Whew..that’s a big question with an even bigger answer, so I’ll just briefly touch on a couple of things.
- As you can read in the “About Us” section, we’re a subcommittee that’s part of a larger international committee of SSC youth going to COP. Anytime you work around social justice issues, including environmental justice and climate change, or work in another community, it’s essential to ensure that your work is as anti-oppressive as possible. That’s why we’re here. Our main focus as a committee is to attempt to make the work that our delegation does as anti-oppressive as possible. This includes a lot of different things (this is by no means an exhaustive list):
- researching cultural norms and practices of the city and country where the conference is held (Lima, Peru in the case of COP20)
- working with the SSC policy committee so make sure we’re pushing for anti-oppressive climate policy
- ensuring that, when we collaborate with other groups (particularly those from marginalized communities), we’re working in solidarity and working with them, but not for them and not attempting to push our own agenda
- acknowledging the privileged and marginalized identities that we hold as individuals and as a collective group and being aware of how those interact with the spaces and situations that we will be in (i.e. taking up space).
- While we do a lot of work within our own delegation and those that it works with, we also strive to create a more inclusive and anti-oppressive space in the greater COP community. Here are some examples of what we do:
- deliver AO trainings outside of our SSC delegation to other groups such as YOUNGO.
- participate in and encourage participation in caucuses for marginalized and under-represented communities (i.e. women’s caucus, indigenous people’s caucus, etc.)
- support the aforementioned caucuses in their work and events
- lobby our own negotiators and push for anti-oppressive international climate policy
It is essential that we work to create a more inclusive and anti-oppressive COP if we ever want to find solutions to climate change and environmental injustice. If you keep up with environmental justice issues, you’ll know that marginalized communities are those most impacted by the effects of climate change and environmental devastation (i.e. pollution, deforestation, rising temperatures and changing weather patterns, etc.). So, because of this, you’d expect for those negotiating for ambitious international climate policy to be from those communities that are most impacted, right? Wrong.
Marginalized groups are terribly underrepresented at the conference. Developed countries in the Global North dominate the negotiations and the conference space. They are the ones that have the resources to have large delegations for representation. Developing countries and those from the Global South typically can only bring a few. This is for a lot of different reasons – resources, capacity, discrimination. This isn’t only true for party members and negotiators, but extends to civil society. Last year, in Warsaw, a large number of civil society members and youth from Nigeria were denied entrance into Poland despite the fact that they had been accredited by the UNFCCC. Our delegation from the United States did not encounter any obstacles. This underrepresentation, along with the general tendency of privileged groups, results in the Global North dominating the conference and drowning out the voices of the Global South and marginalized communities. There are countless examples of this beyond what I mentioned, more than I can list or probably even know, and it results in some pretty major consequences for the flight for international climate policy and a solution for climate change.
One consequence is that we’re not getting the strong policy and regulation that we need in order to combat climate change and adapt to the changes we’ve already experienced. Along with that, the process is terrible inefficient. Wealthy and developed countries in the Global North (like the United States) continuously block policy and refuse to financially contribute to revert the damage that they’re largely responsible for. They use their numbers, their resources and their power to stall the process and protest having to commit to any strong policy, putting developing countries who are already facing the impacts of climate change in a position of having to accept weak policy and regulations because that’s the only thing they can get.
To sum up, as we travel to Peru this December to COP and represent both the SSC and the United States, AO is an essential part of that work. We’ll never begin to solve the issue of climate change or environmental justice without it. It’s a long road ahead and just having an AO subcommittee isn’t going to do it, but hopefully it’s a start. Hopefully, we can have some influence and help ensure that we’re all thinking more about it at COP and in the environmental justice movement.
Let us know in the comments if there’s anything that you think needs more attention or anything you’d like to see from the AO committee.
*Disclaimer: While, as a committee, we focus on making our delegation and the greater COP community as anti-oppressive as possible, we are not, and do not claim to be, experts on anti-oppression work. We are constantly learning, challenging ourselves and improving. We exist to ensure that AO work is a priority and a focus and to share our own experiences and knowledge of AO work with others.
Sierra Student Coalition, www.ssc.org
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, http://unfccc.int/2860.php