Indigenous Women of the Americas Protecting Mother Earth: Struggles and Climate Change Solutions

Blog by Emily Arasim and Osprey Orielle Lake

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Gloria Ushigua (Sápara Nation, Ecuador) and Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation, Oklahoma, USA) joined in a moment of solidarity and love. These two outstanding Indigenous women leaders are uniting across continents to protect and defend the Earth and their communities from oil extraction – Photo by Joan Beard

Indigenous women around the world are impacted first and worst by the effects of environmental destruction and a rapidly changing climate, their disproportionate vulnerability the result of a brutal intersection of colonialism, racism and sexism whose effects continue largely unabated. However despite all odds and against great challenges, it is these very same Indigenous women who are rising up, challenging the status quo and taking action to build the vital solutions so desperately needed in order to chart an equitable and sustainable course for humanity.

On May 12, 2016, an outstanding group of Indigenous women leaders from South and North America (Turtle Island) united to share their concerns, struggles and plans for change at ‘Indigenous Women of the Americas Protecting Mother Earth: Struggles and Climate Solutions’, an afternoon event presented by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International and our allies at Amazon Watch and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

‘Indigenous Women of the Americas Protecting Mother Earth: Struggles and Climate Solutions’ was held in New York City in parallel to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, with the expressed purpose of bringing public visibility to the diverse stories, solutions and demands of frontline women climate leaders.

While the sentiment and experiences shared by each speaker was unique and firmly rooted in their own homeland and place – there were two overriding themes that flowed from the women’s words: (1) respect for and implementation of Indigenous rights and knowledge is a prerequisite for climate justice and effective sustainability solutions and (2) in protecting the rights, health, lives and lands of Indigenous peoples, we ultimately safeguard the future not only of Indigenous nations (which is reason enough), but of the Earth and all it’s people. We are all unequivocally interdependent within the systems of life.

Throughout the presentations, the women also illuminated important points around the meaning of being an aware, respectful and diligent Indigenous ally, and shared a vision for the thriving future that we might still have if we learn to truly honor and uphold Indigenous rights at a global scale.

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Pictured left to right: Aura Tegria Cristancho (U’wa, Colombia), Leo Cerda (Kichwa, Ecuador), Gloria Ushigua (Sápara, Ecuador), Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca, USA), Crystal Lameman (Beaver Lake Cree, Canada), Osprey Orielle Lake (WECAN Executive Director) introducing the panel of speakers. Not pictured: Alicia Cahuilla (Huaorani, Ecuador) and Kandi Mossett (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, USA) – Photo by Joan Beard

In honoring the traditions of Indigenous allies, the event opened with prayers by Casey Camp Horinek, elder and a leader of the Ponca Nation (Oklahoma, Turtle Island, USA), who called for attention to the gift of the present day, and the capacity we all have to act, stand and relate to Mother Earth in a different way.

Casey reminded audience members that we are all relatives of each other and of the Earth, and that our greatest hope for the future lies in remembering this and growing together in strength and unity. She called upon all present to thank and honor the women and men who came before, standing in the face of adversity on behalf of the Earth, and through their brave actions allowing us to be here together today.

Osprey provided introductory remarks and a base for the day’s presentations by highlighting how Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous women in particular are the most vital voices and solutions bearers in the fight to address climate change and it’s roots in deep structural injustices within our social, economic and political systems. The audience was reminded that over 80% of the worlds remaining biodiversity lies in the hands of Indigenous communities, who have coexisted with and maintained these living systems for generations.

“We must make it very clear that we are interconnected. They [Indigenous women] are the ones on the frontlines defending our air, the mountains, forests, rivers. They are keeping the web of life alive, and if they go down we are all going down. People are putting their bodies on the line, people like Berta Cáceres… and we need to understand that this is directly our family. These women are on the frontline making possible the continuity of life for all of us, so let us listen deeply and engage,” Osprey commented.

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Gloria Ushigua – Photo by Joan Beard

Gloria Ushigua, President of the Association of Sapara Women, spoke first, with translation by Leo Cerda (Kichwa) of Amazon Watch. [All translated quotes should be considered translations, not direct quotations]

Gloria is a land and community defender from deep within the southeastern Ecuadorian Amazon, committed to maintaining the cultural identity and integrity of the Sápara peoples and promoting the rights of Indigenous women. She stands at the forefront of the regional movement to stop oil drilling – speaking out, advocating within the United Nations, and leading marches and demonstrations in response to violent policies that continue to open the Amazon of Ecuador to fossil fuel development and the subsequent pollution and displacement of Indigenous communities.

In January of 2016, the Ecuadorian government and Chinese state owned oil corporation Andes Petroleum signed a new oil lease handing over almost one million acres of pristine rainforest forest overlapping the traditional territories of the Sápara people, as well as their neighbors the Kichwa of Sarayaku and the Shuar. On March 8, 2016, International Women’s Day, Gloria and hundreds of other Indigenous women of seven regional nationalities took to the streets in Ecuador to denounce the new contract. Their resistance to the new oil leases has been ceaseless.

“Our lives and our spirits depend upon the land that we live on, and they [the oil companies] do not understand this relationship that we have between the land, our families, our ancestors and the spirits.”

Gloria provided background on the intense threats and pressures her peoples are feeling to cede to extraction on their homelands, which remain uncontaminated unlike their neighbors to the north.

