Environmental Justice Issues Pre-COP 22

As COP 22 is around the corner, let’s take a look at some of the most noteworthy issues that will be discussed pertaining to environmental justice:

The Paris Agreement

The climate change agreement negotiated during COP 21 in 2015 and ratified by 87 of 197 parties is going into effect today. Many environmental justice advocates and policy experts are skeptical about the agreement, which uses nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to uphold the agreement. Because the brunt of climate change falls most heavily on impoverished nations, the concern is that only those nations that are already struggling against poverty and those that are experiencing climate change will take the agreement seriously. Issues of enforcing and ensuring progress is made will be a topic of discussion throughout COP 22

Environmental Racism

This subject is heavily connected to almost every other issue of climate change, but it is playing an increasingly important role in discussions about climate policy as more and more research affirms that people of color (both on a global scale and in places like the U.S.) are more likely to be forced to live in the most harmful and degraded environmental situations. This ties into the fact that the vast majority of people in the world living in poverty are in Africa and South Asia, often in degraded environments left over from (or from continued) colonialism. A panel led by the African Development Bank Group is scheduled on November 8th to discuss implementation issues and community development which will touch on fighting against environmental racism. Speakers from the United Nations Refugee Agency will be addressing how to deal with displaced communities as a result of climate change in a panel on November 10th. A variety of other speakers from South Asia, Africa, and South America will be hosting panels throughout COP22 on the issue of respecting and adopting local knowledge and methods to deal with the effects of climate change.

International Aid

In recent decades, the effectiveness of international aid through NGOs and governments has come under fire. Foreign aid often does not benefit those it is intended to reach, and many believe that aid from Western and developed nations (often the culprits of climate change through historical industrial development) also imposes their cultural and societal values on those that are trying to develop with respect for the current climate situation. The question of what to do with government and charity money to most effectively fight climate change and poverty is a hot button issue to look out for as COP 22 moves forward.

Energy and Resources Production

As the United Nations hopes to lift more people out of poverty as part of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and as the world population continues to increase, the world will be faced with increasing demand for consumer goods and energy. The focus at COP 22 will be on developing renewables and technology that will allow for a higher quality of life without significantly increasing global emissions. There are many panelists at COP 22 slated to speak on issues of providing for a larger consumer population in a world where the Earth’s resources are already on their way to scarcity, such as a panel on November 11th including panelists from the Rainforest Alliance and the Amazon Environmental Research Institute that will put forth models for Latin America’s diversified and growing economies with respect to forest landscapes and the rights of indigenous peoples. A United Nations representative will also lead a discussion on November 9th highlighting the importance of water becoming universally accessible and how this will connect people in the fight against climate change while lifting them out of poverty.

These are only a few of the broad topics that will be discussed over the course of the two weeks of COP 22 in Marrakech. To find out more about issues of environmental justice and how they will be handled on a global scale in the future, continue to check out Climate Blue’s blog for updates!

This blog was a contribution of Natalie Burr, one of our wonderful members of the Ground Control Team’s Environmental and Climate Justice Topic Group.

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