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COP 21: A Peaceful Climate

January 12, 2016

In December 2015, WILPF sent a delegation to the COP21 conference in Paris. The Cop21 delegation consisted of WILPFers from different Sections, with Heidi Meinzolt from WILPF Germany being the focal point for the delegation and conferences hosted by WILPF. If you would like to know more about WILPFs involvement in Cop21, please read Heidi Meinzolts summary below.

Picture of people in front of banner

WILPF delegation at one of the workshops on women, climate change and militarism Photo: COP 21 delegation

Report from COP21

“The challenges of climate change and gender injustice resemble each other, in that they require the existing (and deeply flawed) systems of power, politics and economics to be addressed and overcome,” writes (gendercc – women for climate justice)

WILPFers from France, Germany, Italy, US, Norway, and Australia met in Paris on the basis of our analyses of the root causes of violence and war. WILPFers know that it is not just a technical problem to reduce emissions and lower the ecological footprint. Our strategy for a transformative and peaceful society is questioning the capitalist economic system and defining alternatives.

“The economy must serve human necessities and not those of profit and privileges” (L.G. Heymann in 1915).

The quote listed above stipulates that the economy must be based on human rights and women’s rights, where it must be inclusive and participative. Sustainable development needs to stand up and protest against the exploitation of nature and human resources, and especially against militarism.

WILPFers take into account the relevance of care economy, de-growth, sustainable life-styles and the sustainable development goals (SDG) specifically referring to peace, refusing trade agreements which give priority to multinationals, and stopping austerity politics with the privatisation of social and health services in their package. This was what our delegation brought into the forefront within the numerous (in)formal debates at the public exhibition space Generation Climate.

During the events, we networked with a high number of different groups, many of whom were part of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC). This networking was important in order to exchange knowledge among civil society organisations and to get ideas on how we could influence the official briefings and negotiations.

During COP21, we held three workshops in particular, as well as talked with refugee women who shared their experiences. The meeting with the refugee women was organised by Gisèle Noublanche, President of WILPF France.

WILPF Workshops

Our first workshop was entitled ‘Feminist Network Against Climate Change’ in the Paris town hall: Heidi Meinzolt from WILPF Germany, introduced the concept, referring to “conflict prevention in the context of climate justice.” Sophie Morel, from WILPF France, talked about politics against extractivism and the use of nuclear power: how the exploitation of natural resources by multinationals on a great scale destroys the environment, and how this concept is a root cause of conflicts.

Nicole Roelens, from WILPF France, added a broader context to the workshop concerning ‘predatory relationships’ for economic profit, where women become main victims within this issue. She emphasized the right to resist against each form of violence and the necessity that human beings and women re-appropriate their sometimes self-sufficient autonomy and practice solidarity.

There was also a very lively discussion with participants from Asia, Iraq, and Syria; these women who participated were highly active and interested in WILPF activities. We ended up with a proposal to name and shame the perpetrators and to ‘de-colonize our imaginary!’

Our second and third workshops took place in the “Village of Alternatives” in Montreuil, a community close to Paris.

The first of these workshops was on nuclear issues, entitled ‘Nuclear Energy Doesn’t Save the Climate’.  The workshop was guided by Sophie Morel, from WILPF France, who introduced discussions about the disastrous use of nuclear energy, particularly in France. Within the workshop, Sophie Morel stated that: “nuclear power is the opposite of responsible climate politics.” This means that nuclear power and energy massively contributes towards problems of climate change, and does not support climate change politics.

Eva Fjödestal, from WILPF Norway, added important insight to the discussion, stating that: “Nuclear power is not carbon-free. Nuclear weapons and nuclear power are two sides of the same coin. Nuclear energy cannot compete financially with renewable energy, and there is no good solution to the storage of the most dangerous waste, as well as spent nuclear fuel.” Eva highlighted the critical destruction that nuclear energy causes, and its mass implications on climate change as a whole.

Eva Fjödestal also pointed out the fact that the decommissioning of old nuclear facilities is a major financial, technical and time consuming challenge. Accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima could happen again and should not be underestimated within the world today. Health effects of ionizing radiation is a very underreported issue, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is not free to examine and report on these effects that arose from Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Furthermore, other speakers took the stage to introduce new insight into this issue. June Norman (WILPF Australia) spoke about uranium mining and nuclear deposits, particularly on aboriginal land. Angie Zelter, a UK anti-nuclear activist, talked about the dangers of military use, primarily the use of Trident submarines within in the UK and beyond. Dominique Lalanne, a member of ICAN and abolition 2000, highlighted the dangers of nuclear accidents and its various implications.

