Health and Climate Change: What Is At Stake, What Can Be Done? 2016 Training Recap

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Fracking fields near agricultural land on the Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota, USA – Photo by Emily Arasim

Compiled by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

On March 16, diverse women for climate justice united for the first session of the 2016 series of online U.S Women’s Climate Justice Initiative Education and Advocacy trainings presented by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International).

‘Health and Climate Change: What Is At Stake, What Can Be Done?’ featured four outstanding women leaders discussing the latest science and news on the climate change and health impacts that are effecting everyone; stories and solutions from frontline and Indigenous communities exposed to toxic pollution; and tools and strategies for engaging in education, advocacy, and direct action campaigns around health and climate issues in local communities, and at the national and international level.

Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of WECAN International, opened the training will comments on the vital nature of women as climate leaders, and spoke to the training goal of building and empowering a strong constituency of women in the US taking bold action on climate change.

Osprey pointed to education, advocacy and action around matters of community, children and familial health as a powerful window through which we can demonstrate the reality, urgency and injustice of the climate crisis, and thus catalyze meaningful action from concerned allies across the globe.

Dr. Sylvia Hood Washington took the floor as the first speaker of the day. Dr. Hood Washington is an interdisciplinary scholar, project engineer and environmental health scientist with over 25 years of experience working with grassroots activists concerned with environmental and health inequalities tied to industrial operations.

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Dr. Sylvia Hood Washington

Her vital work has included time directing a project which utilized the oral history of black Catholics in Chicago and the input of physicians, engineers and theologians to develop relevant environmental literacy and educational material promoting environmental justice among marginalized urban communities, as well as work as the Principle Investigator for a grant developing and utilizing GIS models to examine environmental health disparities tied to sewage infrastructures in the Great Lakes region. Currently, she serves as Co-Advisor on the Environmental Justice Advisory Board of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and as Editor in Chief of the Environmental Justice Journal.

Dr. Hood Washington provided an overview of the climate impacts effecting global communities and residents of Illinois communities, with a focus on asthma, particulate matter and pollutants, and heat waves and heat related illnesses.

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In her reflections, Dr. Hood Washington commented upon her time working during COP21 climate negotiations in Paris in December 2015, drawing attention to the important movement she witnessed being built around people uniting to listen to and respond to the poignant frontline stories of those who are experiencing the human and health impacts of a changing climate on a daily basis.

Through her presentation and the question and answer session, she also helped navigate issues of environmental racism, discussing connections between economic inequality and severity of exposure to pollution and other climate impacts.

“Who is bearing the costs of our lifestyle?”, she questioned, prompting participants to reflect on the double violence faced by many low income, immigrant, black and Indigenous communities across the US and the world, who experience the frontline impacts of pollution and extraction sources near their homes, as well as the effects of inadequate services, infrastructure and support during times of climate disaster and stress.

In her closing remarks, Dr. Hood Washington drew attention to the US Clean Power Plan as an important tool with which we must all engage to push for government action and environmental and social justice for all.

Cherri Foytlin, freelance journalist/photographer, speaker, artist, activist and mother of six living in south Louisiana, spoke next.

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Cherri Foytlin pictured at a direct action during the United Nations COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, France – Photo by Emily Arasim

Cherri is of Dine, African-American and Latina descent, and has been a leading voice for the health and ecosystems of Gulf Coast, and for global climate justice and solutions, leading and participating in thousands of international, national and local forums, events, protests and direct actions, including a 2011 walk to Washington D.C. from New Orleans (1,243 miles) to call for action to stop the BP drilling disaster. Cherri is a founding member of the Gulf Coast Chapter of The Mother’s Project – Mother’s for Sustainable Energy and Idle No More Gulf Coast, and has recently taken on a position as State Director with Bold Louisiana. She is the author of ‘Spill It! The Truth about the Deep Water Horizon Oil Rig Explosion’, and a regular contributor to http://www.BridgetheGulfProject.org, the Huffington Post, and other publications.

Her powerful presentation focused on climate and health impacts in the Gulf Coast region, where hundreds of acres of land are sinking into the ocean due to rising seas, climate and extreme weather disasters, and fossil fuel infrastructure which cuts channels into the regions critical wetlands and other fragile living systems.

As a result of years of toxic industry and environmental destruction, south Louisiana has one of the highest cancer rates in the United States. Cherri spoke to the dire health effects being felt amongst costal communities in the wake of the BP Gulf oil spill, including cancer, neurological disease, skin problems and respiratory issues that are a result of both the initial spill, and the toxic dispersants sprayed in the aftermath (see video resource – The Rising: Connecting Human Health and Oil Operations).

In addition to the damages done by the BP spill and the many industrial sites strewn across the Gulf region, she also drew attention to the growing effects of insect borne diseases, including zikia and other tropical virus once rare, but now appearing throughout changing ecosystems of the US.

Cherri presented critical information about unfolding plans to lease an additional 43 million acres of Gulf waters for oil drilling this year, followed by another 47 million in 2017 – all despite the clear and devastating human and environmental impacts, and the regions growing vulnerability to severe storms and climate disasters.

Cherri ended her presentation discussing the critical No New Leases campaign being led to block offshore drilling leasing plans in the Gulf, and a successful recent community organizing campaign led to remove a fracking well built next to her sons school.

She discussed the goals of the local community and Earth protection movement, which parallel the growing global call to #KeepItInTheGround, with action aiming to end all new oil leases and build a just renewable energy transition with powered by energy coops and a new economy industry by and for the people.

“This is not about if we can win, it is about when we win, because at a certain point the scale will tip. And I think it already has in some ways – they cannot deny us clean air, they can no longer deny us clean water – and they sure can’t deny our babies a clean future, especially as they rise to defend it themselves,” Cherri concluded, handing the floor to fellow presenter Pramilla Malick.

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Pramilla Malick

Pramilla Malick represents Protect Orange County and is the founder of Stop the Minisink Compressor Station. She is a journalist, blogger, mother, and grassroots community organizer working ceaselessly to expose and prevent the damages caused by the expansion of fracking and gas infrastructure in her community in upstate New York.

Through her presentation, Pramilla shared her towns experience and her work, demonstrating the vital role that each one of us can play in exposing and working to transform the social and environmental violations happening across our communities.

Four years ago, Pramilla’s upstate New York community was targeted for construction of a gas compressor station, part of a massive chain of infrastructure needed to extract and transport natural gas, much of which is now coming from hydraulic fracking.

“We realized our community was standing on the precipice of a local health and climate change emergency,” Pramilla recalled, explaining that compressor stations, needed every 40 to 100 miles along a gas pipeline, are a source of many dangerous volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxide, and methane emissions.

Compelled to action by the dangers facing her town, Pramilla began an ongoing campaign documenting the health impacts being felt by families around the compressor and metering stations, including rashes, nosebleeds, headaches and other signs of more serious long term physical and neurologic damage which have led many of those residents who are able to abandon their homes and move.

She emphasized that all communities across the US should be vigilant and ready to act to prevent construction and/or document violations stemming from similar infrastructure, being proposed in many states as a ‘bridge fuel’ away from coal.

“We are supposed to be on a path to a just transition, but instead governments are trying to embrace these false solutions,” she explained, framing the continued expansion of fracked gas as a violation of our human rights, right to clean air and water, and the rights of future generations to a livable future.

Perry Sheffield, Environmental Pediatrician, Public Health professional and assistant professor in the departments of pediatrics and preventive medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, spoke next.

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Dr. Perry Sheffield presents on fossil fuels and children’s environmental health. Photo source.

Dr. Sheffield is Deputy Director of the EPA Region II Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit and Lead Investigator for the Queens Vanguard Center of the National Children’s Study. She conducts diverse research on the health impacts of climate change and public understanding of these issues with a particular focus on children. Her publications include, ‘Emerging roles of health care providers to mitigate global warming impacts: A perspective from East Harlem, New York’, and ‘Modeling of Regional Climate Change Effects on Ground-Level Ozone and Childhood Asthma’.

Dr. Sheffield’s presentation focused on children’s health and climate change, providing a harrowing look into the impacts being felt by developing babies, infants and young children, who beginning in the womb, are faced with a host of challenges amplified by intensifying pollution and environmental degradation.

According to Dr.Sheffield, apart from injuries, the principal causes of illness, hospitalization and death among children in America today are asthma, cancer, neuro-developmental disabilities, obesity and diabetes, and birth defects – all conditions related to industrial toxins and the condition of our climate, food and water systems.

Dr. Sheffield drew attention to climate-health impacts including those from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, worsened allergies, threats to mental health, declines in nutrition and food quality, and illnesses transmitted by food, water, and disease-carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks.

She also shared some of the strides made in protecting children’s health and the integrity of our living Earth – including incredible drops in levels of lead exposure, decreased air pollution in many major US towns and cities, and growing education and advocacy around impacts on children, and the dire need for action to revitalize healthy food access, active lifestyles, and clean energy systems.

For more detailed information on this topic, please see our two-part ‘Health and Climate Change’ 2015 blog series:

Training Resources:

Learn more and join future U.S Women’s Climate Justice Initiative online Education and Advocacy trainings: wecaninternational.org/pages/us-climate-initiative

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For Earth & Future Generations: Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change, Paris

Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator

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On December 7, 2015, women from around the world united at ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Paris’, a Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network event held in parallel to United Nations COP21 climate negotiations.

In holding with tradition, WECAN began the event by honoring the peoples of the land on which event presenters and participants stood. Osprey Orielle Lake, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Executive Director, presented a gift and opened the floor to Josefina Skerk, Vice-President of the Sami Parliament of Sweden, who offered a traditional Sami welcome on behalf of the Indigenous peoples of Europe.

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“We are all bound to each other, and we are all bound to Nature,” Josefina reflected, “As Indigenous peoples, the bond that we have to Nature is that of a family member, it is someone that does not have to be vocal for you to understand them. And right now our family member, our mother, our Nature is screaming. But thanks to people like you and me who are speaking out, taking action and working together to build strong alliances against this exploitation, there is hope. We are becoming joined in a beautiful weave.”

