‘Rights of Nature: Protecting & Defending the Places We Live’ Training Resources

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On July 28, 2015 the U.S Women’s Climate Justice Initiative presented the final session in a series of free, online advocacy and education trainings. ‘Rights of Nature & Community Rights: Protecting & Defending the Places We Live’ featured climate women leaders Shannon Biggs of Movement Rights and Osprey Orielle Lake of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network.

During the training Shannon and Osprey provided a background on Rights of Nature and the importance of a legal framework that honors Earths living systems rather than treating them as property. They described how Rights of Nature can be used to take immediate, concrete steps to protect our communities and the planet– and also as a tool for furthering deep, long-term shifts in culture, law, policy, and our relationship with the Earth. They shared techniques for asserting community rights and Rights of Nature over supposed corporate ‘rights’, power, and profit, and told stories about communities across the US and the world who are already using local Rights of Nature ordinances to take back their ability to protect the Earth and make decisions about the places they call home.

A collection of resources presented during the training is provided below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Climate Action Agenda, Introduction


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

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

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

The vision presented is wide ranging yet holistic:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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