“We are going through a lot in our territory. The government has been threatening us and trying to create division within our territory… They think that we are going to get weakened by the divisions, by all of the problems they are bringing into our community, but they don’t know that we are strong and we will still stand strong even though they want to try to create this struggle. We are very few people, only about 200 in our territory, but we are strong. This is our land, this is where we have our livelihoods, our medicine, our water, our food.”

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Gloria Ushigua marches against oil extraction in the Amazon of Ecuador

Article 57 of Ecuador’s constitution requires that the consent of Indigenous peoples is obtained before any projects that impact their ancestral land or exploit resources within their territory lands can proceed. Indigenous consent is also a requirement of international law under the auspices of Free, Prior, and Informed Consultation (FPIC).

While the Ecuadorian government has repeatedly claimed to have consulted the Sápara Nation about the new oil leases, in actuality, they have instigated a campaign to intimidate and divide the Sápara. As Gloria made clear, in spite of the government’s false claims of community approval and attempts to create a divided Sápara leadership body, the legitimate federation of the Sápara does not and will not recognize any consent for access to or development in their territory.

“I come here to bring the message from my people….the government thinks we are alone but we are not alone, we have an international community of supporters like you, like the people here…” Gloria continued, “The people in my community want to keep oil in the ground, and that is a consensus.”

In the month following the May 2016 event in New York City, Gloria Ushigua and her family members and community began suffering from escalated violence, intimidation and harassment. In solidarity with Gloria, Frontline Defenders and the Women’s Urgent Action Fund have both released urgent statements for organizational sign-on and wide spread public sharing and advocacy.

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Indigenous women leaders of seven Indigenous allies march against oil extraction in the Amazon in Puyo, Ecuador on International Women’s Day, March 8 2016. Gloria Ushigua (Sápara Nationality, Ecuador) and Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation, Oklahoma, USA) pictured at left – Photo by Emily Arasim

Alicia Hueiya Cahuilla is Huoarani woman leader, born and living in what is now called Yasuni National Park, Ecuador, spoke next. Alicia is the Vice President of the NAWE, the Association of the Huaorani Nationality of Ecuador, and has also served as the President of AMWAUE, the Association of Huaorani Women of Ecuador. She is a foremost woman defender of Yasuni, and has received death threats and faced other intimidation for her work.

Alicia Hueiya believes that action to respect Indigenous rights and keep oil under the ground is the most vital, effective climate solution, and has delivered this message, and the story of her communities poisoning and resistance, with great conviction in front of grassroots leaders, concerned allies, news and media, international governments and policymakers and fellow Indigenous women land defenders across the globe. Alicia spoke at a WECAN International event in Lima, Peru in 2014 that ran parallel to the UNFCCC climate talks at COP20 – watch the powerful coverage on Democracy Now! here.

Unlike Gloria and the Sápara people in the Southern Ecuadorian Amazon, the land immediately surrounding Alicia’s homeland in the Northern Amazon has already been experiencing the horrendous impacts of oil extraction for several decades.

Alicia told the story of women in her community and other as rising as the voice of the Amazon herself. She denounced excursions for oil into supposedly protected national parks such as Yasuni, and made clear that it is the lands in Indigenous hands, free of oil extraction that continue to flourish, create real development, provide for their people and maintain the balance of the global climate.

At Alicia’s request, her direct comments, quotes and photos have not been shared publicly outside of the event, and are not included in this blog.

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Aura Tegria Cristancho (U’wa people of Colombia) and Leo Cerda (Kichwa people of Ecuador, Amazon Watch) – Photo by Joan Beard

Following the translation of Alicia’s powerful presentation, Leo Cerda, Amazon Watch Field Coordinator and Kichwa man from the city of Tena, Ecuador, shared more background and an update on the unfolding situation in Ecuador.

Leo explained that the Ecuadorian government is repeatedly violating the Rights of Nature officially enshrined in their 2008 constitution, and also failing to respect laws of Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous peoples regarding fossil fuel extraction and mining. Echoing Alicia, he explained that even the countries national reserves are no longer off limits.

Leo further detailed the story of the ‘11th round’ of oil concessions, which opens up over twelve million acres of vibrant forest to extraction in 16 ‘oil blocks’. The two blocks encompassing the lands of Gloria and the Sápara people represent just two of these sixteen potential disaster zones.

“The process of the government is to try to create division within organizations and communities. So the women in the past years have been the strongest ones to come up front – they are the frontlines,” Leo explained, referencing many past actions including the March 2016 International Women’s Day march in Puyo, Ecuador.

“We see an uprising of the women coming together…because their territories are going to be effected, because they take care about the land and they care about the future, the future of next generations. We are talking here about climate change, about human rights – and this is not only an Indigenous struggle anymore, this is a struggle of all of us, the people that breathe…if we don’t protect the Amazon and forests around the world, how will our children live?”

“I am honored as the next generation to be with such amazing women speaking out,” Leo reflected.

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Kandi Mosset (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) leads a ‘toxic tour’ of a fracking spill site near the Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota, USA – Photo by Emily Arasim

Kandi Mossett spoke next, joining the event via Skype.

Kandi Mossett is a Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara women from what is now called the Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota, USA. Kandi stands on the frontlines of the fight to stop fracking and other forms of extreme energy extraction through powerful community organizing efforts and work as the Indigenous Environmental Network Extreme Energy and Just Transition Campaign Lead Organizer. She has emerged as a leading voice in the fight to bring visibility to the impacts that climate change and environmental injustice are having on Indigenous communities across North America, engaging in international advocacy work, including participation in several UN Forums and a testimony before the U.S. Congress on the climate issue and its links to issues of health, identity, and well being on tribal lands.

