“COP28 is this year so heavily compromised that a grassroots-led group like DIVA for Equality would be betraying the constituency by participating in a heavily corporate-captured space.”  

“We call for urgent changes to allow us to re-enter. Meanwhile we work in other ways, and through other people-led processes.”

– DIVA for Equality’s Executive Director, Noelene Nabulivou

Noelene Nabulivou and Jeshua Hope
June 2023, Fiji

DIVA for Equality is part of a growing list of resistance movements that are refusing to attend COP28. Working against a context of having transgressed six of the known nine planetary boundaries – Pacific Islanders, Indigenous people, faith communities, LGBTQI+ people and local communities are unequivocal in stating that we simply do not have time for corporate-captured talk-fests. 

In May, the World Meteorological Organisation announced that the world is likely to breach global temperatures of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels between now and 2027. The chance of this happening? 66%. The chance of at least one of these years being the warmest on record? 98%.

Against this backdrop, the Stockholm Resilience Centre has launched a 3.0 version of the Planetary Boundaries model, showing that at least six of the nine known processes that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth’s systems have been breached.

Yet nearly a decade ago, 195 countries gathered in Paris, and committed to efforts to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. At their behest, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report detailing what a world that exceeded the target of 1.5 degrees would look like. Their predictions were terrifying. Extreme temperature fluctuations, increased flooding, increased tropical cyclones, increased sea level rise, increased saltwater intrusion, increased damage to infrastructure, and increased loss of species – among many other impacts.

The IPCC in that same report pointed out that vulnerable populations, particularly Indigenous people and local communities, were likely to be most impacted by this increase. As feminists engaged in gender-just climate change response, we know that women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change and that the impacts are not uniform. Various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. Climate change risks are acute for Indigenous and Afro-descendent women and girls, older women, LGBTQI+ people, women and girls with disabilities, migrant women, and those living in rural, remote, maritime, conflict, occupied and disaster-prone areas.

With the projected increase in global temperature, and economic and non-economic loss and damage already experienced by climate frontline people, including in the Pacific, women and girls in all their diversity (who are already performing at least 75% of all unpaid care work globally), are likely to see their work disproportionately increase. 68% of Pacific women face gender-based violence at the hands of their partners which is double the global average rates, and this is likely to increase as severe climate change impacts lead to increased tensions within communities and homes where patriarchal systems remain dominant. Around 50% of women in the Pacific have unmet contraceptive needs, and in an increasingly chaotic socio-cultural and physical environment worsened by climate change and disasters, it is crucial that Pacific women can equitably negotiate their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). This requires concentrated, long-term and deliberate work to address human rights violations and transform gender unjust social norms.

And yet, against this terrifying ecocidal backdrop, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is hosting the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) – arguably the most important climate conference of the year in a country that is simultaneously host to one of the largest oil reserves globally as well as one of the world’s leading producers of oil, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In fact, only this May, Al Jazeera reported the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam Almheiri as saying that “phasing out fossil fuels would hurt countries that either depend on them for revenue or cannot easily replace hydrocarbons with renewable energy sources”. The Minister advocated instead for a phase out of fossil fuel emissions through such things as carbon capture and trading – some of the many strategies that many social movements are calling out as “false solutions”.

States like UAE have no intention of transitioning away from fossil fuels – they see no future without it. The UAE announced the appointment of Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the CEO of its state oil and renewable energy companies, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), as President of COP28. Consequently, Pacific feminist movements like DIVA for Equality who have been working in the climate justice space and global UNFCCC COP processes for years, in turn confirmed that they will boycott the COP28 climate talks.

The organisation’s Executive Director remarked:

“There is a point at which the level of corporate interference at UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties (COPs) makes our presence untenable. It is not just that corporations are present in large numbers, but that those Member States who have done the most climate damage, ignore or enable co-option of multilateral processes. They are acting for corporations, not the people of the Majority World.

“In Pacific conditions of rising loss and damage, DIVA for Equality is part of national, regional and global movements urgently advancing grassroots-led feminist strategies linking universal human rights, socio-economic, ecological and climate justice. We are very busy working on urgent system change to save ourselves, other species and the living planet from this global ecocidal reality.”

A priority this year is for increased, grants-based, adequate and accessible climate finance flows from ‘Carbon Major’ OECD countries. Increased fast-access funding pathways for Pacific Small Island Developing States and for all experiencing loss and damage must be principles based. The new Loss and Damage Fund must be capitalised immediately and comply with principles of international cooperation and solidarity, historical responsibility and in compliance with the Polluter Pays principle. Funds must be new and additional, needs-based, adequate, predictable and precautionary. The fund must be locally driven, gender just, ensure equitable representation, prioritise public and grant-based funds, be balanced and comprehensive; and protect and fulfil human rights.

We, the Pacific, are a part of a global majority constituted of the collective power of people’s movements and societies most affected, and with least responsibility for this ecocide. The Pacific region of 22 States and territories continues to grapple with long-known and worsening issues of gender, Sexual health and reproductive rights (SRHR) and Sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), avoiding false solutions, dealing with loss and damage, ecocide, human rights violations and the many other impacts of this climate and ecological crisis that threatens our livelihoods, our security and our home.

We have legitimate grounds for resistance struggles against racism, gender injustice, colonialism and coloniality, Imperialism, false solutions and development injustice. Some of us will not be at COP28. All of us will be working for an end to fossil fuel, plastics, species extinction, elite neoliberal capitalism and fascist, masculinist corporate capture of development and multilateralism. We cannot cede our sovereignty in these negotiations for social, economic, ecological and climate justice.

This article was written by Noelene Nabulivou of DIVA for Equality and Jeshua Hope of the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network’s (PICAN) Gender and Climate Justice Working Group. DIVA for Equality and PICAN affirm that the stance taken by DIVA for Equality is not necessarily representative of the rest of the network nor Climate Justice movements and activists within and beyond the region who will work into the processes of COP28. We affirm that social movements work from an approach of minimum non-negotiables and that outside of that, our politics – and indeed our approach to fighting for liberation, balance and justice on all territories is determined by the principles and values of our activist movements and organisations. We will not stop until survival is assured for our People.  

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this publication. (Islands Business). 

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