On September 25th 2021, the NYCI-led Future Generations Climate Justice Project together with Friends of the Earth Ireland held an event with the aim of explaining how the UN climate talks work, who is involved, and how young peoples’ voices fit within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and COP26.
Our five takeaways from the event:
- Climate Justice is key to unlocking the global co-operation that is essential to achieving the Paris Agreement target:
The 1992 Earth Summit – UN Conference on Environment and Development set the tone of the UN climate talks by recognising the need for deep reform of production and consumption patterns. States (countries and their leaders) understood that past development patterns would compromise the needs of future generations rather than meeting them. It is from this point onward that most of the issues arising at the UN climate summit centred around questions of equity, fairness, historic responsibility, and capability to act. All of which are questions at the heart of Climate Justice.
Long term tensions between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change focus on these questions. Climate Justice is all about ‘looking after the needs of people while looking after the needs of environment’. It is for this reason that Climate Justice is key to unlocking the global co-operation that is essential to achieving the Paris Agreement target of limiting global temperature increases to 1.5°C.
- It is important to engage with UN spaces from a point of honesty and understanding of current systemic inequality:
As activists and global citizens, it is important to engage with international structures such as the United Nations. The UN is the one place where countries come to talk about issues that impact us all. Nonetheless, we must be aware that as a space and an organisation made up of very different countries and approaches to life, rights, environment, business, community, politics, etc, the UN can very much replicate the systemic inequalities that exist in our world today. Interacting with the UN institution from a place of honesty and transparency, can allow us to admit that there are inequalities in the world, many inequalities that are systemic – we don’t even realise that they are inequalities and yet, these can provide many additional barriers for certain communities. This would in turn push for greater inclusion of marginalised communities, ensuring that they are not just included but can meaningfully participate and lead the change that we all need to see.
- Young peoples’ ability to impact the outcomes of the UNFCCC conference maybe limited, but their presence is necessary:
Although the UNFCCC process has a dedicated youth space (YOUNGO), it is apparent that young people still hold a subordinate position within adult structures of governance. This can sometimes be demoralising. Nonetheless, without youth and civil society present, these UN climate talks would be moving at an even slower pace than what they currently are. Young people may not be directly at the table, but the space youth have carved for themselves has resulted in Climate Justice being at the centre of the conversation.
- Solidarity in our action is key. We must not lose sight of the importance of collective action and actively seek to build relationships and communities that will support the vision of change:
Re-imagining and restructuring society is not a job achievable by one person. The way in which the world operates under neoliberalism, has really challenged human relations and enshrined power dynamics between regions and people that do not support collective action. Part of the required justice journey will need us to repair our relationships with one another. There is a need for activism to be rooted in communities. We must work on our egos and privileges if we want to work collectively. There is no other way to reach an equal and fair world other than including everyone. We must make sure our actions are rooted in solidarity for and with all.
- Activism is not only about fighting for change, sometimes dance and joy is what is needed to sustain the movement:
Friendship and community spirit were a common theme raised by all of our guest speakers. The power of connection through laughter and fun can make a difference when tackling social justice issues. The road to a better society for all is going to be long and arduous – a marathon and not a sprint! We must remember to include silliness and play as a reminder that we are alive and connected. This small step can make a major difference in our journey as changemakers.