She introduced herself and began her presentation in her native language, “Hello relatives my name is Eagle Woman, my English name is Kandi Mossett.”

Kandi told a brief history of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara peoples, three groups driven together following colonization and the brutal devastation of the smallpox epidemics inflicted by US settlers. After facing and surviving generations of colonization, Kandi explained that her people now face a new danger threatening to take their lands and livelihoods – the threat of hydraulic fracking.

Since the early 2000’s, a fracking epidemic in the Bakken region of North Dakota has rocketed the state to the position of second largest US oil producer after Texas, bringing a range of social and environmental impacts to the region, with particularly devastating effects on Indigenous women in North Dakota.

Kandi began her presentation by showing photos of turquoise lake water, the result of fracking runoff which has caused severe pollution, green-blue algae blooms and oxygen deprivation in Lake Sakakawea, a dam at the center of the at Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara lands, and at the headwaters of the Missouri River.

She also shared photos from a July 2014 fracking brine spill near the lake, which residents were told was nothing to worry about despite the visible dead zone and failure of the US Environmental Protection Agency to provide full reports and analysis.

Kandi recounted how local women leaders, including Lisa DeVille, spearheaded action and brought Duke University students out to take soil samples and analyze the spill site and dead land. Their report back told of high levels of benzenes and a wide range of cancer causing chemicals far exceeding safe consumption levels – all left sitting on the surface of the land.

“Own tribal council has sold out to corporations – they believe the lies, they believe it is safe without doing their own due diligence,” Kandi explained.

She detailed some of the horrendous environmental practices taking place in North Dakota, including largely unregulated direct flaring (burning) of natural gas. The open flares make the once dark plains of the state glow on satellite images like the lights of a major metropolis, and have made the Bakken the source of more that 2% of global methane emissions.

Kandi spoke solemnly, “No matter where you are in the world, you are still breathing this in.”

She recounted the rush of dangers experienced by local communities, including toxic air, poisoned water, oil truck explosions, and countless social ills brought by oil workers – ranging from vandalism and racist threats, to human trafficking, drug abuses and violent abuse of local women.

Many of the social dangers are centered in ‘man camps’, large trailer complexes housing hundreds, even thousands of oil workers. In a context of lawlessness and disregard for local Indigenous communities and the land, where Kandi reports that rapes have shot up roughly 168%, with the vast majority of abuses falling upon Indigenous women.

“Violence against women follows violence against the Earth. Them digging, flaring, polluting – this is violence against our Mother…We are facing so many social problems and we haven’t even begun to really see the environmental problems, that’s why I get so emotional. Twenty years down the line we will see it, the bone cancers from the radioactive materials… I am scared for our children and our future and this horrible legacy we are leaving behind. And so we are saying we wont do this anymore, lets get out and fight this.”

Even in the face of great pain, Kandi held out countless examples of reason for hope.

She told the story of the Standing Rock Sioux in the Southern part of the state, who had witnessed the devastation of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara peoples to the north, and stood up to push back, block pipelines and ban fracking within their sovereign lands.

Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara youth in Fort Berthold are also standing up, joining local women like Kandi and Lisa DeVille who have been fighting to expose the extreme circumstances on their lands for years. As Kandi spoke via Skype, a group of young Fort Berthold youth had just mobilized and rode horses over a Lake Sakakawea bridge to interrupt a tribal council meeting and deliver their message against continued exploitation of the Earth and her peoples.

“People are starting to see it, youth are starting to stand up and say ‘What are we doing to our planet?… We are up against big money, big corporations, but over the past years we’ve seen more and more that all it takes is people power, our youth fighting back to make change.”

Kandi reflected that standing out and being an activist is often a frightening thing to do, but that “we are all we have…We as human beings taking action are the only ones that can change the problems that we humans have created…so use your voice, fight back.”

She provided more hopeful examples including a recently held water blessing on Fort Berthold reservation, which Kandi’s elders said was the first large collective water ceremony in over 20 years. She cited other important cases of Indigenous leadership and resistance, including the recent horse ride across South Dakota in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline; the story of youth who ran over 500 miles to the Army Corps of Engineers in Nebraska to say no to fossil fuel infrastructure; and the broad and quickly growing global #KeepItInTheGround movement.

Kandi spoke to the great need for creative activism and community organizing, and for the peoples’ movement to get together, hold onto tradition and show our power. She called for simultaneously organizing locally and connecting across borders, recalling powerful work connecting pipeline fighters from the US Gulf Coast to North Dakota and the Canadian Tar Sands, as well as the ground breaking work of the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact signed between Indigenous women of the US, Canada and Ecuador in 2015 and now being signed by many Indigenous women worldwide.

“We have to make it so that it is no longer profitable and OK for them [oil companies] to continue their business as usual,” Kandi explained, emphasizing that rather that pursuing a ‘not in my back yard’ type of fight, we must stand together to stop extraction in North America, and the homes of all our global brothers and sisters.

“We are addicted, to oil, and it is no better that any other addiction people have. If we want to get off this addiction we need to come together, with Indigenous women leading all across the frontlines….We know we have to protect the water. It is no coincidence that our babies are born in water…. We know that water literally is life, and it has to be protected at all costs.”

