COP23 Day 4 – Climate Justice Day

After an amazing day yesterday hearing some great speeches and listening to the high-level segment, I decided to stop listening to the dignitaries deliver their addresses and go to more events. We tried to attend the negotiations, but we couldn’t get in since they went closed door. From looking at the published schedule it does seem like the APA negotiations proceeded because the APA plenary is back on the schedule. A lot of talk this week has centered around the divide between the global North and South, which is primarily responsible for shutting down the APA plenary yesterday. We’ll see if this divide sneaks into the closing plenary of COP tomorrow.

Since we couldn’t get in the room to hear the wheeling and dealing, I attended some side events. The one that stood out most prominently for me was a Presidency Event Integrating Human Rights in Climate Action, a fitting topic given that today was Climate Justice Day! It was presided over by the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights (Kate Gilmore) and was opened by the COP23 President and Prime Minister of Fiji. He gave an excellent speech where the overarching message was that human rights are universal and our climate policies must protect the weak from the strong and give hope to those who are most vulnerable. The president of the Marshal Islands also gave opening remarks where she called for an end of the blame game, mentioning that all nations must be part of the solution and all actors have the responsibility to do what they can to help those in the most vulnerable places.

 The panel discussion was excellent! The big take-a-ways were the need to engage everyone in climate action and to acknowledge the special circumstances, challenges, and opportunities that different groups bring to the table. One quote from a panelist: “If you aren’t at the table you are likely on the menu. Everyone needs to have a seat at the table.” Throughout this conference a lot of discussion has focused around gender inclusion as well as in engaging the indigenous peoples. Both groups had major wins at this COP, with the establishment of a Gender Action Plan and a Local Communities & Indigenous Peoples Platform. For decades the indigenous peoples have been trying to be engaged in the development of climate action, and there is a lot of positive energy here around the fact they’ve finally gotten an official voice. Hindau Oumarau Ibrahim, who has been a major presence at this COP, was a panelist during this session and once again gave a passionate speech about engaging the indigenous peoples to help develop ideas and install paths that will met their priorities. I have really enjoyed hearing her speak throughout the week. The session ended with a closing remarks from Mary Robinson, the president of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, where she urged us to feel good about the progress we’ve made and to use that energy to develop effective climate action strategies. All in all, it was an excellent session!

The COP23 President and PM of Fiji opening the session.
The COP23 President and PM of Fiji opening the session.

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