Crawn Trust

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Where is the justice in Climate Justice?

Four days ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrated its 75th birthday. You’d think there’s every reason for a party.

But in Dubai where the UNFCCC COP 28 was being held it was not that simple. For years people have fought to have human rights integrated into international climate policy. Think of the right to clean air, the right to development, right to health and even the right to life.

All of this is increasingly under pressure, especially for people in climate-vulnerable areas.Women and children are particularly hard hit by the climate crisis, especially indigenous peoples in developing countries. Just think of the increasing drought and floods in parts of Kenya and Africa. Women are usually the ones who provide water and fend for the entire household. If you have to walk not 5 but 20 kilometers a day, you won’t have time for anything else. And that’s just one simple example.

We work together with government, other NGOs within and beyond the women’s movements to draw more attention to the effects of the climate crisis on women. The UN has drawn up a Gender Action Plan to support this. But its implementation runs into the same barriers as other parts of international climate policy: unwillingness and money. CRAWN Trust is working with the State Department of Gender and Affirmative Action to ensure that Kenya domesticates the enhanced Lima Work Programme on Gender and its Gender Action Plan which was adopted in 2019 during the 25th UNFCCC COP. The action plan will guide gender responsive climate policies at the national and county level.

As long as it is not recognized that international climate policy must go hand in hand with achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the situation worldwide will deteriorate. Many rich countries profess that they are working on this, but in practice they are mainly concerned with business-as-usual: economic growth in their own country. Perhaps slightly greener growth than thirty years ago – for which the necessary raw materials are happily sourced from the same poor(er) countries like our country, Kenya.

A delegate from Kenya sounded a warning in Dubai: it won’t be long before widespread unrest breaks out. Food shortages and climate migration are already commonplace in Kenya and elsewhere. Moreover, Kenya’s President William Ruto recently remarked that, due to rising interest rates, Africa will have to pay $62 billion debt repayments this year, which is

35% more than in 2022. “If you don’t solve the debt issue, you can’t solve the climate issue,” he said. But the big question is ‘Why is there too much talk but not much action?’ For 28 years world leaders have been convening to ‘discuss’ how to tackle the climate crisis and yet there is not much to show for it other than more debt especially in most African countries.

Apparently there are still two realities: the Western one, which uses the climate summits mainly as a good opportunity to do business-as-usual, even if that’s a bit greener than before; and the daily reality of most of the world’s population. They fight for their survival in a world that cares less and less about them. A bridge will have to be built quickly, otherwise the consequences will be incalculable. Let’s not forget that the climate COPs were originally intended for that…

Let’s turn back to what actually happened in Dubai the past two weeks. The ministers continued to make speeches, just like yesterday. And there have been countless rounds of consultations, mostly behind closed doors and till very late. That makes it difficult for observers to keep track of the state of affairs.

Unfortunately, that’s what happens when you break everything down instead of keeping an eye on the big picture. Or, in the words of a judge from Uganda who is part of our team:

“These climate summits are similar to what happened during slavery. If you let people work till they drop, they forget everything they ever knew and get used to being slaves. These technical negotiations are of no use; we need actual climate justice. And it is not even

national interests that block that, but the interests of a small group of extremely wealthy people who manipulate the entire world to their will.”

I have nothing to add to that but to keep advancing climate justice with conviction, boldness and foresight acknowledging that what happens in COP reflects the complexities in our world!

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