COP27 has been, well, something. So many things actually. There has been a question in my mind from day one here for me: whose voices matter?
Whose voices are heard? Whose words get lost in the trade-show style space, each pavilion’s panel competing — literally turning up the mics — so theirs can be heard over the dull roar.
Whose voices matter? When three Indigenous delegates released a battle cry and stood to hold a banner proclaiming “People vs Fossil Fuels” during Joe Biden’s speech, they were removed from the venue and had their delegate badges revoked. The same speech where he bragged about being the “Climate President”; the same Joe Biden who has approved more new fossil fuel permits than any other president.
Whose voices are heard when protests must be pre-approved by the UN, and therefore, contained before they happen? Whose voices matter when this COP’s protests must happen within the Blue Zone, hidden away and isolated from a local community who could participate or even increase their awareness as a result of witnessing a large-scale protest.
Whose voices matter when civil society members get ‘observer’ badges, but when the negotiations between Parties get really gritty, are pushed away from the table and shut out, and can’t even observe, let alone participate? As an African Worker’s Rights activist said in the People’s Plenary today, “for how long will we be observers?”
Indigenous people steward 80% of the world’s natural resources; their ancestral technologies and lived wisdom could be such valuable resources. And those fortunate to access COP badges are often shut out of important conversations and negotiations. At the same time, there are 636 lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry at COP27. 29 countries brought a total of 200 fossil fuel lobbyists as part of their official delegation. Canada’s official delegation included representatives from Enbridge, the company behind Minnesota’s Line 3 pipeline.
There are twice as many fossil fuel lobbyists as delegates from the official UN constituency for Indigenous peoples.
Whose voices count?
Whose voice was at the table when the E.U. recently declared that natural gas was a ‘green energy’?
Whose voice contributed to the decision to have Egypt — a country with rampant human rights violations, with current practices and future plans to expand fossil fuel extraction — host COP27, basically granting them a grand greenwashing opportunity while knowingly limiting the participation of those most impacted by the climate crisis?
As the parties argue about whether or not to keep the 1.5 degrees limit on temperature increase, or raise it to 2 degrees;
as they fail to add human rights protection language into the Loss and Damage protocol;
as they fail to even understand what Action for Climate Empowerment is and legally binds them to do;
and as they fail, even when they know better, to even use the term fossil fuels in their long inaccessible documents full of technical jargon and legalistic language.
Our world continues to warm, ecosystems continue to collapse, climate weather disasters increase, and ice sheets are melting. If we overshoot 1.5 degrees, Aminath Shauna (Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology for Maldives) shared that sea levels will rise and her country will simply cease to exist physically.
There are 20,000+ people attending COP27; a fraction of the global human experience. 20,000 stories. Too many waiting to be told and to be heard.
So, please, tell me: whose voice matters?
Susan Phillips is an activist, educator/facilitator/trainer, specialist in participatory and servant leadership, and an experienced non-profit leader. She has led programs for unhoused youth in the Twin Cities and Central America, held leadership roles in the food justice and education justice ecosystems, and volunteered in youth leadership settings. Susan has a BA in Cultural Anthropology and a MA in Leadership Studies. When not engaged in community building projects, Susan is a backyard farmer, artist, year-round cyclist, student of life, and parent of three fantastic young adults. Susan joined the Climate Generation team in September as our new Executive Director, and is excited to participate directly in our Window Into COP27 program.
Susan is one of Climate Generation’s Window Into COP delegates for COP27. To learn more, we encourage you to meet the full delegation and subscribe to the Window Into COP digest. You can support our delegates at COP27 with a financial gift today!