CLIMATE JUSTICE NOW:
Urgent Action Steps for Governments and Financial Institutions During UNGA, COP26, and Beyond 

A Call to Action from the Global Women’s Assembly for Climate Justice: 
Solutions from the Frontlines and the Protection and Defense of Human Rights and Nature
An inclusive space across identities and the gender spectrum
September 25 - 30, 2021

To Country Leaders, Policymakers and Financial Institutions:

 

The science is clear: we must keep global warming below 1.5°Celsius to preserve a liveable planet for ourselves and future generations.1  

We are speaking out on behalf of growing, diverse movements for global climate justice.

 

We are speaking out in recognition of the sacred interdependence of all life on Earth, and with the knowledge that business-as-usual economic models predicated on fossil fuel extraction have ushered in an era of unprecedented planetary distress, in which life as we know it is perilously threatened.

 

This call to action is necessary in that the new IPCC Sixth Assessment Report affirms that climate change is unequivocally caused by humans and issues the dire warning that current government commitments will not keep global warming below 1.5° Celsius.2

 

We call on governments and financial institutions at COP26 and beyond to steadfastly commit to keep global warming below 1.5° Celsius, as stated in the Paris Agreement, via policies that simultaneously prioritize social, racial and economic justice for all.3 As the COVID-19 pandemic has tragically demonstrated, our current global system entrenches many structural inequities in access to power, resources, opportunities and well-being that determine the life prospects for people around the world. It has never been more clear that the global climate response must address these inequities.

 

In order to do this, we are calling for a transformation of how we relate to the natural world and to one another. We must transition from an extractivist, colonial paradigm of exploit, extract and decimate to a sustainable, globally-conscious one of respect, restore and replenish.  Consumption needs to be reduced as we prioritize circular economies and regenerative systems.

 

We must rapidly halt the extraction of oil, gas, and coal and end all deforestation while building a new economy predicated on community-led solutions. As we herald in sustainable, democratic and equitable governance paradigms, we need to prioritize the leadership and well-being of women, gender non-conforming people,  Black and Brown communities , and Indigenous peoples who are disproportionately impacted by climate change, but also lead the frontlines of systemic solutions. Moreover, we must redress the historical and current harms of racialized labor and resource exploitation. It is also vital to  ensure dignified conditions of work and care for all. 

 

We must also recognize the inalienable rights and invaluable traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples, and follow their environmental justice leadership in all climate solutions. We are calling for the protection of biodiversity, seed sovereignty, and food security, as well as for respect for the rights of nature, including the forests, oceans, rivers and lands upon which all life depends.

 

False solutions, such as natural gas, dangerous nuclear power plants, mega-dams, geo-engineering, bioenergy, forest offsets, carbon trading schemes, and carbon capture and storage have no place in any climate action plan.4 Rather, it is imperative that governments and financial institutions adopt Just Transition policies and frameworks.5

 

We call on all governments to respect the right of freedom of expression and peaceful protest, and to immediately halt the criminalization of land defenders, whose efforts are central to a climate-just world.

 

We are calling for action from both governments and the financial sector, as these entities work in tandem and each one enables the actions and policies of the other. Accordingly, this document includes both Action Steps for Governments and Action Steps for Financial Institutions.

 

We Can Act Now. We Must Act Now.

Action Steps for Governments

 

1. End Fossil Fuel Expansion and Rapidly Accelerate a Just Transition to 100% Renewable and Regenerative Energy 

It is imperative that governments align their actions with the Paris Agreement target of keeping global warming at or below 1.5° C. To do so, policymakers must immediately halt the extraction, expansion, and burning of fossil fuels, and implement a Just Transition to a 100% renewable and regenerative economy and social system. 

 

  • Commit to a binding international emissions reductions plan that limits global temperature rise to below 1.5°C, in line with the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C and the 2021 IPCC Sixth Assessment Report.

  • Prohibit new permits and leases for fossil fuel companies.6

  • Divest public funds from coal, oil and gas corporations. End all subsidies and insurance allowances to oil, gas and coal projects.

  • Implement the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in all climate finance.7

  • Decentralize and democratize ownership of renewable and regenerative solutions. Invest in community-owned solar and wind, public green utilities and nationalized energy industries.8

  • Support fossil fuel workers to find new employment in renewable energy, transport and land use sectors.