Sally Ranney, co-Founder of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network took the floor, sharing thoughts on consumerism, personal responsibility, and the imperative of changing our cultural narratives.

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Sally Ranney (Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network)

“We are experiencing a wake up call, both internally, for our internal journeys and decision making protocol, and for our global decision making protocol. Climate change asks us to look really deeply at what are values are, and these are the kind of discussion that aren’t happening inside COP21,” Sally explained, handing the mike back to WECAN co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake for a critical analysis and foundation for subsequent panels and presentation.

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Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network)

“It is not a time to be timid, we are not in a rehearsal but rather in a truly a transformative moment,” Osprey began, noting that COP21 discussions and emissions cuts happening simultaneously just outside of Paris remained absolutely insufficient, “There is no later date – the time is irrefutable now, so we are calling for radical change and I want to bring that forward today,”

“There needs to be an understanding that there is a systemic link between the climate crisis, our economic model, and the ongoing exploitation and disempowerment of women,” she continued, outlining why women are impacted first and worst by climate change, but more importantly, why women are key to climate justice and global peace making.

“To address systemic problems, women are advocating for and implementing models of collective ownership of the plants, the forests – they are working to localize their economies… they are already demonstrating alternative plans and policies, small scale solutions with very large impacts.”

“There is something else that women are bringing to the conversation that really cannot be left out as we face massive loss of life, species extinction, and the increasing threats of climate change, and that is our emotional and spiritual intelligence. Healing our seeming disconnect to Mother Earth is a solution, and women’s voices are central to this.”

Osprey drew attention to the critical leadership of Indigenous women across the globe – framing their struggles and solutions as one of the most critical untold stories of the climate crisis.

“We are Mother Earth’s immune system – standing up together to protect and defend and heal her. Through our collective networks, we are calling for system change, not climate change. We need climate justice, and we need to have the courage to change everything about how we are living with each other and the Earth,” Osprey concluded, bringing the first group of outstanding women leaders to the stage for the ‘Women Speak from the Frontlines of Climate Change’ panel.

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Pictured right to left: Kandi Mossett, Josefina Skerk, Eriel Deranger and Thilmeeza Hussain

Kandi Mossett (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara), Climate and Energy Campaign Organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network of North Dakota, Turtle Island, USA spoke first – sharing immensely powerful words on what is happening in her homeland, and on the connections between capitalism, colonization, and violations of women and the Earth.

“This is COP21 – they have been doing this for 21 years… the truth is that women and Indigenous peoples have the answers, if you would just listen to us and stop telling us what is best for us. You cannot expect to take and take and take and never give back.”

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Kandi Mossett (Indigenous Environmental Network)

“Without balance we will destroy ourselves, and I think that is why women are leading the movement… women have always played a central role in the balance of life and livelihoods…look at the COP21 and what you’ll see is primarily a room full of older white males in suits making decisions on our behalf. My two and a half year old daughter is at home and has no idea about the decisions they are making for her, we must think about the next generation and the seventh generation. ”

Kandi’s spoke on her experiences in North Dakota, where fracking has exploded and brought dire environmental threats and a host of social injustice to her communities’ doorstep. She looked to the roots of escalating pollution, cancer, violent crime, drug use, and sexual assaults and sex trafficking – which all lie in the rapidly expanding toxic industry.

“We need to use the gifts that shine down on us almost everyday from the sun, the wind that blows in our face… So my message to the leaders that are listening, if they are listening, is to use your common sense. Get away from these ideas of greed and power – because when they are sitting around in a torn up world and everything around them is polluted, they will not be able to drink their oil and they will not be able to eat their money.”

Josefina Skerk, Vice President of the Sami Parliament in Sweden, took the floor again to share more on her peoples, lands and the stark climate impacts being felt there.

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Josefina Skerk (Sami Parliment)

Josefina explained that a two-degree temperature increase in most regions results in an eight degree rise in the far North, and that the traditional life and livelihood of the her people is already directly threatened and changing rapidly due to fragile ice and warming ecosystems. The Sami have persevered through intense discrimination and forced sterilization as recently as the 1970’s and 80’s – but now climate change is bringing new threats to their very existence itself.

“We are not strawberry jam, a wise Sami women once said…we do not want to be preserved,” Josefina stated to a resounding applause and calls of solidarity from the audience and fellow presenters.

“However through global work and though connecting with Indigenous people and others – through raising our voices – we are truly finding a way forward. There are demonstrations, there are protests and what we see is leaders taking their place, and they are normally Sami women from our society,”

“I do not know where the men are,” she laughed, “but I do know that women are fighting back and I see the strength of this. Raising our voices is immensely effective.”

Eriel Deranger, Communications Manager of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Treaty 8 Territory in Northern Alberta, Canada spoke next, bringing critical light to the importance of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous women’s climate solutions.

“Despite centuries of colonization and attempted assimilation, we have persevered and we have survived. Now, in 2015, it is time to abandon patriarchal and colonial ideologies… we have always been here, we have not been discovered. … we cannot move forward to a just and balanced society if we do not unpack these systems of patriarchy and colonization that have brought us to where we are today.”

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Eriel Deranger (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation)

Eriel continued, “We are seeing a merging of movement, and it is imperative. The environmental movement, the Indigenous rights movement, they are coming together because we have a common goal – the protection and preservation of the lands, of Mother Earth, of the places that have given us life and bred cultures that have persevered… I have no intention of stepping down – I will stand up to every government so that my children know who they are, so that my children can go back to the Delta and eat the fish and caribou and moose and know who they are. Without the strong voices of the women on the frontlines of climate change, without the strong voices of Indigenous women on the frontlines – we would not have a hope, so I want to pay homage to the strong women, all the strong women, I raise my hands up to you.”

Eriel passed the floor to Thilmeeza Hussain, Founder of Voice of Women, Maldives, who offered a jolting testimony based in her experience as a woman of a highly climate vulnerable small island nation.

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Thilmeeza Hussain (Voice of Women Maldives)

“We need to look beyond the negotiations, beyond the text – we need to put a human face on what is going on – we need to understand what is really at stake. Lives are at stake, we are loosing lives, people are dying – that is what is at stake… how many lives are we willing to sacrifice before we act on climate change? How many dead bodies should we serve on a gold platter to these oil corporations before we can satisfy their greed and move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy?”

Thilmeeza continued, “as mothers, as women, as sisters – as responsible citizens of this world – we cannot afford to watch our children be killed by climate change, we need to look beyond Paris and insure our governments are held accountable for the promises made here… we need to take strength from each other and move forward, we cannot afford to look back.”

Patricia Gualinga, Indigenous Kichwa leader of Sarayaku, Ecuador took the stage as the afternoon’s first keynote speaker. Patricia spoke on the struggle and victory of her people, who have campaigned and successfully prevented oil extraction in their territories in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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Patricia Gualinga (Sarayaku, Ecuador) with translation by Leila Salazar-López (Amazon Watch)

“Our people, our women are determined that there will be no oil extraction in our territory, there will be no mining or industrial development. For this reason, we can say that we are already combatting climate change,”

Patricia spoke to the role of women in this vital work, to the need for strengthened global solidarity, and on the Kawsak Sacha ‘Living Forests’ proposal, her communities integral plan for a just and sustainable future. She framed the global climate crisis as fundamentally rooted in Western thought’s division of the material from the spiritual, and its loss of vision surrounding the profound interconnection of humans and the Earth.

“There is much worry about regarding what the governments are doing [inside COP21]… in many ways it pains me, they are so isolated – have you noticed how they drive in blacked out cars, how they hold meetings in these very cold sites that are so cut off from contact with reality? They have imprisoned themselves in their own heads in some ways, and they are the ones making decisions about the planet. We need to be very worried – if they are generating laws that don’t include us, with which we have never agreed, then we do not have any reason to obey them. If they are going to destroy the planet, it is our responsibility to resist them.”

Patricia continued with words of hope and unity;

“Now is not the time to see social classes, or colors or different languages – now is the time to transform ourselves, it is time to see each other as brothers and sisters. It is the time to understand and the time to change…. This is not a matter for Indigenous peoples, this is not a matter for just those who are out on the front fighting every day against oil concessions in our territories. This is an issue for everyone – respect Indigenous rights, respect the integrity of our lives, of future generations. In this we are all united, and if we are just one more everyday, then we can generate change,”

After concluding the translation from Spanish, Leila Salazar-López, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, provided closing comments contextualizing why it is imperative that we work with communities like Sarayaku to protect the Amazon, and sharing the newly released document, ‘Keep It In The Ground: A Declaration for the Health of Mother Earth‘.

Fleur Newman, Programme Officer and UNFCCC Gender Focal Point representing the UNFCCC Secretariat, spoke next after having listened to the first panel.

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Fleur Newman (UNFCCC Secretariat)

Fleur presented an overview of her role within the UNFCCC, and the various programs and mechanisms around women and climate change that she helps facilitate, including the UN System Wide Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. She shared words of support and encouragement with the women leaders, helping bring the formal COP21 process together with the frontline and grassroots women leaders present at the event.

Following Fleurs remarks, presenters of the second panel, ‘Women’s Strategic Analysis, Policy and Advocacy for Systemic Change and Climate Justice’ took the stage. 

Titilope Akosa of Centre for 21st Century Issues, Nigeria and representative of the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency opened the panel with an in-depth analysis on the status of gender equity in the Paris climate accord and the work of the Women and Gender Constituency inside of COP21.

She presented the ten point Women and Gender Constituencies COP21 Key Demands document, and outlined the Constituencies struggles and ceaseless work to retain gender responsive language in the Paris accord.

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Titilope Akosa (Centre for 21st Century Issues & the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency)

“We have made it clear that this agreement, the global agreement on climate change will not be complete without women…you cannot write off half of humanity, it is not possible. If gender is not referenced and if the aspiration of women is not included, if the aspirations of the women on the frontlines are not included in this global agreement, then a whole half of humanity is excluded,”

“We do not want a polluted future, we do not want a future that is used up before our children come to life,” Titilope continued, “We are women, we are the ones that create, we are the ones that bring forth life and this is why we must stand strong for the people and planet. And this is why I am here, I come all the way from Nigeria in Africa – I said that I cannot sit down and allow this to go on, and allow these leaders to gamble with the future. If I have to talk to my children, the ones yet unborn, I will be happy and grateful to tell that when it was time to act, I was there, I stood for their future and I am proud to say that I am a warrior on this land and I am ready to fight to the end. We will not give up on our beautiful planet.”

