People’s March Lima on December 10th.

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“We are rising,” explained Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Co-Founder and Executive Director, “We are rising in the streets, in the court house, in the forests, in the fields, and in the conference rooms of COP20. We know there will be no climate justice until the voices of women, Indigenous peoples, Nature, and future generations are the voices that guide policies and global action. We have a long way to go and a short time to get there. WECAN will mobilize ceaselessly in pursuit of this goal.”

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

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Guardians of the Forest: Collaborating to Protect the Rainforests of the Congo

Every year more than 40 million acres of forest are lost. A sports field-sized area is deforested every minute of everyday, generating in the process more than fifteen percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, a single tree left standing has the potential to sequester roughly 48 pounds of carbon dioxide each year and provide unquantifiable gift of food, medicine, water purification, climate stabilization, mental health, and more. Despite international attention, global deforestation driven by industrial agriculture, cattle ranching, mining, and fossil fuel extraction continues at an alarming rate, amplifying the climate crisis and imperiling the Earth and all its residence.

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Map of Global Tree Cover Loss, 2000-2012. Photo via World Resources Institute.

Hope remains however, held in the hands of the thousands of Indigenous communities who live and thrive in the great forests of the world. Across the globe they are fighting to protect the forests and their diverse cultures, implementing place-based solutions that are socially and ecologically appropriate. In the process, these communities provide daily proof of the power of, and need for, another way of relating to the Earth.

Photo by Emily Arasim.

The Congo Basin of Central Africa holds one of the largest rainforests in the world, second only to the mighty Amazon. It represents more than 60% of all of the rainforests in Africa, functioning as the source of life for a vast swath of the continent, and as a center of balance and health for the Earth’s climate as a whole.

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Photo via Neema Namadamu.

For the last year, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) has had the honor of collaborating with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of the ‘Women for Forests and Fossil Fuel/Mega Dam/Mining Resistance’ program. Organizing focuses on the protection of the Itombwe forest and the support of the communities living within it, whose cultural and ecologic heritage is severely threatened by exploitative logging, mining, and agricultural practices. Work is based in South Kivu Province in the eastern part of the country, home to two very important forest sites of unquantifiable diversity, the Itombwe Nature Reserve (RNI) and the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (PNKB), both of which are critically threatened by extractive industries.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Kivu Province outlined in red.Via Google Maps

Neema Namadamu, Founder of the Synergy of Congolese Women’s Associations (SAFECO), spearheads the collaboration through her work as the WECAN DR Congo Coordinator. Trainings and communication efforts designed by Neema and WECAN Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, are the core of WECAN International’s work to support Indigenous women in the region, who, as the longtime stewards of the land, have begun working to oppose the destruction of the forest and their culture.

Neema Namadamu speaks at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit. Photo by Lori Waselchuk.

In June 2014, WECAN International worked with Neema to prepare and actualize the first WECAN- DR Congo Regional Climate Solution Training. The program began with an intensive five-week online course, engaging local leaders in a range of topics, from why women are central to climate and environmental solutions, to action plans for climate justice, forest conservation, Rights of Nature and Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and on the grounds solutions.

Following the online intensive, Neema and her team of leaders conducted a series of hands-on workshops with women and men from eight villages in and around the Itombwe forest. The training included an overview of threats to the Itombwe, regional ethnobotanical knowledge, solar oven construction, holistic forest conservation methods, women and climate change, and local leadership in forest protection.

Local Leader Teaching About Medicinal Properties of Trees. Photo via Neema Namadamu.

Using the analysis and tools created during WECAN’s online sessions, participants created a place-based climate action plan to addresses regional socio-ecologic need, move forest protection forward, and empower women in their role as key environmental stakeholders and transformative leaders.

The series of meetings and workshops culminated in the composition and distribution of a declaration calling for a nationwide movement to protect the Itombwe and other rainforest in the country.

“A secret treasure is lying quietly hidden in the bosom of the Indigenous women of the Itombwe forest. We now have a plan of protection and action for the forest and the people who live there in great wisdom and humility,” explained Neema.

Photo via Neema Namadamu

WECAN International is very excited that this is just the beginning of the work in the Itombwe rainforest of the Democratic Republic of Congo, with plans underway for follow up trainings and projects ranging from tree planting and clean stoves construction, to trainings on community organizing and influencing policies at the local, national, regional and international levels.

Neema Namadamu (SAFECO Founder & WECAN DRC Coordinator) and Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN Founder & Executive Director) together during a meeting this month.

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  • Learn more about Neema Namadamu and her work: namadamu.com
  • Help us keep up this work for climate justice and solutions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and across the world, donate here: wecaninternational.org/donate

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Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN Special Projects & Communications Coordinator

We Can Act Now, We Must Act Now: Analyzing the IPCC AR5 Climate Report

Five years, 2,000 scientists, and 30,000 research papers later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued the final section of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) this week. Widely regarded as the most comprehensive and authoritative body of scientific research on climate change to date, the AR5 is irrefutable evidence to back climate action movements across the globe, and is the foundation from which world leaders meeting at upcoming UNFCCC climate negotiations will draft the policies that will shape our future, and that of the Earth and coming generations, in a profound way.

The AR5 climate report is at once terrifying and hopeful. It tells us that that climate change is unequivocally the result of human action, that it is accelerating rapidly and unpredictably, and that it is not a future apocalypse, but rather a daily reality already felt by hundreds of thousands worldwide. Impacts are being experienced on every continent and in the farthest depths of the oceans. Everyone and everything is affected.

