By Maliyah Womack
Let’s talk about COP and what it has to do with you and me! COP, short for the Conference of the Parties, is an international climate meeting held each year by the United Nations. We’ve suffered for nineteen years and this year Girl Plus Environment was in attendance at COP28 in Dubai!
Why is everyone talking about COP? Why does it matter so much? Each year, various countries gather to report their progress on combating climate change, discuss and set goals, negotiate policy, and more. These discussions often revolve around each countries’ commitment to addressing climate change. The result of these commitments directly affect our lives and our community. This conference is not only crucial for our communities but for the world.
Photo Creds: Diamond Spratling
COP was originally established back in 1995 to strengthen the global response to climate change. It has been held in various locations each year, from this year's location in Dubai to Egypt, Japan, Morocco, and more. Fast forward twenty-eight years, and we are still uniting as a collective force to advocate and combat climate issues across various countries and the communities they house.
Participating in an event of this magnitude is not just a privilege; it is an extraordinary opportunity for our communities to be represented prominently in conversations that shape global policies. As we have stated previously, and unfortunately as many of us have experienced, the environmental and climate sector leadership consists predominantly of white males. Not only that, but many of the leaders across the world are predominantly males.
Photo Creds: Hannah Greenfader
Pictured Left to Right: Daniela Macaya, Saima Rasool, Arielle King, Diamond Spratling, and Mayor Errick Simmons
While we are all aware that communities of color are the most affected by climate and environmental injustices, this diversity is not accurately reflected not only in the leadership within the environmental justice movement but especially in spaces like COP. This is a stark issue that is reflected year after year not only in the sector but at COP. Last year, out of 111 speakers, only 7 were women. This year, out of 140 speakers at COP, only 15 of them were women, and while this is an improvement, it is still not enough. This disconnect not only reflects the gender biases that we face in the sector but also raises an important question noted by the Women’s Agenda: “whether female voices will be adequately listened to in the global climate conversation.” This is only one among the many crucial reasons why we need proper representation at conferences, meetings, and even in day-to-day conversations like these.
Being present at this conference is a gateway, a door, that we can keep open to ensure the issues that are most pressing to our communities are heard and amplified in these exact settings. By passing the mic to those who experience these injustices first-hand and sparking meaningful conversations around individuals who wield the power to address the most pressing issues within our communities, we can play a significant role in the impact of our futures.
Pictured Left to Right: Alice Aedy, Jaya Adapa, Zoey Red, Diamond Spratling, and Ali Weinstein
To contribute to meaningful conversations, GPE was honored to collaborate with America Is All In to co-host a youth climate panel with strong, powerful panelists like Arielle King, Daniela Macaya, Saima Rasool, and Mayor Errick Simmons. Not only did this conversation highlight the power youth hold in climate justice, but it also provided unique insight into how these amazing climate activists have been implementing on-the-ground solutions in their cities. Although some would not be able to attend in person, they were one step ahead and live-streamed the panel on YouTube!
As we continue our work in environmental and climate justice, we hope to see more of those powerful, intelligent individuals from our communities in spaces like COP to continue contributing to developing equitable, feasible solutions to climate change.