Mary Louise Malig, Campaigns Coordinator and Research Associate with the Global Forest Coalition in the Philippines spoke next, shedding light on connections between climate change, agribusiness and global industrial trade, and presenting small-scale agro-ecological farming as a critical, tangible and immediate climate solution.

She discussed how the WTO and trade agreements like the hotly debated Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) effectively block the progress made through negotiations such as COP and other local and national initiatives, using its fierce, legally binding power to enforce trade sanctions that benefit very few over the health and wellbeing of people and planet.

Mary Lou shared the example of Ontario, Canada, where a tariff program to encourage local renewables was shut down by a WTO dispute claiming they were unfairly favoring local workers and processes – both vital to just climate solutions.

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Mary Louise Malig (Global Forest Coalition)

“It has to be the system that is changed. We cannot win a battle where we just fight inside this arena. We have to connect our struggles – we have to connect the struggles against deforestation, the struggle against free trade, the struggle for real solutions to climate change. We have to connect them all together and really fight to change the system and bring peoples solutions up to the front.”

Mary Lou passed the floor to Jacqueline Patterson, Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Environmental & Climate Justice Program, who shared a presentation called ‘Resistance, Resilience, Reclamation and Revolution’.

Jacqui spoke to the effects of environmental discrimination and industrial pollution on communities in the US, and called out false solutions such as natural gas, which are only deepening the climate crisis and violating rights, particularly those of frontline communities, low-income families, and peoples of color.

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Jaqcui Patterson (NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice Program)

“We must address the disparity between who is making decisions and who is most impacted,” Jacqui explained, simultaneously referencing her experience with the post Hurricane Katrina reconstruction and the concurrent COP21 climate negotiations.

She shared stories of successful, tragic and ongoing struggles of women and community leaders documenting pollution related health impacts in their communities and taking direct action to shut down toxic industries and build alternatives – and expanded Mary Lou’s insights on the intersectionality of our people’s movements.

“Not only are we pushing for clean energy, but we are also working to insure that there are economic justice measures in these policies,” Jacqui explained, emphasizing that things like women in renewable energy, accessible and sovereign food systems, immigrant rights and justice, and racial justice are all connected and essential elements of the just transition we so desperately need.

Angelina Galiteva, Founder of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute in the USA closed the second panel with compelling comments on energy policy derived from years of work inside the industry and outside as an advocate, activist and mother.

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Angelina Galiteva (Renewables 100 Policy Institute)

“We are moving forward and we are going to transition the system to 100% renewable energy. Why? Because we have the technology, because it is possible,”

She shared poignant reflections on the role of women in the coming clean energy revolutions, “climate change is a man-made problem, women are the solution.”

Neema Namadamu, Director of SAFECO and Coordinator of the WECAN Democratic Republic of Congo program opened the third and final panel.

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Neema Namadamu (SAFECO & WECAN DR Congo)

Neema framed her work in the context of the Congo rainforest, the second largest rainforest in the world and cradle of more than 60% of Africa’s forest area. She expressed solidarity with the global Indigenous women who had already shared their stories, and urged collective global action to care for the vital ecosystems of the Congo.

“Open your eyes, look to Africa…we must invest in Africa planting trees again, so you can have oxygen – after that we can negotiate everything else we need to negotiate.”

Aleta Baun, conservationist and activist of West Timor, Indonesia took the mike next, speaking on her communities successful resistance to mining, and the ways in which they took positive direct action to conserve the forest and build sustainable local economies around textile weaving in the aftermath of the mobilization against mining.

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Aleta Baun (activist of West Timor, Indonesia)

“In our worldwide land is flesh, water is blood, forest are hair and stone is like our bones… We plant trees to heal the water that was once destroyed by mining companies. We discuss how to build women’s strength, especially though weaving so that we can have economic strength and this will protect us from being uprooted again.”

Aleta passed the floor to Natalie Isaacs, CEO and co-Founder of 1 Million Women, Australia, who addressed themes of overconsumption and lifestyle choice amongst women in wealthy nations.

“Individual action, action of households, action of communities and all of us acting together actually makes a big difference,” Natalie began, reflecting on her personal transformation from an unengaged corporate leader, to a catalyst of women and girls for healthy lives and climate justice.

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Natalie Isaacs (1 Million Women)

“In all our discussions, inside the COP21 climate negotiations – behavior change and how we live our lives is actually the elephant in the room, it is not being talked about…1 Million Women has a big task, we are trying to change the way people in a developed country like Australia live – but luckily we all know that women and girls are incredible change agents,”

Nino Gamisonia, Projects Coordinator with the Rural Communities Development Agency of Abkhazia, Georgia spoke next, providing insights on renewable energy and solar water heater programs in her country, and their benefits for the environment and rural communities.

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Nino Gamisonia (Rural Communities Development Agency)

She highlighted how women are disproportionately impacted by dirty energy and the burning of wood as fuel, and detailed how women’s engagement in solar water programs has generated a profound and critical sense of empowerment amongst those involved.

Naomi Ages, Climate Liability Project Lead with Greenpeace USA closed the third and panel of the day with thoughts on risk, bravery and action on climate change. Drawing on stories of activists who put their bodies on the line for climate justice, Naomi asked each person in the room to reflect on the level of commitment and action that they are willing and able to make in order to contribute to critical climate solutions.

“This is a call to action – choose your version of courage and do the thing for you that really contributes and combats climate change.”

Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, current UNFCCC Climate Change Envoy and former President of Ireland, took the stage to present her thoughts on the climate negotiations and women’s leadership in climate change solutions at COP21 and beyond.

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Mary Robinson (Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice)

Mary acknowledged great strides by COP21 government representatives to address the needs of most vulnerable nations and recognize the imperative of human rights and gender equality – however also spoke to a sense of stagnation and repetition within climate negotiations and the struggles to retain gender responsive, just and concrete language within the accord.

“But we’re back again with a real sense that this will be a very important agreement. It wont be a great agreement, but it will hopefully be ambitious enough to help us to realize that on the 1st of January of 2016, we are in a new era,”

“We really need the power and knowledge of women leaders at all levels, it is so important for the future. Indeed, if we had more women’s leadership, I do not think we would be where we are now…women’s participation is an enabler of climate justice,” Mary attested, discussing her foundation’s new report, ‘Women’s Participation – An Enabler of Climate Justice’.

“There really is no longer a divide between the sustainable development goals and the France climate agreement, we bring them together in January. And I really do think that women are at the forefront of what happens after that. Why? Because it’s women that change behavior, its women who influence change – starting in the family, starting in the community, starting by assisting in the schools and having young people encouraged to think about their futures in a way that is sustainable. And it is every little step in all of that…we are going to need transformative change throughout the world, and women in every community would be on the frontlines … in the beginning of next year comes a new surge of energy and commitment to start implementing what this year has brought us at the global level, but we know that it is at the local level that things will really make a difference,”

“In a way, we are privileged to be at this moment when we can in fact bend the curve and get back on track towards a safe world. We are not there, and we will not be there the day after Paris, but we will be heading in the right direction. And we will put gender equality issues on the frontlines, because we know we are sacrificing our children, in my case my grandchildren, to a much more dangerous and catastrophic world, and we cannot have that. … We are ready to take the leadership, to give the changes to make sure that there is no going back and that we have a world of sustainability with our Mother Earth, our beautiful Mother Earth, who we must cherish more, who we must reinvigorate in the degraded areas. Take back the deforested areas and have Mother Earth breathe freely as she has for centuries upon centuries until we started to interfere with her. And it is women who have to be at the forefront of that.”

Following Mary Robinson’s keynote, members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature provided a brief recap and analysis of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal, held over two days in Paris the previous week.

Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network and Co-Chair of International Advocacy for the Global Alliance provided an introduction,

“What we’re really seeing, and as we heard from so many of our speakers, is that the way that we are interacting with Mother Earth is not working and part of that is also based upon our legal system that treats Nature as property.… we have to change this system, so the Rights of Nature movement is really looking at the DNA of our legal frameworks and saying NO, Mother Earth has rights, rivers have the right to flow, all the systems of life have the right to grow and thrive and be healthy, and we as human being have to have new laws that allow us to live in good harmony with Mother Earth,”

Osprey continued, “What we are saying through these Tribunals is that we have the right to create laws that work for the people and for the plant, we are not asking for permission. Humans invented our governance structures, humans invented our economies, that means that we can reinvent them again and take back our power as people,”

Shannon Biggs of Movement Rights in the USA shared her insights;

“As long as we continue the story of separation, that Nature is owned by humans, that we are separate from Nature – we are never going to be able to move forward. So the Rights of Nature Tribunal has been a very powerful place, especially when put head to head with the COP, to ask, ‘what would it look like in a world where we recognized the inherent rights of ecosystems to live, to thrive, to regenerate…Imagine if we acted like rights matter, as if our human rights came and were derived from the rights of ecosystems, from nature, from creation – what would it look like to be in that world?”

“We heard not just from experts, but from people who are living this everyday on the ground, defenders of the Earth, people who are living under these conditions. We are really showcasing the world as it could be, because the one thing that I think was critical for the Tribunal was to see that the way the COP process is operating isn’t the way it has to be,” Shannon continued, “We are looking at two very different power structures –we are looking at the power of corporations running the world one way, and we are looking at the power of people taking ownership and responsibility and connection for their communities and saying ‘we can work together, there is a way forward’ – we can together actually commit to our relationship and break the cycle of separation from Nature, we can live as one. We can put forward new laws and really showcase how to make this shift.”

Natalia Greene of CEDENMA (Coordinadora Ecuatoriana para la Defensa de la Naturaleza y del Ambiente) and Fundacion Pachamama in Ecuador provided more background on the Tribunal and on implementation of Rights of Nature in her country.