Kandi ended by urging audience members to study and explore colonization of the mind.

“What we are really talking about is decolonizing, and changing our mindset, changing the way that people interact with each other…” Kandi explained, “We want to protect future generations, and protect seven generations ahead.”

Most politicians and corporate barons, she pointed out, don’t think of the past or future generations “because they have a sickness, and that sickness is called greed.”

To build a foundation of climate justice, she pointed to the need for decolonization and a move away from extractive capitalism, which both center on the idea that we can “take and take and never give back”, something explicitly discouraged in all Indigenous worldviews.

“As Indigenous people we have ‘Traditional Ecologic Knowledge’, but here is the secret – ‘common sense’. Whatever happens to one person happens to all of us.”

Crystal Lameman, Beaver Lake Cree of Treaty No. 6, Alberta, Canada took the floor next.

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Crystal Lameman – Photo by Joan Beard

Crystal Lameman is the Treaty Coordinator and Communications Manager for the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, working previously as a Climate and Energy Campaigner for Sierra Club Canada, Prairie Chapter and as the Canadian Tar Sands Campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network. Since 2008, Crystal has been at the forefront of legal action by the Beaver Lake Cree, calling for action to address infringement of their people’s inherent and Treaty Rights to hunt, fish, trap, and gather in perpetuity, due to over-industrialization and extraction in their territory.

Crystal opened in her traditional language, and provided background on her home in the lands of the Cree and Dene.

Today, Crystal reported that Alberta, Canada is the source of more than 37% of the countries greenhouse gas emissions. Roughly 22% of these emissions come from the Alberta tar sands, making them the single biggest source of climate change causing pollution in Canada, and one of the largest sources of emission in the world.

Crystal explained that tar sands extraction has a dire two-fold impact, contributing to long-term climate change, while also wreaking havoc through immediate environmental consequences. Both long term climate changes and direct pollution are having growing impact on the land and the Indigenous Nations, like Crystal’s, who maintain a close relationship with the land, and rely upon it directly for medicines, food and water. Because of this close relationship, Indigenous communities are often the first to see and experience the degradation of the land, and contamination and displacement of ecologic and social communities.

Crystal mapped out the three large tar sands oil deposits in Alberta (cumulatively the third largest global crude oil deposits after Saudi Arabia) and the three Indigenous treaty territories violated by their extraction.

“Through invasive energy extraction we have found ourselves, literally, in a fight over Mothers bones, her very core – playing environmental roulette with our lives… and there is one thing about that game, someone always looses, and right now it is our next generations that are loosing… Right now my biggest responsibility is that I am a mother, I am blessed to give life, and I have a responsibility to those children,”

In addition to speaking to the dire effect of tar sands air and water pollution, she also spoke to the dire situation around deforestation of Canada’s pristine Boreal forest.

According to Crystal, millions, if not billions of tons of ‘overburden’, the industry term for pristine forest and soil, and one of the worlds most important carbon sinks – is ripped away, moved and destroyed to make way for expanded extraction. In total, the amount of land destroyed and moved for extraction in Alberta is estimated to be more than for the Great Wall of China, the Suez Canal, Great Pyramid of Cheops and 10 largest dams in world – combined.

A large portion of tar sands expansion is happening in and around Indigenous First Nations territories, on lands being taken and violated without respect to internationally recognized rights of Indigenous peoples to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Crystal additionally cited Article 32 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous peoples, which declares Indigenous rights to determine and direct priorities for use of land and resources that fall within or affect their territories.

34,773 of the 38,972 square kilometers of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s traditional territory as been leased to oil and gas and is suffering the cumulative impacts of removal of forests, soil loss, oil pollution, toxic spills, run off, and disruption of migration patterns, to name but a few.

Contamination of traditional foods, including fish, beaver and moose, is growing threat, with arsenic levels in caribous recently found to be reaching 450 times higher than safe consumption levels.

“They [the government and oil companies] like to talk about ‘reclamation’, essentially trying to give back what was never theirs to take,” Crystal asserted. Despite this, only 0.2% of tar sands extraction lands have seen any type of restoration attempts.

Despite the great loss faced by her community and others across Alberta, Crystal continued on to provide incredible reasons for hope.

“Some of our last remaining forests, the planets biodiversity, rivers, lakes and streams are in Indigenous peoples territories…So in order to fight climate change, stop deforestation and meet sustainable development goals, there is an urgent need to recognize the collective land rights of Indigenous peoples,” Crystal explained, making the case for Indigenous rights as perhaps the most important, effective rights-based legal mechanisms for environmental and social defense.

“Through the rights of Indigenous peoples, we have the last remaining stronghold in protecting our environment.”

Through the ongoing Beaver Lake Cree legal case, Crystal and her colleagues and allies are seeking to demonstrate that Indigenous rights are the strongest possible legally binding strategy to halt the expansion of the tar sands.

“Many communities nations in our territories are moving towards determining what Indigenous economic sovereignty looks like by participating in the Just Transition and launching large renewable energy projections, exercising food security and sovereignty…we are growing and we are producing on our lands, while at the same time continuing to break down legislation that undermines our rights and labels us as bad people for wanting better for our children”

In closing her presentation, Crystal drew attention to the massive fires raging in Alberta, and the social justice components of work to end extraction.

“We need to stop pretending like genocide no longer exists. It continues, it is alive and well in extreme resource extraction. But we are here, as Indigenous people we are here and we are not going anywhere. And we continue to fight because the very essence of who we are is in the land and the water… so our land has not and will never be for sale,” Crystal concluded.

