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An Indigenous woman at a protest

Micaela Iron Shell has painted red hands over their mouth during a rally with climate activist Greta Thunberg at Civic Center Park on October 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo: R.J. Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

'A Choice Point for Humanity': Women Demand Visionary Shift at UN Climate Talks

"This is the time to unite together to build the healthy and just future we know is possible for each other and the Earth."

Julia Conley

As world leaders gathered in New York for the United Nations General Assembly Thursday and amid preparations for a global climate conference coming up in November, women leading more than 120 international organizations delivered a call to action demanding "a transformation of how we relate to the natural world and to one another"—one that will enable far-reaching action to save the planet.

"As the world prepares for one of the most important climate talks since the Paris Agreement, we know solutions exist to mitigate the worst impacts, and that women are leading the way."
—Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International

 
Led by Women's Earth & Climate Action Network (WECAN) International, the organizations called on governments and financial institutions to commit to policies that prioritize "social, racial, and economic justice for all" as they work to keep the heating of the planet below 1.5C.
 
"We must rapidly halt the extraction of oil, gas, and coal and end all deforestation while building a new economy predicated on community-led solutions," reads the call to action, which was signed by groups including MADRE, CodePink, and Women's Earth Alliance.
 
"As we herald in sustainable, democratic, and equitable governance paradigms, we need to prioritize the leadership and well-being of women, gender non-conforming people, Black and Brown communities, and Indigenous peoples who are disproportionately impacted by climate change, but also lead the frontlines of systemic solutions," the groups said.
 
 

The organizations also plan to present their demands at the 2021 U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November, where leaders from nearly 200 countries will be under pressure to increase their ambitions to reduce emissions and uphold their existing obligations to frontline communities across the globe, particularly in the Global South.

"We are at a choice point for humanity," said Osprey Orielle Lake, executive director of WECAN International. "Every day, we can see for ourselves forest fires burning all over the world, massive flooding, extreme droughts, people losing their livelihoods and lives—we are in a climate emergency. As the world prepares for one of the most important climate talks since the Paris Agreement, we know solutions exist to mitigate the worst impacts, and that women are leading the way."

The call to action includes a number of steps recommended for governments as well as financial institutions, including:

  • End fossil fuel expansion and rapidly accelerate a just transition to 100% renewable and regenerative energy;
  • Promote women's leadership and gender equity;
  • Protect the rights of Indigenous people by upholding all treaties, and follow Indigenous communities' traditional ecological knowledge;
  • Protect forests and biodiversity with a global moratorium on logging and a phase-out of agricultural practices that cause soil erosion and depletion;
  • Preserve oceans and freshwater;
  • Promote food security and food sovereignty;
  • Protect the rights of nature; and
  • Halt the financing of all fossil fuel projects.
The call to action comes ahead of a six-day virtual forum organized by WECAN.
 
At the Global Women's Assembly for Climate Justice, which begins Saturday, speakers will include scientist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall; Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Nation, a WECAN board member and environmental ambassador; Ruth Nyambura of the African Ecofeminist Collective in Kenya; and Sônia Bone Guajajara of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.
 

"As a Matriarch of the Ponca Nation, I am honored to have the responsibility of caring for the generations to come by ensuring the health and welfare of Mother Earth, Father Sky, and Relatives in every form," said Camp-Horinek. "Life itself hangs in the balance, and we women are coming together to say that we must make the correct choices for our collective future now."

Events at the six-day forum will include discussions about protecting the planet's forests, rejecting "greenwashing" by corporations, and supporting feminist frameworks for climate justice.
 

"We can act now and we must act now, which is why WECAN is hosting the Global Women's Assembly for Climate Justice to uplift women, gender-diverse and community-led solutions, strategies, policies, and frameworks to address the climate crisis," said Lake. "It is code red and we are drawing a red line to say no more sacrifice people and no more sacrifice zones. This is the time to unite together to build the healthy and just future we know is possible for each other and the Earth."


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