14 December 2014
In the US last week hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets and insisted that ‘black lives matter’. Meanwhile their government negotiated a deal in Lima that means the exact opposite – the lives of marginalised people don’t matter.
In the past 2 weeks APWLD members involved in our Climate Justice programme have been in Lima for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change – Conference of Parties (COP 20). We were pushing for a strong, ambitious and equitable climate agreement that recognises the specific demands of the most affected – women of the Global South. Presenting the work of women from 9 most affected communities in the region–we hoped that governments would recognize both the specific, devastating impacts on women and the role they need to play in climate policies. A climate deal, we argued, must be designed for women of the region; for the Mugal women in Nepal who are losing their lands to landslides annually; for the Mundas women of Bangladesh left with no arable soil and no means of survival; for the women of Tacloban in the Philippines who, one year after typhoon Haiyan still have nowhere to call home or to make a living; for women of the Carteret Islands in PNG already evacuated and displaced from their ancestral land and for the millions of women like them who shoulder the burden of climate change.
But instead governments found a way to agree to text that weakens existing principles, lets developed countries off the hook for their historical responsibilities, ignores human rights and gender inequalities and does nothing to ensure the planet will avoid catastrophic climate change.
For two weeks developed countries insisted that it is time to abandon the principles of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ for climate change and ignore their historical responsibility for bringing this earth to the brink of disaster. For two weeks they tried to limit negotiations to only address mitigation and ignore adaptation, loss and damage and financing. And for two weeks they tried to dilute the legally binding nature of the document.
The final text to be found here includes some compromises for developed countries. It refers to loss and damage but only in the preambular section. They have agreed to include “mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity-building andtransparency of action and support in a balanced manner” … when they develop the Paris agreement in 2015. But there is no binding or clear way for really addressing adaptation, finance or technology transfer. Governments again failed to commit anywhere near the USD 100 billion already pledged for climate.
Governments are supposed to notify their ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ (INDCs) by March 2015 but the process is weakened with no clear process to review them before Paris and address the inevitable gap between pledges and the needed reductions to avoid 1.5°C warming. Governments also failed to advance commitments to act between now and 2020 when the agreement will come into force.
The Women and Gender constituency argued that women’s human rights or (as a compromise), gender equality, should be included as a guiding principle in the document but there is no reference to either gender equality nor human rights in the document. In any case, as APWLD stated during the negotiations, there is no gender equality on a dead planet.
Governments passed a resolution for a ‘Lima work programme on gender’ yet the resolution was so watered down that it undermines existing normative language and sets a dangerous precedent that governments can construct new, ill-defined terms like ‘gender responsive climate policy’ to dilute established obligations like ‘gender equality’ and women’s human rights.
One of the APWLD delegation, Marina Pervin, from Bangladesh was to read the closing statement for the Women and Gender constituency. With the delayed negotiations she was unable to do. Below is the text she was supposed to read (a shorter version was presented on her behalf by one of the members of the constituency remaining).
I am from Bangladesh — a country where up to 20 million people may be displaced by climate change by 2020, before the agreement you are negotiating even comes into effect. In a country with deep levels of poverty and extreme vulnerability to climate change, the Indigenous Mundas women I work with are most affected. They no longer have any soil to plant crops, they face daily threats to their livelihood and safety. Floods, salinity, droughts and typhoons now make the daily struggle to survive even harder for some of the most marginalised women in the world.
The agreement you have been negotiating should be for them. The agreement you adopt in Paris should be one that guarantees the Mundas women and the millions of at-risk women around the world the right to imagine a future. But in the past two weeks I have been deeply horrified to instead see governments negotiating away women’s futures, women’s rights and the security of our planet.
We came to this meeting seeking two major outcomes.
- a commitment to an effective, equitable and just new agreement that is binding, ambitious and commits to immediate, transformative action, both in regards to mitigation and adaptation and all means of implementation.
- A commitment to an agreement founded on the respect for human rights and gender equality, including the rights of future generations.
Neither of these two demands has been advanced here. It horrifies me that I will have to go back to Bangladesh and tell our communities that wealthy governments sat here negotiating which lands will be lost, which communities displaced, which cultures destroyed and which peoples lives are worthless and expendable.
Perhaps it is not shocking that wealthy countries traded our lives for profits. But it shocked me that even gender equality was traded away during these negotiations. Twenty years ago governments promised to take action to uphold women’s environmental rights and decision making through the Beijing Platform for Action. Yet in these negotiations it was not possible to even ensure ‘gender equality’ is guaranteed let alone women’s rights.
There can be no gender equality on a dead planet. Nor can we achieve a sustainable, just and livable planet without gender equality.
This was a devastating meeting for me and for millions of women. But it is not too late. In the next twelve months we must shape a new future and design new economies and new societies. Those economies must redistribute wealth, power, resources and opportunities as well as carbon in ways that allow Mundas women to imagine a future for their children. This is what the majority of people on this planet want. You have one year to show the people of this planet that democracy still exists and that the Mundas women are not expendable.
The irrefutable data presented during the climate negotiations clearly demonstrates that time is running out. At the current rate of emissions growth we are likely to reach the tipping point of 450ppm by 2030. This will result in irreversible climate catastrophe. Despite the overwhelming evidence, governments continue to protect the interests of large corporations and a tiny minority who are able to profit from climate change. If we retain any hope in governments and intergovernmental space we now have one year to mobilise, to lobby governments and to demand a future where no lives are expendable.