UN Reps and Global Issues

UN Reps and Environment

UN Sustainable Development Goal #13: Climate Action

FAWCO supports UN Sustainable Development Goal #13   

At the FAWCO International Conference in Mumbai in April 2017, the delegates unanimously adopted a Resolution stating: 

Having actively supported efforts to protect the environment for over thirty years and encouraging its members to be environmentally responsible citizens, FAWCO reconfirms its commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to all individual and collective measures to curb climate change.

UN Reps Team and Environment

In late 2016, FAWCO was granted Observer Status to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  This accreditation enables FAWCO to send representatives to UN Conferences on Climate Change and report on the latest news to our members. Since 2017, FAWCO UN Reps Stacey Kimmig and Ayuska Motha from AIWC Cologne attend meetings of the Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.

Reports from UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in Bonn, May 2017

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty which entered into force in 1994. The UNFCCC objective is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous man made interference with the climate system.The framework did not set limits on greenhouse gas emissions and had no enforcement mechanisms. It calls for specific international treaties to be negotiated to set binding limits on greenhouse gases. The parties to the convention meet annually since 1995 in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress on climate change. In 2015 the Paris Agreement was adopted, governing emission reductions from 2020 on.

Every year members of each government meet at the COP to discuss and develop the targets for limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Civil society and non-governmental organizations attend these conferences to offer opinions and expertise, and represent the people of the world.

NGO coalitions at the UN assist and support one another, share knowledge and experience, and collaborate to amplify our voices. Civil society constituencies provide focal points for easier interaction with the UNFCCC. The Women and Gender Constituency or WGC works to ensure women’s rights and gender justice within the UN climate change process. FAWCO joined WGC as soon as we learned about the constituency, as a way to ease our entry into the complex world of the UNFCCC.

On May 8, 2017, FAWCO UN Liaison Laurie Richardson and Stacey Kimmig joined other NGO Observers attending the UNFCCC Climate Change conference at the World Conference Center Bonn, proud to be part of FAWCO's entry into the UN climate process. Our first stop was the 9:00 AM briefing for members of the WGC. We met other NGO representatives, including many first timers, and learned about the organization of the day's meetings. The constituency coordinates the efforts of the member NGO representatives, and collaborates on attending and covering all of the multiple simultaneous events and sessions, as well as drafting and delivering interventions and statements.

Day One of a two-week UN conference typically consists of opening plenary meetings to discuss and adopt agendas and hear prepared statements from the "Parties" or national government delegates. There were also statements, called "interventions," by representatives of civil society organizations and constituencies.

At the opening session of the committee on implementation of the Paris Agreement, a WGC representative made a statement: "The Paris Agreement acknowledged gender equality, the empowerment of women, intergenerational equity, human rights, the rights of indigenous people... Climate finance must be 100% gender-responsive. Civil society, including women’s groups and gender experts, must be involved in the impact assessment and tracking utilization of climate finance at all levels. Climate finance must serve public interests instead of corporate profits."

We also attended a session on Climate Change and the Rights of the Child. According the the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have a basic human right to a safe, clean and healthy environment. Children have done nothing to cause climate change but are the most vulnerable to its effects; they are doubly victims: today and tomorrow. Children breathe more quickly than adults and take in more air, making them more vulnerable to pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Their immune systems are weaker, and their brains and nervous systems not developed, so they suffer disproportionate harm from climate actions and inactions. We need to empower children as agents of change, entitled to participate in decisions having direct and indirect impacts on their well being. As one panelist expressed so eloquently: "Dreaming of a better world is the essence of childhood. We must not allow any more children to lose this possibility."

On Day Two, May 9, we again started the day at the WGC morning caucus discussion, preparing representation and advocacy agendas for the day ahead. The day was full of discussions, events and a workshop on the issue of "non Party stakeholders." Parties to international agreements like the Paris Agreement and to multilateral processes like the UNFCCC are national governments. Therefore non Party stakeholders include NGOs and other members of civil society, associations, trade and labor unions, research institutes, local community governments, and business and industry interests. A lively debate takes place at every UN forum on the role of civil society, access by civil society to participation in meetings, and recognition of the contribution of NGOs. As we remind the UN at every opportunity, without the active participation of civil society, of people like you and me working in organizations like FAWCO, it would not be possible to accomplish the SDGs or achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement.