  • Ensure dignified conditions for all care workers. Care work, from childcare to healthcare, is an undervalued and underpaid sector that disproportionately employs women and women of color. At the same time, it is a crucial backbone of our economic and social system, and plays a key part in the transition to a renewable, regenerative economy.9

  • Reject “net zero” schemes.10

  • Reject false solutions, such as fracked gas, nuclear energy, geo-engineering, bioenergy and biofuels,11 carbon capture and storage, and forest offsetting.

2. Promote Women’s Leadership and Gender Equity 

Due to unequal gender norms, women and gender non-binary people are disproportionately impacted by climate change and fossil fuel extraction. At the same time, they are crucial leaders in the transition to a just, renewable future. Countless studies have shown that when women hold positions of leadership at all levels, entire communities and nature benefit.12

 

  • Ensure women’s full and equal participation in all aspects of climate policy and finance. 

  • Realize the Paris Agreement principles that all climate actions must respect human rights, including the promotion of gender equity. Use the UNFCCC Lima Work Programme on Gender and its Gender Action Plan to guide activities.13

  • Acknowledge the unique and essential roles, responsibilities, solutions, needs, and desires of women in climate change mitigation efforts.

  • Uplift the leadership and solutions of diverse identities across the gender spectrum.

  • Given the crucial role of women, and particularly women of color, in the care economy, their rights and well-being must be respected and upheld.14 

  • Learn from and respect Indigenous women’s traditional ecological knowledge as central to climate solutions. 

  • Honor women’s rights to self-determination in all contexts, from the right to make reproductive choices to the choice of where and how to live and work.

3. Protect the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The traditional ecological knowledge of agriculture, seeds and biodiversity held by Indigenous communities is indispensable for confronting climate change, even as Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately harmed by fossil fuel development, deforestation, extractive industries and climate impacts. In every step of the Just Transition, the rights of Indigenous Peoples must be upheld and the leadership of Indigenous Peoples respected.

 

  • Uphold all treaties with Indigenous Peoples and immediately halt the violation of treaty rights. Defend Indigenous Peoples’ rights to inhabit traditional lands undisturbed by industrial projects and extractive industries.

  • Respect and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent in all cases.15

  • Prioritize Indigenous Peoples’ decision-making power at the national and international levels.

  • Learn from and follow Indigenous and Traditional Ecological Knowledge.

  • Invest in Indigenous People’s global leadership to protect and promote healthy relationships with life-sustaining ecosystems.


 

4. Protect Forests and Biodiversity

The maintenance of healthy forests and robust biodiversity is crucial to the fight against climate change. Globally, the stewardship of forests and biodiversity lies heavily in the hands of women, local communities and Indigenous Peoples.16 The success of forest and biodiversity conservation depends on immediately halting all deforestation and respecting women’s leadership, local use rights and traditional ecological knowledge.

 

  • Impose a global moratorium on the logging and burning of all old growth forests.17

  • Immediately halt the burning of forests to produce cropland or pastureland for ruminative livestock.

  • Set forestry management targets that are in line with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.18

  • Phase out all agricultural practices that cause soil erosion, depletion and compaction.

  • Oppose the commodification of forest carbon through carbon offset schemes. Forest offsets have been widely, scientifically discredited.19


5. Preserve Oceans and Freshwater and Address Water Security

Earth’s oceans and the hydrological cycle are gravely threatened by climate change. Governments must act now to halt the greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and human exploitation that are destabilizing the water systems fundamental to all life on Earth.

 

  • Recognize the human right to sufficient, safe, clean, affordable, and physically accessible water.20

  • Outlaw water privatization. Water should be a free, public good everywhere.

  • Implement natural ecological water treatment methods.

  • Protect vulnerable and threatened fisheries and coral reefs in marine sanctuaries (Marine Protected Areas).

  • Clean up the plastic, sewage and trash in the world’s oceans, streams, rivers, and freshwater systems.

  • Recognize Integrated Water Resource Management for better understanding of the value of water.


 

6. Promote Food Security and Food Sovereignty

Hotter temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and extreme weather events are already causing global disruptions to food production and storage.21 Climate change is a primary cause of food insecurity, even as our industrialized food system drives pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.22 For this reason, we must promote the holistic management of our food system, both to mitigate climate change and prevent hunger and malnutrition. Gender disparities in access to land, water, credit, technology and tenure rights inhibit women’s food security. At the same time, women farmers feed the world, and play key roles in maintaining food security. In affecting deep changes to our agricultural system, we must center the leadership of women, Indigenous Peoples and smallholder farmers.

