December 16, 2019
By: Sabrina Patlan

COP25: An Overview

One can access the COP25 weekly schedule via the UNFCCC website, or there are plasma screen TVs that roll through the automated schedule located in every hall.

There are so many panels, roundtables, and high-level segments happening every half hour, it can be difficult deciding which one to go to. The first day I planned out my itinerary and tried to stick to it as much as I could, but throughout the day I became so overwhelmed and stressed that I ended up leaving the convention early — around 4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday I adopted a more relaxed and fluid way which allowed me to see various demonstrations, press conferences, and be present in each session.

My favorite session that I was able to attend was a press conference titled, ​Women for Climate Justice on the Frontlines of Systemic Change. This panel was made up of Ariel Daranje, Rita Waka, Sonja Bonjay, Casey Pamcoick, all of whom are indigenous women.

They spoke passionately about the importance of water and the forests with respect to their indigenous tribes. Ariel Daranje spoke about how currently in Brazil and Canada there are numerous mining exploitations taking place. And she went on to state that in a number of these cases, it is women who are the ones leading protests and defending the land. For example, in Canada, 75% of those incarcerated are indigenous women.

“In Paraguay, there is no access to drinking water for indigenous people because it is privatized and therefore we rely on the earth and the rain. Women are specifically impacted the most because we are the ones without access, we are the ones that stay at home to take care of the children and the house. If our children get sick we use natural medicine and water provided to us by the forest but when our forests are burned or parceled to the highest bidder we lose our practices — and more importantly our right to live.”

The patriarchal systems, capitalism, and toxic European religions are destroying our earth. “This is the 25th COP and still nothing is getting done…We feel so frustrated…These presentations here [COP25] are speaking about ‘nature-based solutions’ when they are not even asking the indigenous communities from those countries for their input. Instead, they are acting like they are the saviors.” – Casey Pamcoic

Imagine what the outcome would be if this COP was run by grassroots movements and indigneous women. The reality is that for many of these communities, traditional food and water sources are diminishing due to the continued exploitation of resources and the effects of climate change.

Throughout the conference, indigenous delegates and youth representing all regions of the world stood together to encourage world leaders to listen to how the policies being decided on directly impact their communities.

United they sought to ensure that their rights and traditional knowledge were heard, respected, and protected when discussing global efforts on how to deal with the climate crisis. Disappointingly, despite these efforts many times these voices and concerns were tabled or outright silenced. Instead, it was all too common that when ​indigenous people would speak to elected officials or representatives — people with power — the response would be that they understood or heard the concerns, but that nothing could be done. Meaning that unfortunately the voices and language of these indigenous people would yet again be missing from negotiations, policies, and solutions.

Another takeaway I had was how the global North touts some of these nature-based solutions as their own inventions or solutions, when in reality, these solutions have long been practiced by indigenous communities. Indigenous groups have been working and speaking about nature-based solutions; they’ve been practicing these solutions and knowledge for centuries. But here are the NGOs and the global North coming to COP and acting like they have this novel idea of using “nature-based solutions.”

Despite societal pressure to reform the policies to include the voices of the indigenous, it is my contention that those in power feel hesitant, if not threatened, by the integration of these voices since it would change their business as usual model.

This accounts for part of the lag seen when it comes to the inclusion of these marginalized voices. Men feel threatened by women’s continued drive in the workplace, leading to backlash. This is, in part, because those who benefit from the current system feel threatened and would like to preserve hierarchies. However, it is essential to acknowledge that indigenous issues are linked to ours and thus demand mutual cooperation.

The underlying issue is that in order to perceive a problem, one must first be conscious of one existing — and when people are not invested, or if voices are purposefully left out, changing perceptions is challenging. This is where discussion lifts the veil to create consciousness.

And with the use of technology, it is now easier than ever to connect with people and information. This rise in technology has made the challenge of making people aware and changing perception much easier. Al Gore once stated that, “it’s hard for us as human beings and citizens of our respective countries to imagine that the world could act together. But we must. It’s the only way to solve the climate crisis.”