“People are thirsty to have these places to voice new ideas, to voice their suffering and the hurt to Mother Earth,” Natalia explained, “Rights of Nature is not theoretical, it is happening in Ecuador, it is happening in the US and in more communities and more places if people start to understand that we cannot work without Mother Earth…. If we want to have peace on the Earth, we must have peace with the Earth.”

Closing the Rights of Nature report back, Osprey called to the stage a group of outstanding Indigenous women leaders from across North and South America to share their stories, struggles and solutions for climate justice as part of a presentation of the Indigenous Women of the America’s: Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact.

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Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation)

Casey Camp Horinek, Ponca Nation elder and representative of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Turtle Island, USA opened and guided the subsequent series of thought-provoking, hard-hitting and heartfelt presentations.

“There is much we want to share, but we want to share first and foremost is our love of you and Mother Earth….it is very simple my relatives, if our [Indigenous] rights are upheld, we know how to save you. So together we have a path to walk.”

Casey spoke on the connections between the conditions experiences by her family– relocation, persecution, boarding schools, and labor camps – and the modern environmental genocide and crisis with which we are all faced, and which Indigenous peoples feel directly and disproportionately.

“The struggle for us is not one issue, it is a totality of all the issues – it is whether or not humanity will continue on this Earth, do we get that honor? Do we deserve that honor? My mother, my relatives felt that we do, they felt that we simply need to align ourselves with the natural laws.”

Faith Gemmill, Pit River/Wintu and Neets’aii Gwich’in Athabascan woman from above the Arctic Circle in Alaska, USA addressed the room next, speaking first in her traditional language. For over 30 years Faith and her community have been protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refugee, one of the last stretches of Arctic Alaskan coast still free from oil extraction.

The land that Faith and her community defend is the land of the threatened polar bear, hundreds of species of nesting birds, fish and caribou, an animal deeply sacred to her people.

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Faith Gemmill (Pit River/Wintu and Neets’aii Gwich’in Athabasca)

“Our elders knew about climate change, they prophesized it. And they said, ‘tell them that we are not standing here for ourselves, we are standing for them [the animals], for their children’. And it is our belief that if this place is ever accessed, it will begins a cycle of destruction of humanity…All of our prophecies are all connected, in the South, in the North and across the world, Indigenous prophecies all say the same thing – there is a path destruction, but there is also a path of life, and we have a choice as humanity – and right now we are at that place where we make that choice.”

“We have to think about our children – what are we going to leave them? We have to change the consciousness of the leaders of the world, that’s what we have to do, that is our responsibility. And I have hope because my people said, if we do it in a good way, we are going to be successful – I believe in us and that is why I am standing here today…I think if we all keep holding our ground, if we all keep defending our territories, protecting these spaces – if we keep it in the ground, we can make it, we are going to win.”

Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Canada and Kandi Mossett, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara woman of North Dakota, USA spoke again briefly, sharing messages of solidarity and encouraging everyone in the room to stay engaged with the issues and stories presented, including through donations to the women and organization putting their all into speaking out and driving forward momentum for a just world for all.

“We have to take back the power in our communities because no one else is going to do it for us,” Kandi concluded.

Ena Santi, women’s leader of the Kichwa community of Sarayakyu, Ecuador spoke next on behalf of the women of the South.

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Ena Santi (Sarayaku, Ecuador)

“I am feeling so much emotion to be here and hear the voices of all my sisters gathered here today….we as women are treated so badly so much of the time insulted, violated, treated poorly – physically and physiologically,” Ena began.

“But even with all of these obstacles that we are experiencing in our Indigenous communities, us women are fighting, we are continuing ahead. To save our Mother Earth we have confronted the military, the police – and when this happened I carried on my back my baby of just 2 months,”

“In this way we can save our Mother Earth, because within Mother Earth exists all of humanity… Us women fight for our grandchildren, for our children, for the children that will come in the future – it is for them that we fight. Human beings are not eternal, in whatever moment we will go to rest.”

“So us together, sisters that are here now, united, we women must together put forth a strong effort to save our Mother Earth, because pure air still exists in the Amazon of Ecuador. We must keep this in our hearts…. As women on our Earth, in my land where I live in Sarayaku in Ecuador, we will fight until the very end. We will not allow oil, mining, wood companies to enter. We will fight, not with guns, but with thought, in a peaceful way,”

Mirian Cisneros of Sarayaku also shared words,

“We have flown from very far away, like the eagles… we have a prophecy that Sarayaku is called the ‘pueblo de medio dia’ – the people of the noon time. That when all our neighbors had been contaminated, that we would be that community that would be there until the end defending the Earth. We take on this great responsibility as mothers, as wives, as givers of health, food and the security of future generations…. And so we are here, to ask for solidarity, for an alliance between all sisters and brothers of the world to defend our only Earth, the one that has been left to us by our ancestors, by our grandparents,”

Mirian then called on the whole room to join hands and speak together with her, ‘Pachamama estamos contigo’ – ‘Mother Earth, we are with you’.

Monique Verdin, a Houma woman of the Mississippi river delta in South Louisiana, USA spoke next,

“We have lost our land, they cut down our forest, we have waste pits in our back yard and we are loosing land at one of the fastest rates on the planet next to the Maldives,” Monique began,

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Monique Verdin (Houma)

“I came to Paris not knowing what I’d find, and I found these amazing women who are standing up, and I am going home with inspiration…. we cannot be silenced any longer…even though our men are afraid to say anything, even though they are the ones witnessing the land going and know why, they are also being paid by the oil and gas companies and that’s how they feed their babies. They’ve told us that we don’t have any other economic source, but they are wrong.”

Pennie Opal Plant (Yaqui, Mexican, English, Choctaw, Cherokee and European) of Movement Rights, USA took the floor next, providing a beautiful and vital overview, and reading sections of the ‘Indigenous Women of the Americas: Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact’, which can be read in full here.

“By this time next year I imagine that there will be millions of women around the world shutting it down…so I want to ask you, whose with us?” Pennie asked, the whole room rising and raising their fists alongside her.

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Pennie Opal Plant (Movement Rights)

Casey Camp Horinek took the floor to close the presentation,

“I want to take this moment to remind us, what is real power? Is it what is in COP’s? Is it Obama? Or, or, realign your thinking, realign your thoughts so that we all go forward with the seventh generation philosophy, each and everyone of us. To think about the seven generations that came before us, and what they went though to arrive at this point, to bring us into life. What about the seven generations to come? If every step you make is thinking about those coming in the seventh generation, then thank you. If not, then switch it up, right now… Realign your thoughts, what is real power?”

Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN closed the event with brief words before an end of event group action.

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“We need to reconnect with our original instructions, we need to reconnect with Mother Earth. We have these incredible women and Indigenous peoples who are generously, kindly offering knowledge and information to us, so lets have really big hearts and respect and dedication to what they are offering us. The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network is first and foremost dedicated to frontline communities in countries all over the world … we the people have power, we the people are making change, this, right here, is where real change is coming from.”

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From right to left: Patricia Gualinga, Neema Namadamu, Mirian Cisneros and Ena Santi – women of Ecuador and DR Congo united

The event will be commemorated and continued through the planting of a French olive tree near Paris – a symbol of hope, peace, growth and resistance into the future.

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Women for Climate Justice Respond to COP21 Paris Climate Agreement

SONY DSCAfter two weeks on the ground in Paris working inside and outside of COP21 climate negotiations – the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network has released the following statement in response to the adoption of the final Paris climate accord:

“The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network delegation has just returned from an intense, inspiring and moving two weeks on the ground in Paris during COP21 climate negotiations. We come home with hope derived from the epic efforts of the climate justice movement, and with a deepened sense of the great work ahead.

In Paris, world governments from 195 nations signed onto an unprecedented global climate agreement. WECAN acknowledges the groundbreaking effort, which sends critical signals around the end of the fossil fuel era – however we must be very real about what the agreement is not.

Countries have agreed to aim for a temperature rise below the 2 degree level and included 1.5 degrees as an aspirational target, however thus far there are not nearly sufficient carbon emission reduction commitments, legal and financial mechanisms and resources needed to achieve this. Due to the level of urgency for the most vulnerable communities, we find this type of vague commitment simply unacceptable – we are talking about life and death circumstances for frontline communities.

Our goal during COP21, alongside many allies, was to advocate for climate justice and systemic change. Important strides were made – however it is clear that the Paris accord fails to address the root causes of the climate crisis and the structures of injustice that perpetuate it.

The operative text of the Agreement fails to uphold Indigenous rights and human rights – and allows major polluters to continue to skirt around their historic responsibilities. Gender equality is upheld in some sections of the Agreement, but not nearly enough considering the impacts of climate change that are already being experienced by women worldwide and the leadership role and solutions that women are already implementing. Governments are not held to leaving 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground, despite clear messages from scientists that this is what must happen.

We cannot continue business as usual, nor promote and implement the false solutions (carbon offsets, carbon-trading, geo-engineering, nuclear) that the agreement perpetuates. Instead, we must put people and planet first and now demand that our governments really rise to their claimed 1.5 goal with genuine and just solutions.

The good news coming out of Paris is that people around the world are standing up boldly and calling forth the healthy, just future that we are envisioning together. The climate justice movement made an impact in pushing governments to act more ambitiously then they would have and has been vibrantly displayed in Paris, with major actions on the streets with tens of thousands of people, hundreds of events, assemblies, concerts and educational workshops all focused on just climate solutions. People’s movements are where power and hope lies as we move forward. And move forward we will!

We return home more dedicated than ever to care for our Mother Earth, all generations and all species.” – Osprey Orielle Lake, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Executive Director

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The Women and Gender Constituency, with whom WECAN stands in solidarity, has also released a powerful reaction, copied below. Click here to view the original text on the Women and Gender Constituency webpage.

A Reality Check on the Paris Agreement from the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC)

12 December 2015

As the Women and Gender Constituency we came to this process asking one question: what is the purpose of a global climate agreement if not to save people and the planet?

We see that the world wants hope, that we want to congratulate ourselves for moving forward with this process, but leaders, we are here for a reality check. This agreement fundamentally does not address the needs of the most vulnerable countries, communities and people of the world. It fails to address the structures of injustice and inequality which have caused the climate crisis and hold the historical polluters sufficiently to account.