The 2nd workshop that took place in Montreuil pertained to the connections between women, climate change and militarism, entitled ‘Women Facing Climate Change’. Jill Stein, a past US presidential candidate for the green party in 2012, spoke about the impact of military activities on the climate. She condemned the massive energy consumption concerning US military interventionism worldwide and linked this concept to an understanding of this being a counterproductive strategy against terror through war.

Stein’s appeal called for people: not to be intimidated – not to be silenced!

Marta Benavides, who was a member of WILPF El Salvador before the section closed, focussed on the dramatic consequences of militarism and climate change on the indigenous people. Benavides highlighted the importance of peace being the prerequisite for survival and a sustainable development oriented world. This very much becomes the reason why the last SDG referring to “peace” is so necessary; to ensure that our world becomes a habitable and peaceful place focusing on sustainability and justice for all.

“No peace without justice – no justice without peace!”

Anita Fisicaro, a member of WILPF Italy and WILPF’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative, talked about the major challenges for FAO that have become forefront in the 21st century, where conflicts are now one of the most difficult contexts in which to fight hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Conflicts also cause a terrible amount of pollution, which is normally underestimated and tends to fly under the radar. Therefore, Fisicaro emphasizes that fighting for climate justice is essentially fighting for conflict prevention, as both are inter-dependent mechanisms that become intertwined.

Speakers behind a table

WILPF workshop on nuclear power and climate change Photo: COP 21 delegation

The Gendered Aspects of Climate Justice

Women are the majority of climate change victims today, namely indigenous women and displaced women, where 70% of the poorest worldwide within the climate margin make up women who are climate refugees.

Even though women make up a large part of climate refugees, they also tend to be key game changers in finding solutions towards the climate crisis. Many women today tend to reject high-risk technologies and monocultures, preferring a more holistic approach, including vast changes in lifestyle and helping other neighbouring women that might be climate refugees as well. As a vast majority of small-scale farmers are women, they produce sustainable food, which in effect guarantees not only food security for their families and their environment, but also heavily focuses on food sovereignty and subsistence farming.

The WGC provides interesting key messages and insight into the role of women in creating change towards climate issues. The WGC highlights that adapting and mitigating to climate change flows are critical towards women and men’s enjoyment of economic and social rights. Climate change policies and financing must seek to promote sustainable development as a basis for gender equality, in order to provide women and men equal amounts of stability. Global, regional, and national climate financing policies and projects must ensure positive synergies between adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer, and gender so as to keep sustainable development at the forefront, and to include a gender equality framework into the mix.

If you would like to know more about women and climate justice, visit Women Climate Justice and spread the word!

The Process of Negotiations

The WGC, a civil society observer, is one of the nine stake-holder groups of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Established in 2009 and granted full constituency status in 2011, the WGC consists of 15 women and environmental NGOs, who are working together to ensure that women’s voices are heard and their rights are embedded in all processes and actions of the UNFCCC framework, so that gender equality and Women’s Human rights are central in the fight against climate change.

The WGC organised briefing sessions for official congress attendants and experts each morning, and invited them to discuss at the constituency’s seat, where people such as: Mary Robinson, Corinne Lepage and others were present. They lobbied hundreds of singular changes in the treaty and published 11 key demands.

Photo from peaceful demonstration

WILPFer’s participating in a peaceful protest at Cop21 Photo: Mona Caron

In accordance with us, they agreed to take the relationship between Gender, Climate change and militarism more seriously, and organised women’s day under the premise of peace and climate justice, also including the participation of many indigenous women.

In a debate, we agreed to formulate a 12 Key Demand before COP 22 in Morocco. In these demands, we will bring back the discussion on the role of militarism in contributing to climate change. Since the Kyoto Protocol, the link between militarism and climate change has been excluded from high level negotiations. We need to bring back the focus on this as militarism is among the greatest polluters!

The Overall Outcome

As a result, it seems like COP21 created a positive change, being that all States agreed on a common platform and treaty; the urgency and necessity in tackling climate change is starting to turn the wheels on everyone’s mind and is becoming an obvious concept worldwide. However, it is up to the political will and power games of those that have the ability to re-write written rule and implement adequate measures to keep the limit under the famous 2°.

A great responsibility on all of our shoulders becomes a continuous follow up and lobbying by civil society actors, as well as those that deeply care about the environment, to push and lobby for greater solutions and evidently the big transformation.

“System Change – Not Climate Change!”

Report by Heidi Meinzolt

27.12.2015

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