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AR5 data on change in Earth’s surface temperature, 1986-2005 and 2081-2100. Source: The Guardian

The report confirms that we have already seen 0.85 degrees Celsius warming above pre-industrial levels. If ‘business as usual’ continues we can expect 4 degrees warming by 2100, bringing severely crippled food and water security, economic collapse, deadly weather, mass species extinction, sea level rise, exacerbated social inequalities, and other massive disruptions (Source: Climate Nexus). As we stand, carbon emissions are actually still rising and we find ourselves vastly unprepared, socially, economically, and politically, to face the instability ahead.

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AR5 data on global sea level rise. Source: The Guardian

The “severe, pervasive, and irreversible,” climate impacts forecasted in the AR5 are not, however, set in stone. The IPCC models affirm that we may be able to stay below the 2 degree Celsius warming threshold, and possibly even the 1.5 degree cap supported by many island states, acutely vulnerable nations, and our Women’s Climate Action Agenda, if, and only if, we act immediately.

The report is thus yet another and important jarring call to action. It tells us that we cannot shrug this off as a problem for future generations- this is in fact the most important issue of our time. Only action and sweeping change now will have any chance of averting irreversible tipping points.

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Petroleum extraction in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Photo by Emily Arasim.

For the team at the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International), one of the most striking aspects of the report is the way in which it parallels the bold calls which have been emanating for years from communities from the far reaches of the Amazon jungle, to the Alberta tar sands, to the streets of New York City: keep the oil in the ground. As the report makes clear, we stand no chance of a livable world below the 2 or 1.5-degree threshold unless we do exactly this.

The IPCC data draws a clear red line: 2,900 gigatons of carbon is the all time maximum amount that can be emitted into the atmosphere if the Earth is to have a fair chance of staying below catastrophic levels of warming (Source: Tree Alerts). We have already devoured more than two thirds of this budget, and oil and gas companies have made plans to burn fossil fuel reserves more than four times greater than what can be released if we wish to avoid unleashing climate chaos. It’s clear then, that to stop ourselves from locking in catastrophic levels of extraction and emissions, we must create strict policies and aggressively begin divesting from fossil fuels and transitioning to a 100% renewable energy future.

WECAN International leaders & allies at the People's Climate March.

WECAN International leaders & allies at the People’s Climate March.

To be precise, the report calculates that starting now and for decades into the future we will need to divest at minimum $30 billion USD annually from the fossil fuel industry, while investing at least $147 billion USD per year in clear energy alternatives (Source: EcoWatch). According to report targets, we must triple our use of zero and low carbon energy by 2025 and move towards 100% renewables quickly thereafter (Source: Tree Alerts).

As climate activist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben explained,

“Breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry won’t be easy, especially since it has to happen fast. It has to happen, in fact, before the carbon we’ve unleashed into the atmosphere breaks the planet. I’m not certain we’ll win this fight – but, thanks to the IPCC, no one will ever be able to say they weren’t warned.” (Source: The Guardian)

There are of course, limitations to the report, most stemming from the fact that the majority underwent line-by-line approval and editing by representatives from over 100 nations. There is, for example, great emphasis on how little climate action will affect the economy. This is falsely comforting given the deep ways in which we must challenge the economic system if we wish to build a livable future founded on respect for the Earth and all of its creatures. A system that works within the Earth’s finite limits simply cannot look anything like the endless economic growth models that we know now. That said, the underlying economic message of the AR5 is crucial; those who say addressing climate change is too difficult or too costly are simply wrong.

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Women leaders share their solutions at a WECAN International Event in NYC. Photo by Emily Arasim.

Many of the most difficult questions, of course, remain unanswered: how will we address injustices and imbalances between those who have contributed most to climate change, and those who have contributed little but are suffering first? How will we make sure our policies respect the Earth and Rights of Nature? How will we insure that the wisdom and solutions of Indigenous and frontline communities guide our frameworks? How will we insure that women’s voices shape the agenda, and that policies are gender sensitive?

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network’s (WECAN International) newly released Women’s Climate Action Agenda is our contribution to answering these pressing questions. The Action Agenda founds it’s scientific assessment in the same truths set forth in the AR5, but also goes on to analyze the root causes of the crisis and lay out an action plan which aims to not only to lessen climate impacts, but to help develop and actualize a transformation towards climate justice.

Next month as world leaders gather at the UNFCCC COP20 in Lima, Peru to begin drafting a comprehensive international agreement on climate change, WECAN International will be on the ground with the Women’s Climate Action Agenda in hand, ready to advocate and push for genuine solutions that mirror the severity of the crisis as outlined in the AR5, and as experienced by women across the world.

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WECAN Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, advocating at the UNFCCC COP19 negotiations.

We need to tip the scales. The Earth has spoken, the people have spoken, and the scientists have spoken, our leaders have a clear choice to make: surefire climate chaos or an immediate change of direction for a healthy future. One piece of good news is that the IPCC report has generated a real conversation about completely phasing out fossil fuels and creating a zero carbon future, with serious discussion now being had at the U.N. and in the international media.

What we need now then, is the people power and leadership to insure that international action to confront the climate crisis is truly transformational and founded in principles of justice. The analysis and solutions put forth in the Women’s Climate Action Agenda are inspired by the work of hundreds of women on the frontlines of climate change worldwide, and we will work ceaselessly to insure that these voices are heard.

Click here to download the Women’s Climate Action Agenda and join us in our work for climate justice and solutions.

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Blog by: Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN International Co-Founder & Executive Director) and Emily Arasim (Special Projects & Communications Coordinator)