Our Blood is the Redline

Our blood is the Redline

 

Let rage empower and embolden you

Despair and sadness can’t steal your light

We do not make compromises- those are the tools of the guilty

We must remember: we are here to live, not just to survive

 

My tears cannot fix the drought ravaging my home

Or undo the racism in a world above 3 degrees

Together, we unite to demand climate justice and make the change we need

We are time bound by our love of each other

 

Our defiance of business- as usual and capital- will free us

The only effective mechanisms are our relationships with one another

 

I will not watch as the world burns

I will put that fire to use in my heart

I will burn injustice to ashes

 

To turn the world upside-down must be the overcorrection of a deadly history

I do not believe in solutions until the problems are of the past

You cannot keep my [spirit] and [determination] in brackets

 

Together, we are the dance of our movement

Together, our boiled blood is the red line of our revolution

Our reprise is action

Our reprise is love

Our reprise is our humanity

 

We have nothing to lose but our change

 

COP21 Green-washed Logo is a Tonne of Hot Air

Literally. Does this logo just released by the UNFCCC remind you of anything? Something that is touted as green but in reality is leading to Tonnes of methane emissions and ruining air, water, and human health around the world? 

“Natural” Gas company and project logos, perhaps? You know- that ones that make this dangerous and dirty form of energy look like it’s a clean energy source? That’s what I thought, too.

 

And of course the color scheme looks like a more infamously green-washed icon: 

 

I personally prefer more honest logos… like this one:

More on Green-washing in a bit. Just let these images sink in for a bit.

The “A” in USA Does Not Stand for “Accountability”

Or Action. Or Ambition. Or Admirable. Or.. well anything positive as far as I’m concerned.

The UN Climate Talks are approaching being the longest in history as we await the re-opening of the negotiations at 11pm in Lima. The spark seems to have left and the fear of having a “deal” that doesn’t take into account the rights of people already impacted by climate change is looming over the whole conference center. Unless something drastic happens in the next 24 hours, this COP will do more than fail. It will lead to a dramatic step backwards in addressing climate change in a fair and equitable way.

The Venue after 1am is not the most pleasant place to be.

The Venue after 1am is not the most pleasant place to be.

I’m running on less than 4 hours of sleep after having stayed at the conference space until almost 4am to watch a new draft proposal of the Durban Platform on Enhanced Action (ADP) being unleashed. Yes, unleashed, not revealed or unveiled. The draft was essentially written without the consent of parties other than those in the “Umbrella group” which can lovingly be defined as the stallers of progress… or:

The Umbrella Group A loose coalition of non-EU developed countries which formed following the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol. There is no formal list, but the Group is usually made up of Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the US. The Umbrella Group evolved from the JUSSCANNZ (an acronym for Japan, the USA, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway and New Zealand) group, which was active during the Kyoto Protocol negotiations.

Rihanna would definitely not want to take part in any of these groups despite her affection for umbrellas.

In the past week the United States has made one thing very clear: they do not want to be held accountable for Climate Change nor do they want to contribute what they are historically obligated to.

Our lead negotiator has said “I’m not a human rights man” when asked questions about equity, “We, the US, believe that Fair and Equitable mean the same thing so we would want to use one or the other. We prefer the use of Fair” in the more recent negotiations, and quite simply that “Climate Change is not the responsibility of just one country”.

Lead Negotiator Trigg Talley speaking in the ADP.

Lead Negotiator Trigg Talley speaking in the ADP.

As I sit here in the venue on what we all hope will be the last night of the COP, I’m stuck thinking of just how much this conference is smoke and mirrors. The draft ADP text, the deal that is supposed to emerge from Paris, is being written in a non-transparent manner and all vulnerable countries are crying foul. This can’t be real. How can a country that has been priding itself on being “ambitious” be the one keeping any action from happening?

This should invoke a feeling of impending doom.

This should invoke a feeling of impending doom.

Being from the US, I wish that I could make our negotiators understand that we have a historic responsibility that extends beyond our “historic emissions”. Our historical responsibility lies in the very existence of our “democracy” and the capitalist economy that continues the world’s development in the interest of the richest 1% and proceeds to steal the land of indigenous peoples everywhere while exploiting natural resources and polluting those that remain. The US has a historical responsibility for its oppression and hegemony that has hurled the world towards a 4 degree future, well beyond the limit defined by the best science.