 

  • Support decentralized, “people-run” economies, natural, non-genetically modified foods, and cyclical and sustainable agro-ecological farming practices.

  • Outlaw international trade agreements that determine seed “ownership” and “use.” Prohibit the global patenting of seeds.23

  • Reject false solutions such as climate-smart agriculture, soil sequestration programs, Ag-NBS (Nature Based Solutions), and payments for environmental services (PES).

  • Support communities with skills and financing to take increasing ownership of their local agricultural sovereignty.

  • Reduce the production and consumption of industrial meat and dairy products. Industrial animal agriculture produces a third of global greenhouse gas emissions.24

  • Support  Indigenous communities to maintain their traditional food practices.


 

7. Protect the Rights of Nature

The Rights of Nature is a groundbreaking legal framework that recognizes natural systems, such as rivers, forests, mountain ranges and water bodies, as rights-bearing entities with an inviolable claim to protection and preservation. Although the Rights of Nature is new to our legal system, it is based on traditional knowledge from Indigenous Peoples about how to live in harmony with the natural laws of the Earth. 

 

  • Recognize the Rights of Nature in law and practice. 

  • End the commodification, financialization and exploitation of all ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, deltas, rivers and wildlife preserves.

  • End market-based mechanisms that purport to protect ecosystems, but actually promote the industrial and monocultural destruction of biodiverse regions and hotspots. These include carbon offset schemes. 

  • Based on the Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth legal framework, acknowledge that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.25

Action Steps for Financial Institutions

 

By removing support from harmful projects and re-directing resources into climate solutions, financial institutions can be agents of positive change. In order to maintain 1.5° C of global warming, financial institutions must align their actions with the ambitious emissions pathway set forth in the Paris Agreement and commit to respect human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples at every turn.

 

  • Halt financing to any project that would explore new fossil fuel reserves, expand fossil fuel extraction, or build new fossil fuel infrastructure.

  • Rapidly phase out financing for existing fossil fuel projects. Require existing fossil fuel clients to publish plans by COP26 to phase out fossil fuel operations on a timeline aligned with SR1.5 pathway 1. Decline financing to companies that refuse to publish such plans.

  • Deny loans to any company or project that fails to comply with a No Deforestation, No Peatland, No Exploitation (NDPE) policy at a corporate group level.

  • Require all investee companies to uphold human rights in accordance with the International Bill of Human Rights, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.26

  • Conduct direct consultations with Indigenous, frontline, and local communities in decision-making processes in areas where operations impact those communities. 

  • Refuse financing to projects involving false solutions or “net zero” carbon accounting, including carbon capture and storage, nuclear power production and bioenergy.

  • Acknowledge and redress the role of one’s financial institution in perpetrating past and current gendered and racialized harms against women and the climate.

  • Invest in and facilitate a Just Transition. Fund dignified, green jobs, and care jobs at every level, especially in community-owned and democratically managed ventures.

  • Invest in community-led solutions, such as regenerative agricultural, energy, and forestry ventures, led by Global South, frontline and Black, Brown and Indigenous communities and women.

For the Earth and All Generations,
 
Prominent individual signatories include Hilda Heine, Senator and Former President of the Marshall Islands; Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland; Dessima Williams, Former Ambassador to the United Nations from Grenada; Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; and the following organizations: 

Academia Mexicana de Derecho Ambiental
Action Center on Race and the Economy
Adéquations
African Climate Reality Project
Akina Mama wa Afrika
Aksi! for gender, social and ecological justice
Almaa organization
Amazon Watch
Anthropocene Alliance
Aube Nouvelle pour la Femme et le Développement 

 

Bangladesh indigenous women’s network 

BankTrack
Blue Planet Project
Bronx Climate Justice North
Businesses for a Livable Climate

 

CA Businesses for a Livable Climate
CADIRE CAMEROON ASSOCIATION
Call to Action Colorado
CAMEROON GENDER AND ENVIRONMENT WATCH
CatholicNetwork US
Centre for Ecological Governance and Gender Initiatives (CEGGI)
Church Women United in New York State
Clean Energy Action 
CLEAR Environmental 
Climate 2025
Climate Action Rhode Island-350
Climate Crisis Policy
Climate Finance Action
Climate Justice Alliance
ClimateMama
CO Businesses for a Livable Climate
CODEPINK Women for Peace, Golden Gate Chapter
Coherence Lab
Collectif Sénégalais des Africaines pour la Promotion de l'Education Relative à l'Environnement (COSAPERE)
Collective Future Fund 

Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights

Cook for Peace

 

Divest Invest Protect
Dogwood Alliance

Dominican Leadership Conference

 

Earth Action, Inc.
Earth Guardians
EDGE Funders Alliance
Empower our Future - Colorado

Environmental Community
Extinction Rebellion San Francisco Bay Area

 

Fondo Lunaria Mujer

 

Gallifrey Foundation
Giniw Collective
Girl Power Foundation Uganda
Global Exchange
Global Forest Coalition
Global Witness
Good Health Community Project
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance 
Green Education and Legal Fund
GreenFaith
Grupo Para o Desenvolvimento da Mulher e Rapariga

 

Haki Nawiri Afrika
Heinrich Böll Foundation Washington, DC
Honor the Earth 

 

IndiGenius Global
Indigenous Climate Action
Indigenous Environmental Network 
Indigenous Human Rights Defenders and Corporate Accountability Program (IHRDCAP)

Institute for Global Health and Health Policy

Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program
International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women
International-Curricula Educators Association

 

Juventud Unida en Acción

 

Kaiāulu.earth

 

Laboratorio Socioambiental Ciudadano
Latinas for Climate

League of Women Voters of the United States

Long Beach Alliance for Clean Energy
Love Care Home 

 

MADRE
Manbha Foundation
Mawu Energy
Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action

Millennium ART
Movement Rights

 

Naireeta Services Private Limited
National Sudanese Women Association
New Mexico Climate Justice
New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light
North American Climate, Conservation and Environment(NACCE)
North Bronx Racial Justice
North Country 350 Alliance
North Range Concerned Citizens
Nuclear Information and Resource Service

 

Oil Change International
Older Women’s Network Europe

 

Pacific Environment
Participatory Research Action Network- PRAAN
PEREMPUAN AMAN (The Association of Indigenous Women of the Archipelago AMAN)
Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter Veterans For Peace, Baltimore, MD
Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania
Ponca Nation
Power Shift Network

Privada 

 

Rachel Carson Council
RapidShift Network

RECODE ex FEMNETSenegal 
Regional Centre for International Development Cooperation (RCIDC)
Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary : JPIC / NGO GO 
Réseau Enfants de la Terre 
RGIC

Rural Girl Woman Challenge Foundation Uganda (RUGWOCFU)

 

San Francisco Public Bank Coalition
Schenectady Neighbors for Peace
SFBSP-BURUNDI

Sisters of Charity Federation
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregational Leadership

Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Western Province Leadership
Small Business Alliance
Social housing green deal
Solar Sister
Solarize Albany County

Sonoma County Gleaners
Spirit of the Sun
Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (SWAGEN)

Synergy of Congolese Women’s Associations
System Change Not Climate Change

 

Texas Campaign for the Environment
The Chisholm Legacy Project
The Climate Reality Projet_Brazil
The Green House Connection Center
The Movements Trust
Tree Uganda Academy (TUA)

TRUST Climate Action Strategists
Tulele Peisa Inc.

 

UNFA
Unite North Metro Denver
United Methodist Women
UU Congregation of Binghamton, Green Sanctuary

 

VIVAT International

 

Wall of Women
Women Rising Radio 
Women's Climate Congress
Women's Earth Alliance
Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)
Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)
Womenvai
WoMin

 

Zero Hour
Zero Waste Antigua Barbuda

1 Million Women
1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations
350 Hawaii
350PDX 

Endnotes

1.  IPCC, “Summary for Policymakers,” in Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ed. Masson-Delmotte, V. et al. (Cambridge University Press, 2021), 15–30; IPCC, “Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5°C above Pre-Industrial Levels and Related Global Greenhouse Gas Emission Pathways, in the Context of Strengthening the Global Response to the Threat of Climate Change, Sustainable Development, and Efforts to Eradicate Poverty,” ed. V. Masson-Delmotte et al., 2018.

2.  IPCC, “Summary for Policymakers.”

3.  “Paris Agreement” (United Nations, 2015), https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreement.pdf.