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Aura Tegria Cristancho – Photo by Joan Beard

Aura Tegria Cristancho, young woman leader and representative of the U’wa people of Colombia, spoke next, with Spanish translation by Leo Cerda.

At 18, Aura became the first ever Indigenous U’wa woman to attend university, receiving her law degree and going on to work as the legal advisor for the Asou’Wa Association of the U’wa people. Since then, Aura has worked extensively with EarthRights International, based out of Lima, Peru. In 2014, she traveled across the US to speak with hundreds of people at a host of public presentations, private advocacy meetings and media interviews – working to bring light to Caño Limón pipeline, Magallanes drilling project and other pushes to expand oil and gas drilling in U’wa territory, which has traditionally expanded across five Colombia provinces.

Aura began with reflections based upon the stories and prayers told to her by her grandparents. In the beginning, she recounted, the creator established and created the Earth in equilibrium, and in the heart of the U’wa people, left an original message – instructions to care and protect Mother Earth. Protecting the Earth thus became the mission and center of the U’wa mind, body and spirit.

When oil companies entered their territories, the U’wa knew automatically they had to speak out in defense of the land and had no misunderstanding about the perils of extraction.

The U’wa call oil “ruiria” and explain that this is the source of all plant and animal life, as well as the human spirit.

“For the U’wa, the oil is like the blood of Mother Earth, it is vital to life – if you take out the blood, the whole planet will die, including human beings. In this sense, we must gather our strength and unite in defense of the Earth, in defense of life. All of us together, black, white, Indigenous, old young, all of us,” Aura explained to the audience.

When Occidental Petroleum came to drill the oil from their lands in the 90s, the U’wa protested, stating that they preferred collective suicide than to watch the destruction of their community and lands. It would be a worthier death than at the hands of the exploiters, the U’wa reasoned.

The U’wa people had already witnessed the ruinous results of oil extractions in nearby territories. Their subsequent campaigns, in addition to support from international groups moved by the U’wa’s powerful dedication and message to the world, generated successful results. In 2002, Occidental Petroleum withdrew from U’wa territory. In part, the company claimed this was due economic problems and finding a dry well in an early phase of the project, however it is clear that the ardent protests weighed heavily on their decision. Unfortunately, this key victory was not long lasting and the U’wa have been and are facing many ongoing extraction threats in their territories from the fossil fuel industry.

Despite loses and struggles, Aura stated that the movement is only getting stronger. She and her people are fighting immediate environmental destruction, but also acting and teaching so that ‘little brother’ (the Western world) can come to understand again what life really is, namely the rivers, air, forests and all that sustains us.

On May 12, as Aura spoke to the crowd gathered in New York City, leaders in her community were taking direct action to protect their sacred Zizuma mountain, a critical source of water for the region.

In closing, Aura urged all present to engage with and support their ongoing struggle, and to think deeply on how we can change the dominant cultures way of living with the Earth.

“We need to change ideas around money. You cannot eat money. Without lands and water and territory, money serves no purpose. In this sense, this can be a huge contribution to change from all of us here today, to work to help change this philosophy– to return to the ancestral, the roots, to return to understanding of what is truly important in life – land, water, air and the sky.”

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Leo Cerda and Gloria Ushigua stand in solidarity with the U’wa people in their efforts to protect sacred Zizuma mountain– Photo by Joan Beard

Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Nation, Oklahoma, Turtle Islands, USA took the floor as the last speaker of the day.

Casey Camp is a Ponca Nation tribal Councilwoman, Indigenous Environmental Network representative and WECAN Advisory Council member, amidst many other roles. She is a long-time Native rights activist, environmentalist, actress and traditional Drumkeeper for the Ponca Pa-tha-ta, Woman’s Scalp Dance Society, working to maintain the cultural identity of the Ponca Nation for herself, her family and her community. Casey has been at the forefront of grassroots community efforts to educate and empower both Native and non-Native community members on environmental and civil rights issues. In 2008 Camp-Horinek, as a delegate of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), was chosen to speak to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and present IEN’s global platform regarding the environment and Native rights. Since then, she has led and participated in countless international and local actions, events and high level policy forums around climate justice, Indigenous rights and care for the Earth. Recently, she embarked on a journey as a leader of the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact.

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Casey Camp Horinek – Photo by Joan Beard

Casey began by commending and sharing her love with the young women who spoke before her; “I could rest, but I am not going to!” she laughed.

Casey told of the genocide inflicted upon her people, including days of forced removal, boarding schools, relocation and five signed and broken treaty’s. Like Kandi and Crystal, Casey likened the modern boom in fracking to a continuation of these genocidal and colonial processes.

Ponca lands in Oklahoma are now surrounded by underground toxic waste storage facilities, drilling rigs and a “nexus” of pipelines carrying oil across the US and down from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Taking out a piece of paper, Casey explained that seven earthquakes had already happened in Oklahoma that very day. She reported 128 in the last thirty days and 2,388 in last year – all man-made and all directly linked to fracking injection wells, of which there are over 10,000 in the state.

Recently, Oklahoma’s new governor passed a law preventing communities within the state from passing local fracking moratoriums. In response, Casey, along with other leaders in her community, are working to organize the Ponca Nation to use their sovereign Indigenous rights to pass a resolution that stops injection wells, and puts a ban on fracking and dewatering.