The United States has to recognize and act on their responsibility to the world. Perhaps cutting fossil fuel subsidies and war spending might make it easier to follow through, huh?

Speaking Truth to Power: Gender Day

The state of gender at the Conference of Parties(COP) is largely unchanged since I have been attending for the last 3 years since COP18 in Doha, Qatar. As countries are called upon to raise ambitions regarding emissions targets, Gender Day stands as a reminder that ambition must encompass more cross-cutting issues. Gender Day emerged at COP18 in Doha, Qatar and has since become an annual event. The day is filled with gender-themed side-events and high level sessions that serve as a vehicle for advancing conversations of gender equality within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Mary Robinson addresses the room at the high-level dialogue on Gender.

Mary Robinson addresses the room at the high-level dialogue on Gender.

The day started with the dedication of a tree planted in memory of Nobel Peace Prize winner, feminist, environmentalist, and human rights advocate Wangari Maathai. Gender Day at COP20 took a different tone than those of the past two years with Mary Robinson, UN Special Envoy for Climate Change, setting the mood at the high level panel for gender. Robinson acknowledged that gender equality has come a long way since the Beijing Declaration was adopted in 1995, but that there is still a long way to go. Robinson stated, “We need to continue to strengthen women’s rights and not let them backslide.” These remarks shortly followed the SBI decision on gender which was finalized on Friday, December 5th. The text denied the use of “gender equality” and instead utilizes the less impactful term “gender balance”. This means that low ambition for equitable gender participation will remain the norm within the UNFCCC in Lima and beyond. 

In the past two years, Gender Day has served as a platform for discussing women’s vulnerability to climate change without necessarily talking about how women contribute on an international scale. Although women are on the frontline of the impacts of climate change, there are not appropriate avenues for them to share their experiences and knowledge within the UNFCCC. Because of this, the side events and panels on Gender Day tend to be one of the few venues where women’s positive contributions can be heard within the conference. We need to re-center dialogue away from women as victims of climate change, but as key change and decision-makers. 

Side Event Panel discusses the impacts of energy extraction on communities in Georgia and the Amazon.

Side Event Panel discusses the impacts of energy extraction on communities in Georgia and the Amazon.

In order for Gender Day to fulfill its intended impact, the UNFCCC must fully recognize that gender equality is a human rights issue and address the institutional barriers that block progress. Gender Day must not only be about women, but should address the needs of all genders through gender responsive texts in the negotiations.

As Wangari Maathai said, “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness,” she said, “to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”

We Said We’d Be Back #volveremos

But are we really? We have been so limited that I wonder if we really are here. The first three days of the conference can be described in a few words:

Inaction, Redundancy, and Frustration.

And yet…

Here we are. Civil Society, the people supposed to be represented by our negotiators, fighting to be heard. While the opening sessions of the conference have been extremely lackluster, we know that there is much to be explored behind closed doors. This is my third United Nations Climate Change Negotiations, also called the Conference of Parties (COP) and this is the first time that I have been denied access to smaller text negotiations out right the first week of the conference. The norm, though not much better, is that since the close-editing of text is done in smaller rooms is that members of negotiating parties are allowed to go into the rooms first and then civil society is allowed to filter in as space is available. In the past two years, this has led to many hours of sitting on the floor outside of meetings rooms with other members of civil society talking, scheming, dreaming of just being on the other side of the walls we’re leaning on and taking the mic to tell the room what they need to do. This year- we are downright turned away and sometimes even told to leave rooms that we are waiting in.

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All of the action happens in B,C,D,E… and civil society is over in G.. by the exit…

To my understanding, constituencies have been radically restructured by the Secretariat (the governing body of the UNFCCC) over the past few years. This change is to the point where unless you have a good relationship with them or you don’t ruffle their feathers, you will not be granted the privilege to have your assigned 2 minutes to speak in negotiations (called interventions) or to do an action (which must be sanctioned and all messages on banners and signs approved or you will be ejected from the conference).

This is a space where our voices, as the constituents of our representatives, are supposed to be heard. Instead, we are put into boxes (our meeting spaces) that are out of the way (near the exit, I might add). There needs to be a way to change how we operate in the space.

So- if nothing is happening then why are we here? Well, we have to be is the simple answer. If we do not go the conference then we will not know what is actually happening. We all know how the media slants what is happening in the world and by having civil society on the ground then we are able to counter those narratives. The main reason, in my opinion, that I keep coming back is that this is the only place we currently have to talk about global agreements to address climate change.   

