WE ACT at Paris Climate Summit

Source: Diane Lane Hymans

Source: Diane Lane Hymans

This week, WE ACT staff and members are in Paris, France for the COP21 Climate Summit.

On the weekend of December 5-6, 2015, visitors and locals alike found the area next to the Metropolitan station “Mraire de Montreuil” transformed into a global eco-village. Assistants wearing “I speak English” pins and bright green crossing guard vests with“Alternatiba” printed across the back handed out program booklets and navigated those in need of direction. Alternatiba, an organization whose organizers’ demonstrate alternatives to raise awareness and stimulate behavior changes that address Climate Change had its staff spread wide across the global village. A series of workshops, performances, parades, information tables, displays, and peaceful demonstrations made the village and message that a binding agreement to combat climate change is much needed, come to life.

Samedi (Saturday) Dec. 5, 2015

WE ACT participated in a march/parade early Saturday afternoon to showcase solidarity with front-line groups affected by climate change. I got to meet Helena from Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and together, toting orange bandannas that read “it takes roots to weather the storm”, we marched around the pavilion behind a band of Parisians singing, clapping, and dancing in French. Other delegates from “It takes roots” were putting together an art piece/attending workshops in the vicinity.

After me and Helena split up, I decided to visit the Climate Generations area in “Le Bourget” to attend a workshop facilitated by the Medellin Collaborative for Urban Resilience – a collaborative made up of groups: UN Habitat, UNISDR, the World Bank, ISDR, IDB, the Rockefeller Center, 100 Resilient Cities, C40 cities, GFDRR, and ICLEI. The workshop was titled “Global Tools and Strategies for Building Resilience: A training and information sharing session for cities and local governments on resilience building tools and strategies”. Sitting two rows in front of me was a representative from the mayor’s office of Panama City, Panama and the mayor of Santiago, Chile. They were there to gain insight on joining the initiative “100 resilient cities” that New York City (I later googled) was already a part of.

To be a part of this initiative, you had to:

  • Designate a chief resilience officer within your mayor’s office.
  • Develop a city resiliency strategy.
  • Develop a platform of services.

Each city who is accepted gets the opportunity to network with other cities of similar capacities that provide implementation strategies and models of success. I would have liked to ask how far along New York City was in its stages of becoming resilient and how vulnerable populations were being supported. Cynthia Rosenzwig co-director of the Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN) presented about The ARC3.2 Summary for City Leaders of the Second UCCRN Assessment Report on Climate Change and Cities, a synthesis of the latest scientific research on climate change and cities. I hope to take a closer look and possibly contribute to this document moving forward with the work we are doing with the NIEHS Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan.

Getting the opportunity to wander around the Climate Generations area after the workshop that evening, I stumbled upon a number of different ways visitors could get involved and interact with each other through social media, art displays, co/net-working spaces, laptop tables, and charging spaces.

Dimanche (Sunday) Dec. 6, 2015

On Sunday morning, I tried to make it to a workshop at the citizen’s climate summit: Equality, Poverty, & the Environment. To my surprise, this workshop didn’t take place. I proceeded to attend another workshop: Climate Change and the Threat to our Food, Land, Water and Resources and was again disappointed. I talked to other visitors looking for other workshops in the building who were also disappointed in not having found their workshops. My guess is the presenters never showed up. I walked back down to the village to get something to eat and enjoyed the company of another parade/march.

After lunch, I saw a crowd of people moving back toward the workshop locations. I followed them and attended the workshop suggested by the “It Takes Roots” delegation: Climate Justice for Migrants, Migrant Communities, and Migrant Movements. Truly inspiring, this workshop brought leaders from “La Via Campesina” – an organization whose mission is ‘Unity among peasants, landless women farmers and rural youth’, into the same room to share their experiences around their country’s victims to climate events. Represented in the room were leaders from Bangladesh, Colombia, Zimbabwe, France, Senegal, and Mali. Common across all regions was the lack of care and attention given to migrants after having relocated and difficulties trying to migrate in the first place.

Via Campesino leaders suggested migrants were exploited and still faced hardships of being separated from family members and given a lower quality of life. The leaders from African countries echoed concerns that they had long been victims of colonization and that colonizers easily entered into Africa, yet when they themselves have tried to move into European countries, this process is much more complicated; their own governments won’t give them visas to leave. If they do leave and make it out, the countries in which they move to aren’t welcoming. Some have moved back to Africa where their previous connections look down upon them, further adding to stress and poor social well-being. This workshop really put into perspective the struggle of climate refugees and what solutions to this problem look like.

The last workshop that I went to in the evening was titled Climate Justice Experiences and Leadership of African American Youth led by the NAACP and Historically Black Colleges and Universities Climate Change Initiative. This interactive workshop got participants up and out of their chairs answer the following questions and put the answers into a blueprint for action:

  1. how do we educate faith based organizations to address climate justice?
  2. how do we get k-12 educators to address climate justice?

Participants in the workshop suggested working with faith based organizers to use churches as community spaces to talk about climate issues, to incorporate the theme of stewardship, to work with children who are undergoing development and learning about behavior changes, etc. Participants also suggested working with teachers to spend time outdoors, to incorporate climate justice into the curriculum, to incorporate advocacy and learning more about local governance, and creating clubs/extra curricular activities to address climate issues. I enjoyed what other youth in the room had to share about their experiences and what other youth could do to address climate justice in their own communities.

As the second week of negotiations kicks off at Conference of the Parties (COP) 21, I look forward to continuing discussions with representatives of other delegations, students, and youth who are working in their own communities to address climate issues. I also look forward to representing vulnerable populations.


tout a l’heure


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