We know that climate change is the greatest threat to rights in our time, and we know that women often bear the brunt of these impacts. We have made progress under this Convention in understanding and responding to the gendered impacts of climate change in the last few years. We believe that operational language on gender equality, alongside other fundamental rights, in Article 2, defining the purpose of the agreement, would have gone far to ensure that all forthcoming climate actions take into account the rights, needs and perspectives of women and men and encourage women’s full and equal participation in decision-making. This was the moment to set the right path, the just path for climate action.

Critical issues like clear emission reductions without offsetting and misleading market approaches; ensuring the quality of technologies which should be safe and socially and environmentally sound; the quality of and a goal for scaling up adequate and predictable, largely public finance; the responsibilities of developed countries to take the lead, the responsibility to protect people’s rights and our ecosystems, have been either surgically removed throughout the text or lack specificity. That we are not protecting food security but instead are protecting food production – and the business interests that have lobbied hard in our home countries – is a clear indication that only certain segments of our population are meant to be served by this agreement.

Governments maintained their commitment to corporations over people and signaled opportunities for profit to be made from crisis.

We know we need to stay below 1.5 degrees for a chance at survival, and we recognize the importance of seeing this goal in the final Paris Agreement. But seeing this goal on paper is not enough. We demand it in actions as the proof of the full commitment to that goal, not a vague aspiration. If not significantly ramped up, countries’ collective emissions plans lead us to the prospect of a 3.2 – 3.7 degree rise.

Furthermore, the Paris Agreement served to undermine the concept of international solidarity – a founding principle of the UN that requires differentiation amongst states in a way that should lead to redistribution and shared prosperity.

It is clear that in Paris we have not found the political will to make the Paris Agreement the platform the world truly needs to tackle this urgent challenge.

We will not be silenced from telling the truth to power, to highlight the lack of ambition and injustice in this agreement.

We will never give up on our beautiful planet. We will never give up on our demand for climate justice.

This agreement has failed to embrace and respond to this moment for urgent and just transitions, but we have not. We have used this space of international policy-making to raise our voices and embolden our movements.

Together, we will continue to challenge injustice for the protection of the people and the planet: Another world is possible!

WECAN International at the Coalition Climat 21 Gathering in Paris

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For the past three days the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) has been on-the-ground in Paris, France participating in a Coalition Climat 21 organizing session with a diverse group of leaders, united for collective action before and during the United Nations COP21 climate negotiations happening in Paris this December.

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Coalition Climat 21 is composed of over one hundred associations, networks, social and environmental NGO’s, trade unions, youth groups, and grass roots organizers, joined together with the goal of creating a strong civil society voice and popular movement pushing for climate justice and ambitious action during the COP21 negotiations and beyond.

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Payal Parekh, 350.org Global Director & Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Executive Director.

The June strategy session served as a platform for groups from around the world to share their movements, network with allies, and strengthen plans for events, demonstrations, and other calls to action happening worldwide over the next few months and in Paris during COP21.

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Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP leader & honored WECAN US Women’s Climate Justice Initiative Steering Committee member with Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International Executive Director.

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While on-the-ground, WECAN International participated in a Women and Gender mobilizing session and had the opportunity to lead a workshop on Rights of Nature and the International Rights of Nature Tribunal which will be happening in Paris in December.

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Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network speaking about Indigenous rights and climate change.

“This year is one of the most critical years for addressing global climate change. If we do not act now, we risk catastrophic impacts that will effect all we hold dear,” explained Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International co-Founder and Executive Director, “COP21 will thus likely be the most important UN climate negotiation of our time. The decisions and actions to protect the Earth and next generations laid out by COP21 international agreements will have a profound impact on our global trajectory. The peoples movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground and bring real change is dynamic and strong, and we must demand and work ceaselessly to insure that world governments step up and answer their citizens calls. We all need to look upward to the sun and wind for a just transition, with frontline communities leading the way.”


Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator

‘We are all Solar Sisters’ – Women for 100% Renewable Energy Training Recap

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On June 2 and 4, 2015 the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) held the first in a series of online trainings presented as part of the new U.S. Women’s Climate Justice Initiative. Launched with the goal of building a collective voice for U.S. women advocating for climate justice and action in the lead up to COP21 climate negotiations, the 2016 U.S. elections and beyond, these free education and advocacy sessions strive to provide the resources and support needed for women to become effective climate leaders in their communities, and at the national and global scale.

The first training, ‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy- From Installation to Advocacy’ centered on a few key questions including:

  • What policies are most important to advocate for in the transition to 100% renewable energy?
  • What is distributed/decentralized energy and how do we realize it?
  • How do we move to install solar in our own homes and communities, including for low-income women?

‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy’ featured presentations by Angelina Galiteva and Diane Moss of Renewables 100 Policy Institute, Cathleen Monahan of Grid Alternatives, Allison Archambault of EarthSpark International, Lynn Benander of CoOp Power, and Robert Styler of Powur, with an introduction and moderation by WECAN International Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake. Full biographies are available here.

WECAN International and Renewables 100 Policy Institute advocating for 100% renewable energy at the Peoples Climate March in New York City, September 2014.

Osprey Orielle Lake opened the June 2nd training with a warm welcome and brief discussion of why women are so central in this stage of the human journey, as we move to address the climate crisis. Focusing in on one very tangible indicator, Osprey explained that in the United States women make approximately 80% of all consumer choices, giving them a powerful ability to direct fossil fuel divestment, clean energy choices and investment, and community-led grassroots transitions.

Osprey also opened the floor to a discussion of a central training topic; what does an equitable transition to renewable energy entail? She explained that a justice framework calls for renewable energy that is accessible to all peoples, that works with respect for Nature’s needs and diversity, and that does not pursue any false solutions, such as large-scale hydropower, nuclear energy, or shale gas.

She also spoke about the concept of a Just Transition and how a fair and sustainable low-carbon economy must care for workers, families and communities currently involved in conventional fuel production, ensuring that they do not bear the brunt of the transition to new ways of producing wealth.

Concluding her introduction, Osprey drew attention to the fact that the U.S represents 5% of the world population, yet produces upwards of 26% of global carbon emissions.

“As one of the world’s biggest carbon polluters, the US has a historic and current responsibility to lead the way to a clean energy future. But simply transitioning to renewables will not solve our problems, we must also dig deeper to address over-consumption and unequal distribution, analyzing how we can live better, not more,” she explained.

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Angelina Galiteva, Renewables 100 Policy Institute

Angelina Galiteva, co-Founder of the Renewables 100 Policy Institute, presented first, providing a big picture look at why we must transition, what progress has already been made, and how women can work to further this transformation.

According to Angelina, we need to focus on 100% renewable energy because it is achievable, because it is an environmental imperative, and because dirty energy lies at the root of all of our problems, from poverty and inequality, to health, war, and climate catastrophe.

“Its very clear that pollution is not free,” Angelina commented, explaining that the fossil fuel industry is the worlds second largest water user, a primary source of water and air contamination, and a creator of huge wealth disparities. The pursuit of 100% renewable energy on the other hand, creates jobs, improves quality of life, mitigates climate change, and can bring energy security and environmental justice.

Angelina provided data to show that there is absolutely no technologic or physical barrier to 100% renewable energy, but rather, only issues of “political and investment will”.

To power the world with solar we need only 0.07% of global land area, and capturing just two minutes of the solar radiation that hits the Earth each day can power the world for a year. Not only could this provide clean and reliable energy, but it could also bring power to the 1-2 billion people who still do not have access to electricity.

“Local action matters,” and is driving the transition, with 8 countries, 55 cities, 58 regions, 9 utilities companies, and 21 nonprofits and educational and public institutions representing more than 52.8 million people already committed to a 100% renewable transition. On a good day, grid power from renewables is reaching more than 40% in California, and we have the demand, knowledge, and community support needed to bring this to fruition in communities across the U.S. and the world.

“We are all solar sisters,” Angelina concluded as she passed the floor to Renewables 100 Policy Institute co-Founder, Diane Moss.

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Diane Moss, Renewables 100 Policy Institute

Diane provided further insight into some of the 100% renewable victories already taking place, highlighted key policies to push for, and provided tips for successful organization.

Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas have both achieved 100% renewable electricity, and many other U.S counties have firm commitments, including Aspen, Colorado by 2015, Palo Alto, California by 2017, Georgetown, Texas by 2017, East Hampton, New York by 2020, San Diego, California by 2030, and Hawaii by 2045.

According to Diane, some of the important initiatives that U.S. women can advocate for include policies that:

  • set zero net-energy building targets
  • streamline the permitting process for renewable energy installs
  • promote and allow net metering
  • cut direct and indirect subsidies for conventional energy sources
  • educate and train citizens of all ages in clean energy and green job development

Diane explained that the first and most successful 100% renewable campaigns have come from communities that have promoted cooperation between activists, businesses, and the government. She also suggested that, whether at the household or global scale, 100% renewable energy projects be pursued with a set of short, medium, and long-term goals, with plenty of milestones to celebrate along the way.

Cathleen Monahan, Director of the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program at GRID Alternatives, spoke next.

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Cathleen Monahan, GRID Alternatives

Cathleen and GRID Alternatives focus on solar accessibility for low-income communities for a few reasons. For one, solar installation can result in an 80% average reduction in monthly electricity bills. Secondly, the homeowners who can least afford clean energy are often the ones living in closest proximity to toxic conventional production.

After discussing the importance of renewables in a social justice context, Cathleen provided a look into some of the technical aspects of solar configuration and installation, including an overview of the parts of a solar energy system, different designs for mounting, options for connection (batteries vs. grid connected), selecting a contractor, financing your project, and tips for where to place your panels, which sizes to use, and system set up in different microclimates.

Cathleen also shared information about GRID Alternative’s Women’s Solar Initiative, which as gotten more than 1,000 women out on job sites to learn about solar energy. More information about opportunities to volunteer on a solar install with a powerful all-female team is available here.