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But, just because it is the only space we haven’t doesn’t mean that it’s functional (which has been made very apparent the lack of progress since 1992). We are increasingly focusing our time on how we need to change the way we work within the conference space instead of how to make change in the world. The way things work in this space it is essentially the same thing, though. If we don’t iron out how to get things done in the COP, then we cannot bring our voices to the international level.

We, as civil society, need to stop being formed into mini-negotiators who are so worried about pleasing the secretariat. We need to unite and do more like the civil society walk out in Warsaw. Nothing has gotten better since then and yet we’re still sitting here watching the negotiations unfold without our consent.

We need to follow through with #volveremos.  #estamosaqui needs to resound through all of the meeting rooms. 

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State of the (Climate) Union

By 2015, the world must commit to new, stronger stances regarding action against climate change. The current platform for achieving this change is through the United Nations platform, called the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In light of the recent carbon proposal from the White House, there is much that the environmental and larger American public can be excited about: an administration where mentioning climate change is no longer taboo. There is, however, a long way to go. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) that countries have committed to raising $100 billion per year leading up to 2020 remains empty. The U.S. is being one of the first and loudest countries at COP19 to justify why they stalled, trying to push blame elsewhere and divert attention from their inaction, and all the while the majority of the American public is oblivious of the work being done. 

So here’s my Climate Change “State of the Union”: 

  • Research has recently shown that in the U.S. people respond better to media discussing “Global Warming” over “Climate Change”
  • Less than half of U.S. citizens feels that climate change is an important national issue.
  • The government signed climate denial into action when the Department of Defense tried to allocate Pentagon money for adaptation for vulnerable military bases, and changing responses to resource conflicts and climate change altered disaster response.

In light of all of this denial, there is much work ahead of activists and policy makers alike in the United States. A new report highlights that the U.S. has already faced national climate change.

 

And for those of you who don’t know, most of what you heard through various media outlets about the current state of the climate from the newly released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was water down “half truth”. Much of the content of the full report was not included in the summary circulated a week prior to its release for general digestion. So, bad news. What you read in the past few months may not have told you the whole scoop

It’s pretty obvious to me that we have a long way to go, but with so little time. Perhaps if we had media that accurately and accessibly spoke about climate issue then we may see some progress- just a thought.

Until then… I’ll keep writing.

I’m a woman, not a mythical creature.

That’s what it feels like, though. You hear stories of mythical creatures, but you never see them. The same phenomena can be seen with female-bodied party delegates.

People keep asking me “why are you even talking about gender at a climate change conference?” Well. Where do I even begin?

For background LISTEN to my interview with the lovely Angela Wiley which sums it up. 

Women are differently and more negatively impacted in every community by climate change and yet they are an extreme minority within the voices at the COP. To get what I mean, check out this WEDO report on women’s participation within the UNFCCC from 2008-2012.

While the “Doha Miracle”, Decision 23/CP.18 was a great step forward, there is still much to do. This week, the SBI reviewed and fleshed out this text, but did not come to an agreement. This, of course, was because of the United States. USA USA USA. It’s not exactly my favorite thing when my country’s national environmental council to the President’s chair says that gender is a priority so they put $5million into research with an index, but she does not acknowledge that they are part of the reason why gender equality is struggling in the COP.

Today was Gender Day in the COP. This means that an extraordinary amount of time, effort, and resources were put into having panels, sessions, luncheons, and special outside events about gender (well… women….). This also means that I spent a great chunk of my day worrying about getting my research done (AH!).

While I enjoy the idea of a gender day, I’m not very content with the messaging behind it. The work tends to be tokenizing and does not address system change and rather just cites statistics and tells the same stories. From what I’ve observed of the work done from the civil society side, white women often draft statements and then ask women of color to read them in plenaries. This means that women’s real experiences and voice is silenced for the narratives favored by the already dominant discourse.

My day started by attending the launch breakfast for the EGI. One of the first statements was “what better place to launch than Warsaw- whose symbol is the mermaid”. I’m not sure if I necessarily agree with that statement at all. To understand why, read my post about the legend of the mermaid.

And later that day an entire session was led on the subject of “what are your dreams” about gender equality where a song was sung not once, but twice. I appreciate whimsy in most aspects of my life, but in this case, I felt disenchanted in a sense. The UNFCCC Climate Negotiations are by no means a Disney movie. I can’t sing a little song to fill the green climate fund or defeat the Australian troll to allow advancements. Hell- there’s no prince here to save me, I’m being followed by a Stern looking villain who advocates for “responsible private investment”.