Non Party stakeholders play key roles in "operationalizing mechanisms;" we are the watchdogs, monitoring implementation and compliance; we provide relevant information and expertise, identify and overcome key barriers to implementation, engage in review processes, and inform and mobilize the public. At this important workshop, UNFCCC facilitators asked for input from civil society on how best to work with and include civil society. There was significant pushback from NGOs who oppose the involvement of corporate, business and industry interests in the climate change process. You cannot invite the polluters and natural resource exploiters who are responsible for the current state of the environment to be part of the negotiations. Their underlying motives may be to disrupt climate action. To maintain its credibility and integrity, the UNFCCC must resist efforts by industry to literally pollute the process.

WGC Pre-Conference Workshop on Women, Climate Change and Advocacy by Stacey Kimmig

Before the conference, Stacey Kimmig (AIWC Cologne) attended a workshop on gender justice in international climate politics to introduce advocacy at the Climate Change Conference. The workshop included activists from around the world from organizations which have joined together as the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC). The Constituency increases each group’s voice on gender issues relating to climate change. The workshop brought the different NGOs together to discuss important issues and share knowledge so that all are informed on gender issues as they relate to the different climate topics covered at the UNFCCC.

The specific topics covered at the workshop were the sustainable development mechanism, loss and damage, deforestation, energy democracy and food sovereignty. We discussed the specific gender-related issues for each topic. For example, deforestation not only affects the environment, it also increases violence against women. As male workers are brought in from other areas, prostitution and incidences of rape significantly increase. This climate issue disproportionately affects women, and gender issues must be carefully considered when proposing a solution to slow climate change. A solution to stop deforestation by declaring the forest a national park forces women, whose job it is to gather firewood, to search more hours each day for the necessary resource.

The WGC will work together to raise awareness of the impacts on women of climate change, and will help to ensure that climate change solutions proposed will not disadvantage women.

It was a full day of learning about the unfair burden women bear from climate change and the danger that solutions could have the same effect. Stacey felt more prepared on the issues to be addressed at the UN conference, and met many amazing people who together will work to ensure that gender issues related to climate are heard by our world leaders.

Changing Diets to Fight Global Climate Change? by UN Rep Ayuska Motha

We have all seen, heard, and read the scary data on the undeniable effects of global climate change and are feeling alarmed and powerless as we watch President Trump attempting to reverse all environmental progress we have been making. So, what can YOU specifically do to reduce your carbon footprint* and do your bit toward steering the planet in a more sustainable direction? One such solution was presented very clearly by the World Resources Institute (WRI) at one of the side events of the UNFCCC Conference in May 2017 entitled “What’s at Steak?”. By merely reducing our overall meat consumption, we can cut global Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) substantially.

As stated in the presentation, “If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitters” - right behind China and the USA. That’s correct - beef production results in high GHG emissions, more than other animal-based foods such as fish, poultry, eggs, pork and dairy and substantially more than all plant-based foods. In addition to the increased GHG emissions, animal-based food production is also much more resource-intensive, utilizing greater land areas for pastures and crops, as well as higher volumes of freshwater, compared with plant-based food production.

Did you also know that people are eating more protein than they actually need, especially in wealthy countries like the USA, Canada and the European Union? Despite the overconsumption of protein, the demand for beef is still growing rapidly and is projected to increase by 95% by 2050. WRI presented data on a number of options for shifting these high consumer diets to reduce their environmental impacts. Options ranged from switching from the average US diet to 1) a Mediterranean diet, 2) a diet replacing 1/3 of beef with pork and poultry, 3) a diet replacing 1/3 beef with legumes, 4) a diet reducing beef consumption by 70%, 5) a diet reducing all animal protein consumption by 50% as well as 6) a vegetarian diet. GHG emission reductions ranged from 11% with the Mediterranean diet all the way to 56% for the vegetarian option. Agricultural land use projections decreased by 11% to 48% with the presented shifts. As was apparent from the report, fairly minor shifts in beef and meat consumption can lead to fairly significant reductions in the GHG emissions and resources utilized. The audience were provided with the information to make informed consumer choices. An eye-opening statement was presented on one of the slides:

“If the world’s 2 billion high consumers cut their meat and dairy consumption by 40%, it would save an area of land twice the size of India, and avoid 168 billion tons of future GHG emissions (equivalent to 3X the global GHG emissions in 2009).”