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Allison Archambault, Earthspark International

Allison Archambault of Earthspark International opened the second day of training on June 4, joining the call from Haiti. She discussed the three keys to 100% renewable energy; storage, integration, and demand management. The later was of particular importance in her presentation, which busted the myth that supply must equal demand. Rather, Allison explained, in a sustainable renewable energy model, we should work to adjust demand to meet supply. For example, if we know that the grid will be strained in the afternoon on a hot summer day, we can work to pre-cool homes, thus re-distributing demand to function in harmony with the flow of energy production.

By building renewable energy infrastructure in optimal locations, using a mix of complementary technologies, and using smart grids to bring demand into equilibrium with supply, we can create “clean, local, efficient, affordable, reliable energy systems”- the CLEAR choice. Community micro grids were also discussed as key component of a resilient energy system, functioning independently of the bigger grid with on-site generation and storage.

Concluding her presentation, Alison spoke with participants about the idea of shifting from being consumers to ‘prosumers’, and discussed the sense of empowerment and connection that develops when individuals and communities re-claim local power and begin contributing back to a renewable energy grid.

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Lynn Benander, Co-op Power

Lynn Benander of Co-op Power spoke second, presenting the strategy of consumer owned energy cooperatives, as modeled by the Co-op Power network already up and running across New England. Participants in the New England renewable cooperatives come from multiclass and multirace backgrounds, promoting justice and diversity as the first step in sustainability and the clean energy transition.

Using the locally owned coop model, every community can decide what direction they want to take- be it solar, wind, biomass, or geo-thermal- and work to ensure that energy is created and distributed in a just and inclusive way. In bringing power back into the hands of residents, deep and sustained local economic development becomes a real, powerful possibility. According to Lynn, women are playing a key role on every level of community renewable energy development- as purchasers, activists, policymakers, supporters, organizers, and builders.

She also shared the Co-op Power ‘5 Years to Energy Freedom’ plan, which asks people to pledge to reduce energy consumption by 50%, and then work towards using renewables to supply the other half.

Lynn ended her presentation with a powerful assertion that the only precedent to the renewable energy movement is the abolition movement, with both striving to address economic injustice and root causes of unequal power and poverty dynamics. In fighting for 100% renewable energy, we are thus furthering the work of the important movements that have come before us.

Robert Styler of Powur spoke with training participants last, expanding upon Lynn’s sentiment that a virtually unprecedented movement is taking place. In his words, “the greatest transfer of wealth in history is happening now, from the fossil fuel industry to clean energy entrepreneurs like you.”

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Robert Styler, Powur

“Concentration of power is a disaster,” Robert commented, highlighting how the pursuit of renewable energy gives us an opportunity to reverse this trend by decentralizing both energy production and wealth creation. Despite being up against big obstacles, Robert explained that we are at a tipping point, with even the big banks and head of the Federal Energy Regulation Committee conceding that renewable energy is well on its way to making fossil fuels obsolete.

Robert provided background on the Solar City program which is installing a new solar system in the U.S. every three minutes, and discussed the ways that Powur is working to make financial support accessible for homeowners and organizations leading the renewable energy transition through an ingenious new fundraising system.

Thanking WECAN International and training participants for allowing him to present, Robert expressed his deeply held belief that the shift to a just and healthy world will be one led by women, and supported by men.

During the question and answer segments of the two-day training participants and speakers engaged in discussion about passive solar and the promotion of net-zero energy homes, how to modify the renewable energy tax credit system so that it benefits low-income communities, and the need to address campaign contributions so that big utility and fossil fuel companies cannot continue to push dirty energy. They discussed the need for carbon taxes, the potential of geo-thermal, how to promote renewables in high-density urban centers, and the power of focusing on your own zone of influence while educating others and taking personal steps to further the 100% renewable energy transition.

‘Women for 100% Renewable Energy- From Installation to Advocacy’ was presented by the WECAN International Women’s Climate Justice Initiative (WCJI). More information about future education and advocacy sessions is available on the WECAN International webpage. The next free online training- ‘Health & Climate Change: What Is At Stake, What Can Be Done’ will be held on June 23rd and 25th. To register for WCJI updates and calls to action, please click here.

 Women for 100% Renewable Energy Training Resources:


Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Communications Coordinator & Project Assistant

‘Women, an Unstoppable Force’ – WECAN at the Regional Bay Area Its Time 2015 Network Convening

On May 2nd, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) Co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, spoke at the local ‘It’s Time 2015 – A Partnership Summit to Elevate Women’s Leadership’ in San Francisco, California.

Osprey’s speech is presented below in its entirely, in the hope that its powerful message and insights will inspire more women to discover the agency they hold, and to begin applying their diverse skills and interests towards the fight for climate justice and solutions worldwide.

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Hello dear friends and allies,

I would like to talk with you about two main points today. The first, that the climate crisis is urgent and that we have only a very small window of time to take bold action. The second, that women can and are making a significant difference in changing our current trajectory concerning global warming.

Last September, I was asked to present at a forum in New York about climate change and health impacts. At the forum a panel of scientists were reporting on their research concerning the harmful effects of increasing CO2 emissions on pregnant women and their growing babies.

It was almost too difficult for me to comprehend the fact that as a species, we are literally weighing the very health of our babies against a destructive system that values money above the well-being of the lives of our children and the planet as a whole.

In this moment it became poignantly clear to me, once again, that we have really gone off the cliff, and that we absolutely must stand up to stop this insanity and build a healthy world for our children and all the species of this magnificent Earth.

Right now we are on a trajectory that has made 2015 the hottest year on record, with extreme weather events already leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. We have been experiencing a massive drought in California where I live, and water and food shortages are intensifying globally.

If we continue with business as usual, the climate disruptions that we are creating will continue to lead, quite literally, to fatal changes in the very web of life itself.

Meanwhile, as citizens of the United States, we live in country where climate denial still prevails despite the fact that we are looking at the greatest existential crisis that humanity has ever faced. Just yesterday Congress passed a bill to decrease funds for NASA at a time when we need science more than ever.

It is from this landscape that the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network was born, and what we are seeing across our international network is the power of women rising up to face this challenge in truly remarkable ways.

While women are the most negatively impacted by climate change and environmental degradation, they are also key to solutions. Women are central stakeholders in re-visioning a new way of living with the earth.

WECAN International is working with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Middle East/North African Region, across Latin America, and beyond and the things we are seeing are incredible. Women saving seeds, women developing small-scale solar businesses, women planting trees to heal destroyed lands, women building resistance movements to keep fossil fuels in the ground, protect their territories, and so much more.

This year WECAN is launching a Women’s Climate Justice Initiative here in the United States, and I invite all of you to unite with us. We have started this initiative in recognition of the fact that the US represents approximately 4% of the world’s population, yet we are producing upwards of 25% of the world’s carbon emissions–this tells me we have a real responsibility to act.

There is so much good work we can do together, so here is a sample of what the U.S. initiative includes:

  • A Women for 100% Renewable Energy campaign.
  • Calls to action to advocate with frontline and Indigenous women such as those living in the Bakken oil fields where a huge amount of devastating fracking is happening.
  • Strategizing to ensure we vote in climate leaders in the 2016 election.
  • Wide scale education and advocacy about environmental injustice and frontline communities.

No matter what issues you are involved with, we invite your collaboration because we firmly believe that the root cause of the climate crisis is the unjust nature of current social and economic systems. All of our issues are unequivocally linked.

The old, dominating structures of inequality must go, as exemplified by the fight to end the fossil fuel era.

As some of you may know, this year is a pivotal time, with international U.N. Climate Negotiations happening in Paris in December. There has never been a more crucial moment to send a powerful message to leaders from U.S women, and from women around the world: Enough is enough, it is time to move to immediately begin leaving fossil fuels in the ground and to transition to a clean, just, decentralized, democratized, and sustainable energy future.

We, as women, must continue to stand up to fight for the rights of our communities and nature. As we say at WECAN International: WE CAN act now, WE MUST act now. And we must demand this from our leaders.

Certainly Nature, our Mother Earth, is not waiting for politicians to negotiate. And there is no way that we can argue or buy our way out of the climate crisis or the laws of the natural world.

It is time for us to respect these natural laws, to respect the rights of Mother Earth, and this is something I feel we women understand deep in our bones.

What continues to inspire me is that we have many successful women’s movements to draw upon: the power of the Chipko Movement in India where women saved entire forests, the Suffrage Movement, the Rural Women’s Movement, and the Liberian Women’s Peace Movement to name a few.

When women are united, we have a profound ability to create an unstoppable force, and that is just what we need to face the climate crisis.

As a global network, women are calling for system change, not climate change. We are asking, ‘does it make any sense to try to protect the Earth and heal damaged ecosystems by further subjecting Nature to the very systems, like our current economic structure, that caused the damage in the first place?’

We need climate justice and we need to have the courage to change everything about how we are living with each other and the Earth, and I am certain women can and will lead the way.

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Osprey Orielle Lake speaking at the local ‘It’s Time 2015 – A Partnership Summit to Elevate Women’s Leadership’ in San Francisco, California.

Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Middle East/North Africa Region Training 2015

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WOMEN’S EARTH AND CLIMATE ACTION NETWORK MIDDLE EAST NORTH AFRICA REGION TRAINING 2015

Imene Hadjer Bouchair, WECAN MENA Region Co-Coordinator

 Last month the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) held its second online training for the Middle East and North African (MENA) region.  The training was held over a period of four days and included nearly 35 participants from all over the region whose backgrounds varied widely, stemming from students to climate experts and activists. The purpose of the training was to build knowledge and capacity of women in order to carry out projects in the field of climate change and to implement sustainable action plans, as well to confront the social injustice of climate change.  We are working to ensure that people living in the communities most negatively affected by climate change are able to better adapt to the issues that their communities are and will be facing as global warming increases.

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Module 1

In this first part of the training participants learned about the importance of climate change education and different techniques that can be used to teach others.  This presentation was delivered by Osprey Orielle Lake, the Executive Director of Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network.  She stressed the importance of outreach to inform others of climate justice and the urgency in which all people should be taking climate action. She spoke about the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women, but also how women are central to solutions, and gave many inspiring examples of women-led projects. Imene Hadjer Bouchair, the WECAN MENA Co-Coordinator, talked about climate education on a regional context.  Although climate change affects a wide variety of places, it does so in different way depending on the area.  Due to this, it is crucial to understand that region specific plans must be made in order to address problems in that area.  The floor was then opened up for questions and answers as well as discussions and debates surrounding these topics.  The discussions were animated and lively as the diversity of those involved gave a host of perspectives and points of view.

