The alternative voices of COP27 you need to listen to

Climate Justice

The alternative voices of COP27 you need to listen to

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Pay attention to these powerful climate influencers.

News coverage of COP27 was dominated by global government leaders, NGOs, and private companies from the developed world. We instead sought out some of the most thoughtful insights that came from women, indigenous leaders and elders of the climate movement. These are voices that are beginning to filter into a conversation long dominated by men from the developed world. The people below are just a tiny sampling of the voices that must play an increasingly important role in the urgent discussions and negotiations underway on global warming and biodiversity degradation. 

Editor’s note: Thanks to Ed King of the Global Strategic Communications Council for his excellent daily updates from COP27 that included many of these important voices. 

Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders

“In a year of multiple crises and climate shocks, the historic outcome of loss and damage at COP27 shows international cooperation is possible. However, none of this changes the fact that the world remains on the brink of climate catastrophe.”  

Ani Dasgupta, President, and CEO, World Resources Institute 

“In a historic breakthrough, wealthy nations have finally agreed to create a fund to aid vulnerable countries that are reeling from devastating climate damages. This loss and damage fund will be a lifeline for poor families whose houses are destroyed, farmers whose fields are ruined, and islanders forced from their ancestral homes. This positive outcome from COP27 is an important step toward rebuilding trust with vulnerable countries.” 

Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network

“History is repeating itself. We are dealing with the overarching logic and origins of institutions pushing the financialization of climate change that has nothing to do with addressing the root cause of climate change and allows polluters to keep on polluting. They do not reduce emissions or keep fossil fuels in the ground. New financing facilities and climate finance, such as the Loss and Damage Finance Facility, do not offer new solutions or new ways of thinking; they just funnel money into more of the same false solutions.”

Makoma Lekalakala, Director: Earthlife Africa (South Africa)

“This was dubbed the African COP, and we were promised a better outcome for Africa, but this was not an African COP, it was just a meeting held in Africa.” 

Laurence Tubiana, CEO European Climate Foundation 

“The influence of the fossil-fuel industry was found across the board. This COP has weakened requirements around countries making new and more ambitious commitments. The Egyptian Presidency has produced a text that clearly protects oil and gas petro-states and the fossil-fuel industries. This trend cannot continue in the United Arab Emirates next year.”

Molwyn Joseph, chair of the Alliance of Small Island States 

“Our countries have been pushed to their very limits, and there is no lifeline in further delay tactics. We did not cause this crisis, we are bearing the brunt of the suffering, yet we are the ones constantly asked to make concessions.”

Catherine Abreu, Founder & Director, Destination Zero

“The fossil fuel industry and the elites in their pocket rallied to take over COP27. This is the last act of desperate men who first denied climate science, then delayed climate policy, and now want to usurp real climate solutions with false ones. It’s unfortunate that this COP failed to live up to the science of 1.5C by addressing the root cause of the climate crises — coal, oil, and gas. But don’t be fooled: their actions won’t stall the inevitable progress unfolding on the ground away from fossil fuels and toward efficient, renewable energy.”

Levi Sucre, Global Alliance of Territorial Communities

“The failure to ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are secured in these agreements is guaranteeing the destruction of tropical forests and their role in preventing climate change. Wealthy nations have placed indigenous peoples in the hands of governments that have repeatedly violated our rights and undermined our proven role in preventing the environmental damage that fuels climate change, biodiversity loss, and pandemic risk.”

Laura Clarke, CEO, ClientEarth

“It should now be abundantly clear to all that climate action is not a voluntary activity, nor a matter of PR: It is a legal duty. Litigation risks will increase, with more claims against not just governments and fossil fuel companies but also food and agriculture, transport, plastics, and finance.”

Vanessa Nakate, Climate Justice Activist, Uganda

“COP27 was meant to be the ‘African COP’ where Loss and damage was the unignorable issue, and years of pressure from vulnerable countries and activists have moved us closer to where we need to be. But, we will not have justice until money starts to flow to vulnerable communities, so there is much work still to do.” 

Nnimmo Bassey, Director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation and Co-ordinator of Oilwatch International 

“We won’t applaud half-hearted whispers. Negotiations at COP27 willfully played down the climate emergency. On Loss and Damage, the COP merely offered a fig leaf, a call for a committee for more talks while communities drown in floods or fry in droughts.”

Natalie Unterstell, President of Talanoa, Brasil

“COP27 has failed to deliver an ambitious vision to adaptation, with consequences to the protection of people and the planet.” 

Wanjira Mathai, Vice President & Regional Director for Africa, World Resources Institute

“The current [COP27] does not improve on the Glasgow one. The absence of oil and gas phase-out among the biggest emitters is crucial for the deep and sustained decarbonization required to keep within 1.5C degrees.”

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Climate Envoy of the Marshall Islands 

 “I’m proud I got to be here to witness this happen and contribute in a small way. Worn out but so worth it to protect already disappearing islets, shorelines, and culture. So many people all this week told us we wouldn’t get it. So glad they were wrong. I wish we got the fossil fuel phase out. The current text is not enough. I think next year can come back next year and get rid of fossil fuels once and for all.”

Caroline Mair-Toby is the Chief Empowerment Officer for SHE Changes Climate and the founding Director of the Institute for Small Islands

“It is time the world understands our knowledge, and we also uplift our Indigenous sisters and brothers within our ranks and celebrate their scientific knowledge. We must respect all Indigenous Peoples’ and First Nation’s rights to their cultural heritage based on the fundamental rights to self-determination, inclusive of all aspects of cultural practices, traditional knowledge, resources, and knowledge systems. Because it is this knowledge that will help the earth heal.”

Written by

Blair Palese

Blair Palese is a writer and project manager on a range of climate change projects. In 2009, she cofounded 350.org Australia and was its CEO for 10 years. Previously, she was a communications director for Greenpeace International and Greenpeace USA, head of international public relations for the Body Shop, editor-in-chief of Greenpages magazine, and worked at Washington Monthly and ABC.