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Well, while we’re talking about dreams: I wish that gender day didn’t feel like a necessity. I don’t think that there should have to be a gender day with gimmicks and extra flair for people to care about the fact that women are not treated the same as men are in decision making bodies. I want respect and I want for this inequality to be addressed without people thinking that it’s not worth my time to care about. I want climate justice and what is climate justice without talking about gender differentiated impacts?

I’ve had many people in past few days asking why I would focus on gender (insinuating that because I’m working on gender issues at the COP in addition to following policy that I’m not doing something worthwhile). To me: it’s because I feel like there are so many amazing people working on other issues that I also support, that I need to highlight this very fundamental problem. I feel like if the culture of the negotiations can’t even be changed, how can we expect this body to take into account the interests of those most impacted by climate change  (*cough* women are included in that *cough*)?

Even now, the work being done within the UNFCCC looking at gender calls for the delegations to bring in more female delegates, but does not give the necessary tools to work with different cultures to increase the amount of women in domestic decision making roles. What will it take beyond policy text to have more gender equality within the UNFCCC? Is gender mainstreaming valid? What are the barriers keeping women from being involved (social, economic, cultural, personal)?

While I don’t think that numbers are necessarily an indicator of growing equality, I think that if we have to start somewhere that having more female and gender non-conforming(a concept too difficult for the UN to grapple) voices within the UNFCCC is a good start.

Fun fact: the same room, the same chairs, the same time: no women. All male discussion about what should be considered climate smart finance. If this isn’t an example enough of why gender is important at the COP, I don’t know what else to say.

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From One Oil State to Another.

Here I sit, right where I began in Texas. My journey from one oil state to another has shaped the way I see the world.

Right now, I can say that I’m experiencing some slight reverse culture shock. Why are women showing so much skin when it’s this cold outside? I don’t hear car horns blaring at all hours of the day or the prayer songs from a dozen mosques playing 7 times a day (it’s eerily quiet at night when I try to sleep). There are Christmas decorations everywhere and pictures of the Emir are nowhere to be seen (I don’t think most people in Texas know that an Emir is, even.)

After not having driven my car for over a month, it’s odd to have to freedom to drive myself around once again. There are traffic lights, stop signs, and street names. Doha’s traffic circles, nameless streets, and camel-mounted police seem so long ago, and yet it was only a few days ago.

Jet lag has taken it’s toll again, but this time I am in my own bed surrounded by the comfort of my loved ones. Overall, COP made me think quite a bit about my privilege. I may not be able to enter negotiations with a pink badge, but by meeting with my negotiators I am able to influence not only the happenings within my own country- but within others as well. As a U.S. citizen, my voice directly impacts the climate because of my country’s wrong-doings. I think that I, as well as everyone else in my country, should take away from this COP that we are working on a strict timeline- Climate change will not spare island nations while we discuss the proper adverb in one of many treaties. We need to ACT and we need to ACT NOW.

What could the future look like if everyone got involved? We need to REALIZE that the time for action is not when we start to really feel the impacts of climate change (I would argue that we’ve already felt it enough).

That We Need Climate Action Now!

That We Need Climate Action Now!

Until next time: Aloha, Doha.

Byline? Skyline.

Every evening, I have a long hour and a half to two hour long bus ride back from the QNCC (conference center) and my hotel. In the event that I am not sitting next to anyone, or anyone who would like to talk, this is my go to song:

“I got, got to get

Get my head back on

I got, got to get myself together

When this hurt is gone

I got, got to get myself together
I got, got to get

Can’t tell what’s going wrong

I wish there’s something could be done
I’m not that clever.”

There’s something remarkably soothing about zoning out, thinking of nothing, and just taking into the twinkling city lights of Doha. No thoughts of negotiations. No conversation about world problems. Nothing but my fellow Swede and I gettin’ ourselves together.

Doha nights.

Doha nights.

For now, Aloha from Doha.

Drafted December 5th, 2012 

Let the COP Begin!!!

Monday, November 26 marked the opening of the Conference of Parties 18 (COP18). My day started off bright and early with a meeting with Youth NGOs (YOUNGO) to discuss and share our ideas and what work we would like to get done at this COP.