 Module 2

The second day of the training began with presentations, discussions and debates surrounding three major topics: Renewable Energy; Climate outreach through networking, media, messaging and storytelling; Environmental campaigning.  These topics were divided into two major parts each presented by different speakers.  Osprey Orielle Lake opened the first part with a presentation about fossil fuels and renewable energy resources.  She explained the difference between “real solutions” and “false solutions” and how these ideas can lead to true sustainable change or can lead to even bigger environmental problems and social injustice.  Following Osprey’s presentation, Fadoua Brour the MENA Co-Coordinator delivered a presentation about renewable energies in the MENA region and how to cultivate these sources to use them as replacement for fossil fuel sources.  After learning these new topics hearty discussion with questions and answers followed in order to develop a deeper understanding of how these real solutions can be used within the MENA region.

Fadoua Brour Co-Coordinator, WECAN North African Region

Fadoua Brour
Co-Coordinator, WECAN North African Region

Part two of the second day began with a statement from Carmel Hilal from Jordan.  She said “There is a real problem of economic savings. In my country, there is a complete monopoly over the solar energy system exploitation which keeps the prices so high, so basically, if I wanted a solar system for my home that would supply 20 to 25% of our electrical needs the pay-back period with the current prices is, it becomes unaffordable by citizens.” These issues plague many communities who would like to invest in renewable energy but do not find it feasible.  By training women to make their own solar panels and install them it would be less of a burden for people to convert to solar energy.  A presentation on environmental campaigning, advocacy, climate outreach and messaging was given by guest speaker, Safaa’ Al-Jayyoussi, a Climate Advocate and the Greenpeace Arab World Regional Manager.  Properly communicating with others fosters the relationships needed to be successful while trying to make work for climate action.

Safaa’ Al-Jayyoussi Arab World Regional Manager, Green Peace

Safaa’ Al-Jayyoussi
Arab World Regional Manager, Green Peace

Module 3

Module three started off with Imene Hadjer Bouchair giving a presentation about water issues in the MENA region. She pointed out many of the water problems the MENA region suffers from and the multitude of other issues that occur as a result of those problems. In Africa and India women walk six to eight hours for water, a great example showing how much they are influenced by environmental changes. It also shows how important it is to include women in the planning of water consumption and she mentioned what has been done to eradicate some of the problems.  She ended the presentation by offering some solutions to a few of the problems that the region faces.  This presentation sparked participant from Morocco Touriya Atarhouch and she commented with the following, “To produce energy locally, I think the purification of waste water by plants has to be developed to save soils and ground water locally.”  Moments as such provide insight into how pressing it is to have ways for women to collaborate and be a part of the planning process.

Imene Hadjer Bouchair Co-Coordinator, WECAN MENA Region

Imene Hadjer Bouchair
Co-Coordinator, WECAN MENA Region

The module continued with a talk by Osprey Orielle Lake about biodiversity, food security and forestation, she gave many examples of projects implemented by women in various places around the world.  These projects are linked to maintain food security, biodiversity and forestation.  She closed the module by talking about the rights of nature, and explained that current regulatory laws cannot stop the harm being done to the environment. The only way to guarantee that the environment would truly be protected we would have to switch from a property-based legal framework, to a rights of nature framework as this is essential to achieve a systematic change in how humans relate to and respect Nature. Debates during the two hour session were filled with questions, comments and answers about all of the topics that were presented broadening the scope of what was learned.

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 Module 4

The WECAN MENA Online Training was closed with a 4th module that provided participants the opportunity to share ideas, suggestions and proposals for on-the-ground projects to be implemented in the next few months in the MENA region.  Women were also encouraged to share their stories, experiences and projects that they’ve previously worked on in their countries. The sharing of these stories helps women with similar goals collaborate and learn from each other in order to make their efforts even more effective. The session was truly enriching and provided the MENA region participants with priceless knowledge the preparedness to implement on-the-ground activities that will help shape the future of Climate Change Crisis management in the MENA Region.  As this is known to be one of the most vulnerable regions WECAN will be there to support the region to contribute in building the climatic future of the MENA region.

We would like to thank the presenters and participants for their focus, hard work and open hearts.  It is critical that we continue to build networks of women to prepare them to combat global warming and related climate impacts.  Women in the U.S. and worldwide are a force to be reckoned with, it is time to join together to make this force work towards climate action.

First Solar Engineer Grandmother Moseten

FIRST SOLAR ENGINEER GRANDMOTHER FOR MOSETEN NATION IN BOLIVIA

 By: Kiyomi Nagumo and Carmen Capriles

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 Solar panel installations provides electricity to indigenous families in the Mosetén Nation.

On March 18, Maria Vani from the Mosetén nation, 53-year-old, grandmother, returned to Bolivia as the first indigenous Solar Engineer.  She was welcomed by local authorities, family and neighbors in the community of Villa Concepcion located in the north of the region of La Paz, Bolivia.

After five months at Barefoot College in India, our solar grandmother was trained in the installation and maintenance of solar panels. Maria said the assembling of components of panel parts is what she enjoyed the most.

The purpose of this program is to support sustainable development and access to renewable energy sources, such as solar, to families in rural and indigenous communities, as an alternative source of energy friendlier with the environment and at the same time less expensive.

Mrs. Maria expressed, “I never thought in my life, at my age 53, being a woman, and indigenous, that I could not do something worthwhile. But now I’m proud of myself and I know I can do everything, and I can help my community, and my people. ”

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The Solar Grandmother is proud to contribute with the development of Mosetén Nation, and specifically within her community. She is excited as she waits for the arrival of solar panels. They will provide alternative energy to those who need it most in her community.

This initiative was coordinated through the efforts of volunteers from the city of La Paz committed to climate change and sustainable development of the country and Reaction Climate, Peace Network Integration and Development (PAZINDE) in collaboration with the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN-LAC).

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PRIMERA ABUELA SOLAR POR LA NACION MOSETEN EN BOLIVIA

Por: Kiyomi Nagumo y Carmen Capriles

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 La instalación de paneles solares, brindará electricidad a familias de la Nación Indígena Mosetén  

El pasado 18 de Marzo MARIA VANI indígena de la Nación Mosetén, de 53 años de edad, abuela, retorna como la primera Ingeniera Solar Indígena de Bolivia, fue recibida por autoridades locales, familiares y vecinos en la comunidad de Villa Concepción, ubicada en el Norte del Departamento de La Paz, Bolivia.

Tras cinco meses en el Instituto de los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot College) en la India, la abuela solar fue capacitada para la instalación y mantenimiento de paneles solares, lo que más le gusto a María fue el armado de componentes, como así lo asegura.

La finalidad de este programa es apoyar en el desarrollo sostenible de familias en comunidades indígenas, con el acceso a fuentes de energías renovables como es la solar como una alternativa energética más amigable con el medio ambiente.

María expresa “Yo pensaba que nunca en mi vida, menos a mis 53 años, siendo mujer e indígena podía hacer algo y que no valía nada. Pero ahora estoy orgullosa y sé que soy capaz de hacer todo y puedo ayudar a mi pueblo y mi gente”.

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La abuela Solar orgullosa de aportar en el desarrollo de la Nación Moseten y en especial a su comunidad, está ansiosa por la llegada de los paneles solares, para poder brindar energía alternativa a los más necesitados de su comunidad.

La iniciativa fue coordinada gracias a la gestión de voluntarios de la ciudad de La Paz  de Reacción Climática y la Red Paz Integración y Desarrollo (PAZINDE) con la colaboración de la Red de Acción de Mujeres por el Clima y el Ambiente (WECAN-LAC), todos comprometidos con el cambio climático y el desarrollo del país.

Behind the Climate Negotiating Text for COP21

Pablo Solón

The future lies in the past. What has happened will determine what will come. The idea that we can change everything and save the world at the last minute is exciting in movies but it does not work in real life. It particularly applies when we speak about issues like climate change where the consequences of what we did in the past century are just beginning to manifest.

This principle applies also to climate negotiations. What is now on the table after the climate negotiations held in Geneva from 8-13 February 2015 is setting the scope and the range of possibilities for the climate agreement at the upcoming COP 21 in Paris this December.

The good news

The good news is that in Geneva the climate negotiations have finally really started. Smoothly and quickly, delegations from different countries avoided long speeches and went directly to work to compile their different proposals for a future climate agreement in Paris. At the moment, the negotiating text has 86 pages and 1,273 brackets. The task for the next 10 months is to streamline this bracketed draft and come out with a text of around 20 pages without annexes and zero brackets.

In the current text there are good and bad proposals that yet need to be negotiated and agreed. The final result will be something in between the most ambitious and the weakest proposals. So how good are the more positive proposals on the table? Are they going to put us on a path that limits the increase of the temperature to 1.5 ºC or 2 ºC?

Disturbing omissions

By now, it is well known that to achieve the goal to limit the temperature increase to below 2ºC, we need to leave 80% of the current known fossil fuel reserves under the ground. This has been stated in many studies, reports and interventions, but not one single country has submitted this proposal in the current text of negotiations. The word “fossil fuels” only appears twice throughout the text and only in reference to the reduction of fossil fuel subsidies. How are we going to cut back greenhouse gas emissions if we don’t have an agreement to leave under the soil, the 80% of the “black gold” that has been discovered?