The resolution points out that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are the trustees of the Ponca Nation and its members, “with a fiduciary duty to protect tribal trust property and trust resources”, including federally reserved Indian water rights to a satisfactory supply of quality water.

Thus far, the BIA does not have a policy on fracking, injection wells and dewatering operations to guide the leasing of Ponca lands or to guide BIA approval of assignments of existing oil and gas leases for extraction. Even though there is not a policy in place, the BIA has been approving leases already, not taking into account Indian water rights or the public safety of the Ponca Nation and its members, amongst other destructive outcomes.

The BIA has also not obtained Free, Prior and Informed Consent from the Ponca Nation according to Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Upon these points and others, the Ponca Nation has called for a moratorium on fracking in their territories to override the Oklahoma governors law, and have requested that the BIA to design a plan to protect the Ponca Nation water rights, in direct consultation with the Ponca Nation.

In pursuing due implementation of Indigenous Rights– the Ponca and other Indigenous communities offer a strong, tangible solution that will protect them and their non-Indigenous neighbors. Casey is confident that their method of protection will hold up in a court of law when they have the means to carry their work forward to the courts.

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Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation) speaks with allies at the start of ‘Indigenous Women of the Americas Protecting Mother Earth: Struggles and Climate Solutions’ – Photo by Joan Beard

Casey closed with reflections on the “cellular memory” and DNA of her people and all Indigenous people as fundamentally tied to the land.

“We are willing to do anything we have to do to protect our Mother, and to protect all that she provides us with.”

She held up a cup of water, “the guest of honor”, and asked why negotiators and ‘leaders’ in United Nations were not willing to sit with a cup of oil in front of them to quench their thirst as they negotiate the fate of the climate.

Casey’s last words that brought home a vital theme highlighted by all event speakers;

“We [Indigenous peoples] got your back – so what you need to do is jump on board and demand the implementation of the declaration of the Rights of Indigenous peoples, because we are going to save your ‘you know what’s’…Our issues are your issues, we really can’t separate them, and that is why we are here today… we understand the same air flows around Mother Earth, the same rain comes in the thunders and down the streams – the same breath, everything is within us and we share it all.”

Osprey of WECAN International moderated a Question and Answer session, and then closed the event with words on supporting Indigenous allies, and solidarity with the global #KeepItInTheGround and #BreakFree movement. 

“Break Free from infringements on Indigenous rights

Break Free 

Break Free from patriarchy

Break Free

Break Free from the commodification of Nature

Break Free

Break Free from sacrifice zones

Break Free 

Break Free from colonization

Break Free

 Break Free from fossil fuels

Break Free”

Special thanks to Harriet Sugarman of ClimateMama and all the amazing NYC volunteers for their tremendous support of this event.

Additional Event Photos by Joan Beard:

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Speakers and allies stand in solidarity with the U’wa people in their efforts to protect sacred Zizuma mountain– Photo by Joan Beard

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Crystal Lameman presents on tar sands extraction and Indigenous rights and community mobilization in Alberta, Canada – Photo via Harriet Shugarman

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Aura Tegria Cristancho speaks on the situation of the U’wa people of Colombia. Pictured with Leo Cerda (Kichwa of Tena, Ecuador; Amazon Watch) – Photo by Joan Beard

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Event attendees stand to demand immediate action to #KeepItInTheGround – Photo by Joan Beard

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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!

Political Will For Climate Actions: Statement from Farah Kabir, Bangladesh

On June 29, 2015 Farah Kabir delivered a powerful speech as Civil Society Representative during the United Nations General Assembly “Mobilizing Political Momentum for Ambitious Actions on Mitigation, Adaptation and Means of Implementation” session.

WECAN International is honored to share a copy of Farah’s speech in the blog below. Farah works as the Country Director for ActionAid Bangladesh, and is an honored member of the WECAN International network. Click here to read Farah’s biography and learn more about her involvement with the 2013 WECAN International Women’s Earth & Climate Summit.

You can also read this speech on the ActionAid website here.


For positive change, I believe in the power of people.

Farah Kabir- photo via ActionAid

Farah Kabir – photo via ActionAid

The UN climate talks in Paris (CoP 21) are an important moment. Climate change is a global problem that needs a global solution – one that recognises the crisis inextricably linked to inequality and poverty, as Pope Francis so eloquently stressed in his recent encyclical.

Climate change impacts on the ground are reversing the development gains like never before for the 7.3 billion people of the globe. The achievement of MDGs would have seen much more substantial achievements and would have brought greater positive results without the negative impacts of climate change. The SDGs will be untenable due to climate change even with a $2 – $3 trillion a year (The Economist: The 169 commandments) investment worldwide unless we transform our way of living and lifestyle related decision at political level. It is therefore a ‘development’ issue and environment issue. There is concern that even with current green house gas reduction pledges by countries in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), we will not be able to limit average temperature raise to 1.5⁰ C (2⁰ C rise is not an option for the people of LDCs and SIDS as many of them are already facing the threat of disappearance due to sea level rise). There is urgent need of phasing out fossil fuel emissions, phasing in renewable energy, and making a link on how to provide energy access to people especially the marginalised, achieve sustainable development as well meet the common temperature goal of 1.5ºC.