4.  Friends of the Earth International et al., “Chasing Carbon Unicorns: The Deception of Carbon Markets and ‘Net Zero,’” February 2021, https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Friends-of-the-earth-international-carbon-unicorns-english.pdf.

5.  Climate Justice Alliance, “Just Transition: A Framework for Change,” 2016, https://climatejusticealliance.org/just-transition/.

6.  Karl Mathiesen, “Existing Coal, Oil and Gas Fields Will Blow Carbon Budget – Study,” The Guardian, September 23, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/23/existing-coal-oil-and-gas-fields-will-blow-carbon-budget-study.

7.  “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,” A/CONF.151/26 § (1992), 2, https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/generalassembly/docs/globalcompact/A_CONF.151_26_Vol.I_Declaration.pdf.

8.  The Next System Project and Oil Change International, “The Case for Public Ownership of the Fossil Fuel Industry,” April 2020, https://thenextsystem.org/learn/stories/case-public-ownership-fossil-fuel-industry.

9.  Feminist Coalition for a Green New Deal, “A Feminist Agenda for a Green New Deal: Principles,” 2018, http://feministgreennewdeal.com/principles/.

10.  James Dyke and Robert Watson, “Climate Scientists: Concept of Net Zero Is a Dangerous Trap,” April 22, 2021, https://theconversation.com/climate-scientists-concept-of-net-zero-is-a-dangerous-trap-157368.

11.  Global Forest Coalition, “Bioenergy,” 2021, https://globalforestcoalition.org/campaigns/bioenergy/.

12.  UN Women Watch, “Fact Sheet: Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change,” n.d., https://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/climate_change/downloads/Women_and_Climate_Change_Factsheet.pdf. 

13.  Presidency of COP25, “Enhanced Lima Work Programme on Gender and Its Gender Action Plan,” wateDraft decision -/CP.25 § (2020), https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/cp2019_L03E.pdf.

14.  Feminist Green New Deal Coalition, “Care & Climate Understanding The Policy Intersections,” April 2021, http://feministgreennewdeal.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/FemGND-IssueBrief-Draft7-Apr15.pdf.

15.  “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” 61/295 § (2007), https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2018/11/UNDRIP_E_web.pdf.

16.  International Union for the Conservation of Nature, “IUCN Director General’s Statement on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2019,” August 9, 2019, https://www.iucn.org/news/secretariat/201908/iucn-director-generals-statement-international-day-worlds-indigenous-peoples-2019.

17.  International Union for the Conservation of Nature, “Forests Provide for the World,” IUCN Blog (blog), 2021, https://www.iucn.org/theme/forests/our-work.

18.  United Nations Environment Programme, “Convention on Biological Diversity,” 2022 1972, https://www.cbd.int/.

19.  Alia Al Ghussain, “The Biggest Problem with Carbon Offsetting Is That It Doesn’t Really Work,” Greenpeace News (blog), May 26, 2020, https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/the-biggest-problem-with-carbon-offsetting-is-that-it-doesnt-really-work/.

20.  UN Water, “Human Rights to Water and Sanitation,” 2021, https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/human-rights/.

21.  Food and Agriculture Organization, “The Impact of Disasters and Crises on Agriculture and Food Security: 2021,” 2021, http://www.fao.org/home/digital-reports/disasters-in-agriculture/en/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social+media&utm_campaign=fao.

22.  Mbow, C. et al., “Food Security,” in Climate Change and Land: An IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems, ed. P.R. Shukla et al. (In Press, 2019).

23.  Vandana Shiva, “Earth Democracy: Beyond Dead Democracy and Killing Economies,” Capitalism Nature Socialism 21, no. 1 (2010): 83–95.

24.  Ayesha Tandon, “Food Systems Responsible for ‘One Third’ of Human-Caused Emissions,” Carbon Brief Blog (blog), August 3, 2021, https://www.carbonbrief.org/food-systems-responsible-for-one-third-of-human-caused-emissions.

25.  World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, “Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth,” April 22, 2010, https://therightsofnature.org/universal-declaration/.

26.  “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (1948), https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet2Rev.1en.pdf; United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” (United Nations, 2011), https://www.ohchr.org/documents/publications/guidingprinciplesbusinesshr_en.pdf.

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International is a solutions-based, multi-faceted organization established to engage women worldwide in policy advocacy, on-the-ground projects, trainings, and movement building for global climate justice.

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