WECAN International Analysis and Reflection on COP24 Poland Climate Talks

Mass civil society action on the final day of COP24 – Photo by Shaila Shahid

“We have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.” – Greta Thunberg, 15 years old, Sweden

"We, women, we carry our temples in our wombs. Our bodies are our own territories. Our veins are rivers, rivers that pump blood through our bodies. Our fight is for our own lives, for our own kids, for our own people. For the forests, for the people of the forests, and for the waters. Our fight is for our Mother Earth, the Mother of all Mothers.” – Hamangaí Pataxó, Youth Delegate with Engajamundo, Pataxó Ha-Ha-Hãe, Brazil, speaking during the civil society sit-in and walkout action during COP24

At this year’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) climate talks in Katowice, Poland, powerful women leaders once again brought urgency, action and demonstrations of real, justice-based solutions to a climate conference that has consistently failed to deliver the critical and immediate change our Earth and communities need.

Building upon years of work, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International was honored to once again advocate alongside diverse movement allies at the 24th COP, working to uplift the leadership of women around the world standing for  climate justice. Learn more about WECAN’s participation in past COP’s here.

Our continued participation in the U.N. climate talks stems from the knowledge that women are facing the impacts of climate change first and worst, but are simultaneously building solutions in their communities, fighting to protect Indigenous rights and knowledge, preserving seeds and biodiversity,  defending their territories from mining and fossil fuel extraction, and rejecting false solutions while advocating for a just transition to a renewable, regenerative energy future.

Throughout the week, WECAN International advocated for systemic change including calling for an immediate halt to fossil fuel extraction, ramping up financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund, ensuring that climate solutions are gender-just, promoting energy democracy and a just transition for women and workers, centering the inalienable value of seeds, biodiversity, and natural ecosystems in climate solutions, and rejecting false solutions such as bio-engineering and carbon capture and storage.

Poland, the host country of COP24, has a notoriously polluting coal industry – and many countries, including the U.S. Trump Administration, used the conference to promote dirty, extractivist and exploitative energy sources such as coal, oil, gas, uranium and nuclear. As a U.S. based organization, WECAN International also attended the COP with the intention of denouncing the Trump Administration’s role promoting coal as an affront to the planet, and advocating for a just transition to a 100% renewable, regenerative agenda.

Collaboration with the Women and Gender Constituency was crucial to our work, as we continued to track and advocate for strong implementation of the Gender Action Plan, which was adopted at the previous year’s COP in Bonn, Germany. A Key List of Demands from the Women and Gender Constituency is available here. WECAN International was further present at the COP to push for the rapid adoption and adherence to the Escazú Agreement, in alignment with our dedication to the protection of women water, forest and land defenders. More information about advocacy with the WGC, and surrounding the Escazú Agreement can be found below!

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network COP24 Delegation was comprised of three powerful women leaders, who worked in concert with allied groups, advocated at a diverse array of events, participated in civil society actions and negotiations throughout the COP, and shared their stories and messages by speaking with the media, and during at our formal side event, “Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change.”

WECAN International COP24 Delegates (left to right) Carmen Capriles, Ruth Nyambura, and Elaine Colligan

Carmen Capriles of La Paz, Bolivia started Reacción Climática in 2010, as a volunteer organization which aims to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on the Andean region. She has actively participated in different U.N. processes like the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement, with special emphasis on women’s rights and gender equality – and most recently in the Escazú Agreement, advocating for Environmental Defenders. Carmen holds a degree from Bolivia as an Engineer in Agriculture, as well as a degree in Sustainable Rural Development from Egypt. She is an honored member of WECAN  International’s Advisory Council.

Ruth Nyambura is a Kenyan feminist who works on the intersections of gender, economy and ecological justice. Her organizing and research interests are on the agrarian political economy of Africa, the rural-urban movements resisting the corporatization of Africa’s food systems and the neoliberal turn as a whole.

Elaine Colligan is an activist and organizer passionate about gender and climate justice. Originally from Seattle, Washington, U.S., she is currently reading for the Masters in Philosophy in Political Theory at the University of Oxford. Before coming to Oxford, she co-directed a political action committee, “Clean Virginia” and worked on former U.S. congressman Tom Perriello’s gubernatorial campaign, advocating against two fracked gas pipelines and for a $15/hour minimum wage. Elaine began her career in U.S. politics through working with 350 Action on the 2016 presidential election, organizing students and youth to talk to presidential candidates about climate change. She has also conducted research on gender and climate change in Djirnda, Senegal. Elaine is proud to be part of the WECAN family, having assisted on a variety of projects throughout the years, including the recently-launched “Women Speak” project. She is deeply invested in promoting climate justice as a framework to understand and approach the climate crisis, which prioritizes the needs and solutions of people living on the frontlines of climate change, in particular women and Indigenous peoples.

Background Context:

The Paris Agreement and The “Rulebook”

At a time when governments continue to fail to act on clear scientific warnings that we must rapidly transition away from fossil