Political Momentums
The year 2015 could be the year for transformation and new beginning. It is imperative to make the Paris CoP the conference that will reaffirm and sign off the goal of limiting carbon emission and allow people to live in dignity. We have seen CoP 15 to fail, and we have seen some progress made in the Cancun and Durban conferences. During the climate summit initiative 2014 of H.E. Ban Ki-Moon we have seen hundreds and thousands of people from across the globe take to the streets of New York demanding a fair deal. So we do not want to see another failure in Paris at CoP 21.

Demanding a Just, Fair and Equitable Deal
What is a Just Deal which is equitable and fair? Who is the deal for?

2 billion people continue to remain in poverty. Inequality needs to be accepted as the core of disparity in growth and distributive justice having specific implication for climate change impacts on vulnerable communities.

How do we realise climate as a common goal?

The deal has to be for the people across the globe who are living in poverty – the LDCs and the SIDS. It in no way suggests to slow growth, but to follow the zero-zero pathway (not proposing however net zero emission as it will increase the burden on the south.) Policies such as promoting private cars over public transport, commodifying natural resources and encouraging industrial agriculture by betraying smallholder agro-ecological farming will aggravate climate change. Any development model that is based on inequality will only exacerbate injustice.

It is already been demonstrated in many countries that wind and solar are more energy-efficient and cost-effective than other sources. These green energy sources also create new Green Jobs. We have the technology to take the transformative pathway within short period of time, however it will be dependent on availability of resources from the developed countries and the political will. Making the resources available will require the political will of the world leaders, of the rich and emerging economies.

The climate science confirmed in 2013 (IPCC 5th Assessment Report) that we are in the pathway of crossing the 2⁰C threshold of global average temperature raise. Even with meeting current mitigation pledges of the countries, there will be residual impacts. Thereby, countries like Bangladesh and Malawi need to invest more in adaptation to deal with loss and damage. The 9th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation this year invested in understanding ways to enhancing effective adaptation action across the globe. If we fail to take adequate and timely measure of mitigation and adaptation (haven’t we failed already?), we will have to face loss and damage. As some scientists indicated, we’ve already entered into the loss and damage era where the social cost of migration and economic cost of rehabilitation will be beyond our imagination and capacity. Therefore, the less mitigation and adaptation we do the higher the loss and damage we will incur.

There is no climate justice without gender justice and equity. Women as half of the world’s population expect and call for their perspective; their full and equal participation in all aspects of climate policy and implementation must be ensured.

ActionAid and like minded civil society will not accept any false solutions in the climate deal in Paris. Solutions like ‘climate smart agriculture, or net zero emissions’ are to benefit the large corporations, not the small holder farmer – by which we mean a women living in poverty in some distant corner of Africa and Asia. It is the small holder farmers who feed the world even when the corporate deliver to super markets. We must support the farmers with all kind of resources, knowledge and technology to enable them to diversify their cropping system. Any efforts to offset climate change through land use could massively escalate the land grab.

Finally, it is about the response of global leaders. We call on the global leaders to remind them that the civil society organisations have developed “The People’s Test on Climate 2015”, which is a tests for Governments – not individual leaders. The website here records clear expectations of all Governmental leaders.

The Paris negotiations are important – we absolutely need a strong and just global agreement on climate action. However, we already know that on their own they are not likely to be enough to fix the climate crisis. Our Governments have to come up with a strong deal in Paris, but regardless of whether or not they succeed or fail, action and momentum are building up from below as we speak. Where Governments fall short due to unfair influence by elites, or corporations and vested interests, people will hold them accountable.

Paris is not the end of the road but a beginning.

Speech by Farah Kabir

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

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. 

Women Are Half Of The Population, Policies Must Reflect This!

WECAN Latin American Coordinator Statement for the 5th meeting, Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations 

(Declaration Session) – U.N. General Assembly

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2015 is a historical year, first because the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) agenda comes to an end with its ups and downs, achievements and lessons learned. On the other hand, new agendas are being drafted to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and to finalize a global climate agreement in Paris. New finance for a development agenda is on the table and while the process is surely flawed, we want to do all that we can within the process to help the least developed countries, and in that sense, it is important to highlight the need to include a women’s rights perspective. In order to do so it is necessary to understand that women’s rights, women’s empowerment and participation are key to achieve positive development that can become a game-changer in the complex social, economic and environmental panorama that we are facing.

Therefore is important to make the voices of all women especially those in forgotten places, like small and indigenous communities or small towns in rural areas included in this new agenda. The needs of women and their solutions must be taken into account in order to really draft an agenda that leaves no one behind. Many of the women we represent live in poverty conditions , have low access to education, produce their own food, are left on their own to face the drastic impacts of climate change, face pollution from mining and oil industries and are witnesses to the loss of their lands and forests. They experience all of this without having any benefit for themselves or their children and while sadly earning a legacy of poverty as they lose their ways of life.

Kiyomi Nagumo as Coordinator of WECAN Latin America Region participated in a session for the drafting of the declaration for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) calling on Governments and States to take into account that women are half of all populations and therefore half of the world and they should not be ignored or forgotten but should be instead at the core of the new POST2015 – Sustainable Development Agenda.  In order to really shift the catastrophic path our society is aiming toward , which includes the ongoing oppression of women and building a cruel economic structure based on their bodies and perpetuating their poverty, we must have women’s empowerment and full representation at the forefront.

