Raising their voices, calling for justice

A recurring theme – and social media meme – surrounding COP26 is how far the concerns of ordinary people are being heard. Cries of “greenwashing” are getting louder.

“Is anyone listening to us?” has become a leitmotif, especially among the young.

Meanwhile, faith groups have called for climate justice to move centre-stage, with meetings this week to advocate for financial support for nations most affected by global heating, and to call for ecocide to become enshrined in international criminal law.

On Saturday, up to 100,000 people marched through Glasgow to voice their concern about the climate emergency and to underscore their right to be heard.

Cries of -greenwashing- are getting louder

 

The march was organized by COP26 Coalition, the group behind the People’s Summit, a multi-faceted gathering for civil society that runs alongside the official UN-sponsored negotiations. It was among some 250 marches in cities across the world, and followed Fridays’ protest with speakers including Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate.

“BK delegates joined the faith block and spent four hours waiting and walking. It poured with rain and the wind blew cold, but meeting many friends along the way warmed our hearts’” said Ruth Liddle, from Inner Space, Manchester.

Valériane Bernard, BK UN representative, added: “The sound of songs and laughter, the smiles of strangers becoming one, the warmth of human fragility and the desire to make a difference filled the rainy climate with sun in such a way that when a rainbow shone in the sky all celebrated in an impromptu cheer.”

A rainbow was cheered by all

Creating safe spaces for dialogue

Also on Saturday, in the UNFCCC Blue Zone, an event by Open Dialogues on Climate Change heard young and indigenous people around the globe put forward ideas for tackling the crisis.

Established earlier this year by Zuzanna Borowska and Daniel Polak, the Dialogues have reached over 50 countries, with local teams on the ground organizing forums where people from politics, business and science meet youth and others. The focus is on exchanging experiences, empowering participants, and finding solutions, respectfully and openly.

BK Shantanu Mandal, from India, highlighted individual and collective awareness of climate concerns, and of prioritizing education to raise awareness among both teachers and students. Jordanian activist Zara Abu Taher emphasized translating awareness into practice, according to community needs and priorities.

National teams reported on outcomes. Among them: from the UK, a call for a “pay to pollute” statute; from Mexico, a focus on coastal zones and water resources, and a call for institutional protection for environmental activists (the organization Global Witness reported that, across the world, 227 activists were murdered in 2020 – including a campaigner for indigenous rights in Mexico*); and from Indonesia, where a Mandala Open Dialogue for local and indigenous youth provided a safe space to speak up and build capacity.

Inside the blue zone

Towards climate justice

The need to establish an adequate financial mechanism to help the world’s poorest deal with the climate emergency was highlighted this week, with faith groups urging rich countries to fulfill their moral obligations. They drew attention to the link between climate justice and human rights.

Make COP Count, an informal group drawn from UK faith communities, highlighted the huge loss and damage suffered by countries least able to bear the costs.

Wealthy countries should provide finance – as grants rather than loans that simply increase their debt burden – on the principle of “the polluter pays”; and public funds must no longer be used for fossil fuels, they said.

This came at a time when a US-based hedge fund was reported by the British newspaper The Financial Times to have profited to the tune of $400 million in October alone from volatility in natural gas prices, by speculative buying as prices fell, and selling as they rose.

At another meeting on Monday, Faith for Ecocide Law, Rev. James Bhagwan, Pacific Islands, noted that ecocide law – like human rights law – would provide an essential safety net. He argued that it establishes “a line that is not to be crossed” and it is essential – now.

*Source: BBC News report, 13 September

Windy and wet conditions did not deter Saturday’s marchers….

 

 

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