Since women are often the household decision-makers, we wield enormous consumer power. So, just by replacing animal-based meals with more plant-based meals, you can be making minor daily changes towards curbing global climate change!

Reference: Shifting Diets for a Sustainable Food Culture (World Resources Institute) Part of a side event entitled “What’s at Steak? Land use, Livestock, Offsets and the Climate Regime.” Download pdf

*Carbon footprint refers to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are produced or caused by an individual, event, organization or product.

Further Reading: FAWCO's Environment Team published a bulletin with tips on consuming a more environmentally-friendly diet in May 2017. 

Gender Action Plan Workshop at the UN Climate Change Conference, Bonn, May 2017 by UN Reps Stacey Kimmig and Ayuska Motha

Although we have been sitting in on many sessions dealing with different environmental topics, the most important so far has been the Gender and Climate Change Workshop. The goal of the two-day workshop was to develop elements of a Gender Action Plan under the UNFCCC. The first session was opened by the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Ms. Patricia Espinosa; the Ambassador of Fiji, Ms. Nazhat Khan; and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, UNFCCC Chair Mr. Tomasz Chruszczow. This was followed by presentations from the UNFCCC Secretariat, the Women and Gender Constituency (FAWCO is a member of the WGC), and other presenters to inform everyone and define our objectives. By the end of the first session, five cluster areas had been proposed and all workshop participants divided up into theses cluster areas.

During the second day of the workshop, we all met in our smaller working groups to react, brainstorm, discuss and rewrite the relevant sections of an earlier version of the gender action plan. We were part of the gender balance, participation and women’s leadership work group; a very international, hardworking, harmonious group of people representing NGOs, the UNFCCC, universities and indigenous people, among others. The earlier version we were working on “set a target of 30% representation of women in Party delegations and in constituted bodies under the UNFCCC by 2019 with a view to progressively increasing representation to 50% by 2025”. We were able to discuss and convince our working group to increase the target to 50% by 2019. We all agreed that this was an ambitious goal, but saw the urgent need to strive toward gender equity in the process as soon as possible. We really enjoyed working as a team under a tight deadline towards a common goal.

Following the workgroup break-out sessions, we regrouped and presented our sections to the rest of the group and then opened up for comments or questions. The Gender Action Plan will eventually be implemented by the UNFCCC to ensure gender just climate policies and a more balanced representation and participation of women in the process. It was empowering and inspiring to be a part of this Gender and Climate Change workshop.

Climate Induced Displacement is an informative brochure developed by the NGO Committee on Migration.

Environment Team

FAWCO's Environment Team publishes regular bulletins with environmental news updates, promotes action through campaigns, and informs members about global environmental issues including air, soil and water pollution, species extinction, energy efficiency, conservation, waste reduction, and climate change.

In December 2015, the Environment Team and UN Reps Team collaborated to take part virtually—with a low carbon footprint—in the historic Climate Change Conference in Paris, and blogged about the events. 

Target Program: Environment

From 2010 – 2013, FAWCO's Target Program: Environment focused on improving access to clean water and supplied water wells for a rural development project in Cambodia. FAWCO's Target Water Program raised $165,000 and provided clean water for drinking and agriculture to over 1,500 families.

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)

The United Nations' environmental programs are based on a heritage of service to the environment by numerous non-governmental organizations and individuals. FAWCO is committed to supporting the UN and its agencies in actions to safeguard the environment. There is no doubt that on a whole range of environmental issues, the advocacy of NGOs, both in public and private, has helped change public attitudes and influence government policy.

In 1972, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) was established to provide leadership and encourage partnerships in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and people to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

FAWCO supports the UN's development agenda and encourages our members to take part in activities to benefit the planet and to have fun while doing it.  As David R. Brower 1912-2000, author of CPR for Planet Earth once said; “people want to be part of something fun. It’s exciting to change the world. If you’re in it simply out of worry or guilt, you won’t last and normal people won’t join you. Learning to read the Earth and saving it is fascinating stuff. Put fun in the movement to conserve, preserve, and restore, and celebrate it, and people will run to sign up.”

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