The other disturbing omission is the short-term target for 2025 and 2030. In the text there are 13 references to zero emissions by the mid and end of the century. But when it comes to this decade and the next, there are no concrete targets and just general references about “enhancing the mitigation ambition” that appears 61 times in the text. The targets that are needed are very clear in different studies. The UNEP Emissions Gap report and other studies show that to be consistent with a trajectory that limits the increase of the temperature to 2ºC, global greenhouse gas emissions have to be reduced to 44 Gigatons (Gt) of CO2e by 2020, 40 Gt by 2025 and 35 Gt by 2030. This is the cap the world needs to avoid a future too dire to imagine.  Now, in the text there are no references to these figures. There are only proposals in terms of percentages for the next half of the century. The most ambitious for the near term says, “Developed country Parties shall take mitigation commitments for the post-2020 period that are more ambitious than emission reductions of at least 25–40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020”. In other words, the next decade you have to be more ambitious than this decade. That is not really a clear target.

These omissions in the text are not an accident, they reflect an agreement that for the coming years until 2030, every country will do what they can/want and the UNFCCC will just summarize the “intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs)”. No single country has challenged this suicidal path by putting in the negotiating text that we need a global target to reduce global emissions to only 40 Gt of CO2e by 2025 to avoid an increase in the temperature of 4ºC to 8 ºC.

The center of the debate?

Looking at the negotiating text, it is clear that what seems to be the center of the controversy is not about how much to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but around the supposed conflict between developed and developing countries. The word “development” appears 247 times in the negotiating text, “developing” countries 410 and “developed” countries 342 times. The debate in the text is more about who should do what in the reduction of green house gas emissions (developed and developing), what flexibility mechanisms (carbon markets) are going to be in place, how each one is going to report, what kind of verification process will be established for the different type of countries and what kind of financial and technological support there will be to implement the mitigation actions.

The position of developed countries in general tends to water down the difference between developed and developing countries, promoting more the use of “all parties” (134 mentions in the text). On the other hand, developing countries want to keep the firewall between developed and developing countries.

The group of Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) that includes Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela has included the following paragraphs in the negotiating text that show their approach to developed and developing countries:

“Developed country Parties shall commit to undertake Absolute Emission Reduction Targets during the period of 2021-2030, in accordance with a global emission budget including their historical responsibility, through quantifiable, economy-wide mitigation targets, covering all sectors and all greenhouse gases, implemented mainly domestically, which can be aggregated and which are comparable, measurable, reportable and verifiable, with the type, scope, scale and coverage more ambitious than those undertaken under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol during the pre-2020 period, and communicated and implemented without any conditions”.

On the other hand, Developing country Parties should commit to undertake Diversified Enhanced Mitigation Actions (DEMAs) during the period 2021–2030. They may include, inter alia, relative emission reductions; intensity targets; REDD-plus activities and other plans, programmes and policies; joint mitigation and adaptation approaches; net avoided emissions, or also manifested as adaptation co-benefits, in accordance with their special circumstances and specific needs.”

While it is true that this is a real source of debate – the maintenance of the delineation between developed and developing countries so that developed countries do not escape their historic responsibility, and that countries make commitments according to common but differentiated responsibility, it is also one that serves as a smokescreen for the deals that have been made between polluters – one developed and one developing. China, which has caught up to developed countries on levels of emissions, maintains the developing country title but does the rest of the developing countries a disservice by striking a very bad deal with one of the largest polluters in the world, the United States. The highly publicized US-China deal last year is a reflection of how the US and China, two of the largest polluters, have decided not to do what is needed for 2025/2030. The two big polluters account for more than 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is a “laissez faire” deal in which China will only peak (reduce in absolute terms) emissions in 2030 and the US will reduce 15% of their green house gas emissions in 2025 based on their level of emissions in 1990. As a reference, the EU has committed to reduce 40% of their emissions by 2030 based on their 1990 levels.

This is the heart of the deal in Paris and with these emission cuts from the US and China, the rest of the countries will not do much more because as they have expressed, that would go against their competitiveness in the global economy. The negotiation around the text is about how to package and sell a bad deal to public opinion and how to dilute the responsibility of polluting countries of the developed and the emerging developing world. Probably the issue about “common but differentiated responsibility” will be solved through the addition of some “innovative language” like “in light of different national circumstances” as it happened in COP20 in Peru.

Opening the door for new carbon markets

Even with the failure of carbon markets, the debate is not if this mechanism should continue or not, but how to enhance the current ones and develop new ones. No country has submitted text to avoid carbon market mechanisms or REDD+. Carbon market mechanisms are mentioned 27 times and REDD+ 13 times. In the text there are mentions of an “enhanced Clean Development Mechanism (CDM+)”, the “Emissions Trading System (ETS)”, “REDD Plus”, “market mechanism in the land use sector”, “sub-national and regional emissions schemes” and “carbon pricing”. A reading of the text shows that COP 21 will open the door for new carbon market mechanisms but that the real development of them will be agreed at future COPs.

Finance: the forgotten promise

Finance, which was supposed to be one of the most crucial commitments by the developed countries to the developing countries, has now become an issue relegated to the sidelines. The climate debt owed to those suffering the impacts of climate change, yet who are the least responsible, is on the way to being forgotten. Looking at the text, the word finance itself is mentioned 203 times but when it comes to concrete figures, there are only a measly 14 mentions with only four proposals:

  • [Developed countries][All countries in a position to do so] commit to provide at least USD 50 billion per year during the period from 2020 to 2025, at least USD 100 billion per year by [2020][2030] for adaptation activities of [developing countries].
  • The provision of finance committed by developed country Parties to be based on a floor of USD 100 billion per year since 2020.
  • A short-term collective quantified goal of USD 200 billion per year by 2030 should be committed by developed country Parties,
  • [Developed country Parties][Parties in a position to do so, considering evolving capabilities] to provide 1 per cent of gross domestic product per year from 2020 and additional funds during the pre-2020 period to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

If current promises are to be a basis, there is little confidence in these promised numbers. At the COP20 in Lima, there was triumph around the achievement of reaching 10 billion USD – out of the 100 billion USD that was originally promised several COPs ago.

Furthermore, in the text, developed countries prefer to use the term “mobilize” instead of “provide” and they do not limit the obligation of funding to developed countries but to all countries in a position to do so, further diluting the responsibilities of the developed countries as they spread it to developing countries. The term “mobilize” is not associated with any figure in particular and in general includes “from a variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources” which means that even loans and carbon markets will be accounted in the process of mobilization of financial resources.

Rights and compliance

Human rights are mentioned seven times and mainly in the preamble and objectives section. There are no concrete proposals to guarantee human rights in mitigation, finance, market or technology measures. There is only one mention in adaptation and only in general terms. In some cases, the mention of human rights is at the same level as the right to development.  Indigenous peoples’ rights appears only two times in the preamble. Migrant rights are not included, and in the loss and damage chapter, there are only two mentions of “organized migration and planned relocation”. The proposal of Rights of Mother Earth or Rights of Nature is not included at all as an option to be discussed. The only mention to Mother Earth is in relation to “protecting the integrity of Mother Earth” without further development.

When it comes to mechanisms of compliance, there are those that say, “no specific provisions required” and those that suggest a “Compliance Committee” with “an enforcement branch and a facilitative branch”. The possibility of sanctions is mentioned and also suggested is the “use of economic instruments such as market mechanisms as a way to promote compliance”. Bolivia has included the proposal for an “International Climate Justice Tribunal”.

These token mentions of rights and recognition of those at the frontlines of climate change are empty promises with no concrete commitments attached to them. The negotiations around solutions to climate change need to have the rights of peoples and Nature at its heart.

Fighting for our Future now, not in Paris

The nature of climate change with its feedback mechanism is such that what we did in the past is what we reap now. Following this logic, what we do now is what we will reap in the next 10 years, and if the current text is to be the basis of that future, we will have none of which to speak.

There is no cheating, buying or creating loopholes to delay action until 2030 – the time to act decisively is now. And these are very concrete and clear actions that need to be taken:

  • leave 80 percent of the known fossil fuels reserves under the ground
  • deep emissions cuts to achieve global targets – 44 Gigatons (Gt) of CO2e by 2020, 40 Gt by 2025 and 35 Gt by 2030
  • reduce military and defense expenditures, which account for more than 1.5 trillion dollars globally, and instead channel these funds to provide public finance for developing countries for adaptation, mitigation and for loss and damage
  • the recognition, respect and promotion of the rights of people and nature

A bad deal in Paris will lock in catastrophic consequences for the future of the planet and humanity. The urgency of the task at hand cannot be emphasized enough – we need to act now.

*Pablo Solón is Executive Director of Focus on the Global South. 

In Photos: Amazon Women on the Frontlines of Climate Change Impacts and Solutions

Women around the world are experiencing the impacts of a changing climate on a daily basis. While they remain disproportionately impacted by interwoven environmental degradation and social injustice, these women are increasingly taking the lead in the movement for climate change solutions that address the root causes of this crisis and move towards a just and healthy world.

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Photo by Caroline Bennett

In the Ecuadorian Amazon, groups of women are rising with fierce determination, taking direct action to protect their communities and families, diverse cultural and ecologic heritage, and Pachamama, Mother Earth. After decades of fossil fuel and mineral extraction in their homeland, these women have made a bold call to end the destruction; keep the oil in the soil.

Amazon Women on the Frontlines of Climate Change is a photo series seeking to provide a lens into the lives and stories of some of these women leaders. Workshops held with Kichwa, Shiwiar, Sápara, and Waorani women in the Ecuadorian Amazon helped produce these “speaking” images, which combine portraiture with written testimonies, hand-painted by the woman in the border around her photograph. In these self-reflections, the women speak on their culture, history, traditions, struggles, and reasons for fighting oil extraction in their ancestral lands.

Amazon Women on the Frontlines of Climate Change was created by Ecuadorian photographer, Felipe Jácome, and Amazon Watch Editorial Director and Chief Storyteller, Caroline Bennett, as part of a project jointly sponsored by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International), Amazon Watch, and Acción Ecológica.

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Photo by Caroline Bennett

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Portrait series by Felipe Jacome. View more of his incredible work at http://www.felipejacome.com

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Photo by Caroline Bennett

Select prints will continue to be shown as part of a traveling photography exhibit, bringing the stories and solutions of these indigenous women to audiences within the Amazonian region and across the world. On December 8, 2014, photos will be featured at WECAN International’s ‘Women Leading Solutions of the Frontlines of Climate Change-Lima’ event in Peru, with more information available here.

photo exhibit in Coca

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