Me enjoying some traditional Qatari coffee in the QNCC

The official day of the COP started with the opening plenary. In her address during the opening plenary, Executive Secretary to the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, shared her hopes that “the Doha COP also presents a unique challenge – to look at both the present and the future under the Durban Platform. May I dare say that under your guidance, much of this can be accomplished before the high-level segment, allowing this COP to finish not on Saturday, not on Sunday – but actually make history by finishing on Friday!”

Christiana Figueres’ address at the opening plenary (as viewed from the overflow room)

To this I say “Bring it on!” Historically, negotiations continue through the breaks over the “weekend” and tend to not propel solutions any faster. How can we make succinct, impacting, binding and non-binding agreements that are fruitful for mitigating climate change, preventing global temperature rise of 2 degrees, and keeping our atmosphere under 350 ppm? We speak our minds. We don’t take no for an answer. We react to inaction. 

On the very first day of the conference, we already had begun pressuring negotiators. An action called #ClimateLegacy staked out the front entrance that all negotiators pass through going into the conference center with youth from around the world sharing the impact that climate change has had on their lives. They asked negotiators, “what do you want to be your climate legacy?”

Sierra Student Coalition Youth Delegate Jahdiel showing negotiators the impact climate change has had on his life

In addition to the #Climate Legacy action, our very own SSC Delegate, Adriana, gave an intervention (small speech) to the opening plenary of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), saying that, “countries continue to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidizing fossil fuels each year. SBSTA should ensure its reporting guidelines for biennial reports include guidance to report on the existence of and efforts to remove these. ”

SSC youth delegate, Adriana, addressing SBSTA.

Later in the afternoon, YOUNGO had a special informal meeting with UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. Questions asked of her included:

  • How do we make the voices of youth who could not attend the COP heard by negotiators?
  • In what ways can we push a gender balance within the UNFCCC?
  • What advice would you give youth to make the most impact in their time at this year’s COP?
  • How realistic will it be for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to be passed and how can we make sure that it will be?

UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, talking with YOUNGO

After hearing Christiana speak a number of times today, I can happily tell you what I want to be when I grow up: Christiana Figueres.

Following and inspiring talk, myself and others from the SSC delegation headed to the Climate Action Network (CAN) meeting for non-governmental organizations. Now, this is a meeting that will teach you a lot. Within this meeting, there are briefings on all of the Subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC meetings and general talks about how the negotiations are going. CAN is a quirky group that awards “Fossil of the Day” to a country (or countries) who are underperforming during the negotiations and “Ray of the Day” to a country that is doing good work. The first day, CAN decided to give their “First ever ironic Ray” to the EU for:

“having already reached their pledged 2020 target almost 10 years ahead of time! They really are the fast­est under­achievers in the KP! But wait!? The EU has told us that they are not planning to increase their 2020 emissions pledge from the already achieved 20%. How outrageous! Is the EU really planning to go for the next 10 years without doing ANY further emis­sions reductions? EU you will need to quickly increase your target or the clouds will appear and it will start raining fossils on your negotiating table.”

Needless to say- I like CAN. I like CAN a lot.

That evening, we got to go over to the Sustainability EXPO for the opening party for the COP. It was a night of “mixed drinks” (which were really different types of juices mixed together since the public consumption of alcohol is illegal in Qatar- you have to be within a hotel bar), small appetizers, and native desserts (which of course included many nut and date filled goodies). After sampling these trifles, I was ready for something of substance. I saw of tray of falafel. It took another 30 minutes of searching to find it, but when I did, each and every bite of falafel tasted of sweet, sweet victory. The EXPO is filled with many companies, universities, and booths from countries. Each particular exhibit contains information (in most cases, green washing), reading materials, and SWAG. SO. MUCH. SWAG. Tricks of the trade include schmoozing, faking interest in attending a university, and relating the organizations work to your own- or, so I observed. I stuck to the whole genuine interest thing, which proved to be less fruitful.

Outside of the bougie party (strings and opera singer, included), there was a great display of traditional Qatari dancing. It consisted of many men, each carrying a sword, swaying forwarding and backward and swinging their swords to the beat of a drum. There were two drummers and one man singing (or chanting, I couldn’t say properly which one).

Traditional Qatari dancing outside of the Sustainability EXPO COP opening party

At the end of this long, long night, we went back to our hotel to welcome our 14th and final delegate to arrive, Mallory. A very good closing to a long and eventful day, indeed.

Coming soon- details about GENDER DAY

For now, Aloha from Doha.