Today was my second day at COP23, and I was very excited to see what I was going to witness. I started by going to a talk about how many people native to the South Pacific Islands felt they were being treated at COP and how they are affected by climate change. Many of the people had fascinating stories and had some interesting thoughts that I want to share.
One of the main points shared by the panel was about how many of people felt like they were being left out of climate treaties and agreements. Many people spoke about how much the effects of a warmer climate, a warmer ocean, and a rising sea impact their lives. They felt as if the deal that was signed didn’t give them the help that they deserved; they felt that there was still much more we could to do to help fight climate change. One of the main focuses was on what the UN could do to improve their lives and their rights. One of the most interesting things was said by a citizen of American Samoa; she said that in many of these treaties and deals, one of the biggest producers of CO2 isn’t counted: the military. The Military Industrial Complex is one of the largest emitters of CO2, and it usually isn’t added because the U.S. wants to make sure that their military isn’t “made weaker.” She also went on to say that American Samoa is dealing with the main effects of climate change, and it happens that American Samoa has the highest rate of voluntary servitude in the U.S. Army. The other big issue during the talk was the layout of COP itself; they stated that at COP23, the U.N. had purposefully tried to move action events away from where the treaties were being created so the people would have less impact. They stated that this move was also made against indigenous groups to limit the voice that they had at COP.
While listening to these people talk, I started to think about how what they were saying impacts what we do. At COP, there is broad representation of many different nations and ethnicities, but I don’t know what it’s like in the meeting rooms. I think that there is a way to hear what people are saying and make sure that the people who have done the least damage to the earth and are the most affected get their fair say. I think that the UN should make sure that they include all people in the discussions and make sure that it is not just politicians that get all the say in the matter. This is a problem that needs to solved by everybody, and that should be how the treaty works. The progress that comes out of COP23 should not only be about regulating corporations or having governments lower carbon use. It should be about everybody doing all they can to help. Someone in the middle of Missouri, for whom climate change is not the primary issue, doesn’t get to punish someone living in the Maldives by not recycling because it’s “too expensive.”
We need to make sure we are doing all we can in our own lives to stop climate change and its effects on the world.