The following statement calls for a strong reflection upon the needs of a system change and to realize that it is time to stop profiting from women’s poverty and to create a new environment where women can truly realize themselves as persons and not take them for granted as objects,  property or mere commodities. Women are life-givers not only in the sense of motherhood but also the ones that protect and nourish the seeds and the animals. Many women are already leading their communities against all odds and with further education and access to resources and the true benefits of their work they can became even stronger leaders that can help create better societies based on solidarity and understanding of nature and natural laws.


February 20, 2015 Session of the SDGs

Speaker: Kiyomi Nagumo (WECAN-WECF)

Thank you Mr. Chair (Mr. Facilitator), authorities, and colleges

Good morning, my name is Kiyomi Nagumo, speaking on behalf of the Women`s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) and Women of Europe for a Common Future (WECF)

Although many countries have tried to generate policies to eradicate structural violence against women, we must acknowledge that the structures of abuse cannot be eliminated if we do not recognize that we live in a patriarchal system where we, women, are assumed as an object and that the regulatory, social, legal and economic structures are based on our bodies. Therefore part of the global economy is the result of the unpaid work we do.

However, we have seen a failure to include women in spaces (seats) of power, wrongly thinking that empowerment will come with only a name or percentage within decision making spaces. Talking about the empowerment of women has a great responsibility because it becomes necessary to work with legal recognition and social recognition.

If we really want a change and impact the political landscape effectively , we must acknowledge that women are half of the world, therefore half the planet.

Establishing specifically equitable access to land tenure and natural resource policies is essential, since the policy or established standards are not sufficient and the necessary control mechanisms to carrying them out do not exist. Because without equitable access, women cannot access spaces of local, regional, national and  international decision-making.

We are aware that the least developed countries, indigenous peoples, intercultural communities and rural communities and women suffer from droughts, floods, hail, pests, so it is necessary to establish mechanisms to adapt to the changing weather conditions.

We are convinced that there is no person, organization, community, province, region or nation who can solve the problem of climate change and sustainable development alone, so it is vital that international commitments do not remain neglected and that governments respond to the same level of urgency.

Sustainable development goes hand in hand with the empowerment of women and of women’s movement. Women can contribute to, and influence local and international governance in order to generate policies, raise climate measures and sustainable solutions,  ensure respect and sovereignty of our people. In this way women and indigenous communities can design and determine their own future, drafting a new course ensuring coexistence and living well in relationship with the environment.

States should take into account that it is time to achieve global cooperation, coordination and an understanding of a diversity of peoples and cultures by taking into account that there are intercultural regulatory, economic and social plural systems.

Therefore, the Declaration of the post-2015 agenda needs countries to commit to the rights of half the planet, women,  and ensure women’s rights are guaranteed and implemented,  and are consistent with climate justice agreements.

Thank you very much!

Kiyomi Nagumo, WECAN Coordinator for Latin American Region , with  Carmen Capriles, Reacción Climática Bolivia


Spanish Statement:

Muy buenos Días, Mi nombre es Kiyomi Nagumo, hablo en nombre de la Red por la tierra y el Clima (WECAN) y WECF

A pesar de que muchos países han tratado de generar políticas para erradicar la violencia estructural contra la mujer. Tenemos que tener en cuenta que las estructuras de maltrato no pueden ser eliminadas si no estamos consientes de que vivimos en un sistema patriarcal, que las mujeres somos asumidas como un objeto y que las construcciones normativas, sociales, jurídicas y económicas se basan en nuestros cuerpos. Por lo tanto parte de la economía mundial es fruto del trabajo impago que realizamos.

Sin embargo, existe una falla al incluir a las mujeres en estrados de poder. las mujeres somos la mitad de cada pueblo, por ende la mitad del planeta. Si queremos realmente ser tomadas en cuenta, no únicamente necesitamos políticas para el empoderamiento denominativo o porcentual, se debe impulsar el par político de manera efectiva.

Establecer políticas equitativa sobre el acceso a la tenencia de tierras y los recursos naturales, no son suficientes es necesario q existan mecanismos de control, y ejecución de las mismas. Ya que sin ellos, nosotras no podemos acceder a espacios de tomas de decisión locales, regionales, nacionales y hasta internacionales.

Estamos conscientes de el impacto de cambio climatico es mas severo en comunidades campesinas, y sobre todo a las indígenas, por lo tanto es necesario establecer mecanismos para poder adaptarnos a situaciones de clima cambiantes. “Si el planeta está mal, nosotras nos llevamos la peor parte”

Estamos convencidas que ninguna persona, organización, comunidad, provincia, región o nación es capaz de resolver el problema del cambio climático y lograr un desarrollo sostenible por sí solo, por eso es trascendental que los compromisos internacionales no sigan siendo postergados y que los gobiernos respondan a la escala de urgencia.

El desarrollo sostenible va de la mano con el empoderamiento del movimiento de mujeres, nosotras podemos aportar e incidir en la gobernanza local e internacional con el fin de generar políticas, plantear medidas climáticas y soluciones sostenibles. Para garantizar el respeto y la soberanía de nuestras poblaciones, para que estas puedan diseñar y determinar su propio futuro, trazar un nuevo rumbo garantizando el vivir bien en coexistencia y relación con el medio ambiente.

Por eso, la Declaración de la agenda post-2015 necesita q los países se comprometan que los derechos de la mitad de la planeta estén garantizadas e implementadas, a demás, que estén en concordancia con el acuerdo del clima.

Muchas gracias

Kiyomi Nagumo, WECAN Coordinator for Latin American Region and Carmen Capriles, Reacción Climática Bolivia

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)