Tag Archives: climate policy

Read with me – Climate-change policy: why has so little been achieved?

6 Nov

Been reading a verrry useful paper for my course by Dieter Helm today, on why he thinks so little has been achieved through climate change policy. It’s 27 pages, but big writing 🙂


It might be useful to read the executive summary of the Stern report beforehand too if you haven’t already.



Girl Swoon #3

31 Aug

This week I am proud to present my good friend and present flatmate (although, not for much longer… sob) Anna Collins as Girl Swoon #3! I’ve known Anna for a couple of years now through youth climatey stuff, but it’s been so great to get to know her better over the past 8 months and create our very own Flat Irresistible (that’s our house)! This year has been a pretty crazy, transitional time for both of us, and I am just so grateful to have had her in my life these past few months. So thank you Anna! Apart from all that smushy stuff, she also has the time and energy to be a complete badass in the UN. Read on.

Name: Anna Collins

Age: 25

Website: I blog about the UN climate talks here but apart from that I’m homeless on the great old world wide web. This is an example of something I’m working with a couple of people on though.

1) What do you do and why?

I dedicate my life to the climate movement. Because I like to climb mountains, when you get to the top the view is worth it. I follow the UN climate talks around. Because I don’t want to leave my future in others hands. I listen to music. Because without music life is meaningless. I make music. To let my soul out. I paint. To express what I can’t say with words. I write. To express what I can say. I go dancing. To feel free. I cycle. To escape. I work for the Green Belt Movement (for 2 more weeks). Because I like trees and this book changed my life. I live with Hanna. Cause she has stuff and I don’t…

I roam. Because I can’t seem not to.

I guess the most interesting of these to elaborate on is following the UN climate talks around. I am the UK tracker for the Adopt a Negotiator project. I just kind of fell into this last year through stuff I was doing with the UK Youth Climate Coalition and international youth climate movement. The Adopt a Negotiator project consists of young people from all over the world. We follow the UN climate talks around, following the policy and meeting with our delegations. We blog and use social media to try and make the talks understandable to the outside world. In the process we hope to open them up, make them more transparent and ultimately a two way process.

Each of the team take a very different approach to how we do this and what we write about. For me the UN is a soul destroying grey place and it is this that I try to first explain to people, and then change. I think these negotiations are really important,  if we want to solve climate change they are a vital piece of the jigsaw puzzle. But when they happen in grey places and are conducted by men in grey suits is it any wonder we are not making progress. The UN is an emotional place but no one is willing to accept that or let it influence the talks. I don’t understand that. Policy is important, but when the policy people forget why they are doing it then the policy they create serves no purpose. One of the things I like to dwell on a lot is the role of art, music, dancing – the things that make life worth living – and how they can help to make the negotiations a more constructive place where we can move towards a more constructive outcome. I hope through this we can start creating the amazing and beautiful future I know is possible.

2) Does being a woman affect your work in any way?

Each day I wake up and  interpret the world through female eyes.

The UN is a very male dominated world, everyone whether male of female is also working in a very white male way. Seeing it through female eyes I think gives me the opportunity to reassess this way of working and be more creative within it.

On the downside in life I often have to think about whether a situation I get into is safe because of the fact I’m a female. This pisses me off.

3) Are you a feminist?

No (insert late night flatmate debates with Hanna here!)

As women we get a shit deal in many situations, and we need to expose and end discrimination and violence against women but I don’t identify with the label and would never call myself a feminist.

For example when I read feminist books (I live with Hanna so there’s a fair few lying around) I keep getting told I should be pissed off that I don’t earn the same as men. But I question why should I value earning the same as a man? Shouldn’t we all be fighting to not be defined by what we earn, to be allowed not to care how much we earn once we have enough to keep mind body and soul together? To me forced equality is no better than inequality when it doesn’t respect what the individual soul values and desires

I’m a personist.

Every person regardless of gender has the right to value and be valued for what they want. Treated respectfully and equal to all others and not feel threatened for being that person.

4) What are your future plans?


Helping create a better, more beautiful world.

Doing it in time to get some sleep eventually

In the short term that means hitting the roaming life again,  first stop UN climate talks in China then on to Mexico, hopefully incorporating some overland travel…

5) Tell us one cool thing we don’t know already:

A movement is built on people and we need them all, from those willing to lobby their MP to those willing to go to jail. But it also most importantly needs people who can help us see the new world we’re trying to build.

The role of the revolutionary artist is to make the revolution irresistible!

(With thanks to Bill McKibben and Toni Cade Bambara!)

Forests – a feminist issue

18 Aug

This is cross-posted from the Call4 blog

I have been to the last two COPs (climate change conferences) – in Poznan and Copenhagen. They were both incredibly draining and frustrating, watching our negotiators move ever-so-slowly to a not-quite-conclusion. It is enough to make you swear off climate policy for good. But (sigh) I keep on coming back for more. Why? Because there are vital issues at stake.

We cannot forget about the UNFCCC process (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). If we dismiss it, it will dismiss us. So many of the decisions being made this year in Bonn, China and Mexico, are by old, rich, white men – not the same group of people who are going to be most impacted by the affects of climate change – women, indigenous communities, the young, the poor.

One text within the UNFCCC process that looks near completion is REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) which, as it stands, threatens the livelihoods of women across the world.  Irrespective of whether the principles of REDD are sound, the host city for COP16 this November (that’s the 16th climate change conference to you and me) is Mexico, who would like nothing better than to say that they had helped seal the deal on REDD, and so will push countries to agree.

Of course we could say that this is exactly what we are working towards – for countries to pull their fingers out and agree on something that can contribute to keeping us under 2 degrees global warming. But rushing an agreement through that does not take into account the particular needs of disadvantaged and minority groups, particularly women within indigenous communities, could end up making everything a whole lot worse.

The link between gender and climate change (and believe me, there is one) is in danger of being seriously overlooked by the REDD text – unforgivable considering that women are so involved in forest management and dependent on forest resources.

According to WOCAN (Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and NRM), there are three major issues concerning the involvement of women in REDD:

1) Deforestation often severely increases women’s labour and time for fuelwood collection for cooking and heating. At the same time, conservation measures that bar entrance into protected forests (as part of a nation’s REDD program, for example) also increase women’s labour and time demands as they go further afield, sometimes forcing parents to remove their children from school to help with collection tasks. Monoculture tree plantations (as included in REDD programs) generally have negative impacts on women’s livelihoods as they cannot provide the multiple benefits of fuelwood, fodder, medicine, water and soil nutrient retention, etc.

2) Women are commonly without any formal rights to land or forests. Under statutory or customary laws, most tropical forests are owned by indigenous peoples or forest dependent communities but it cannot be assumed that women have equal rights with men to these lands. Land claims may be affected by privatization as corporations, international conservation agencies and governments scurry to acquire land for REDD.

3) There are many cases of women’s groups successfully managing forestry and agroforestry projects, nurseries and woodlots, yet women continue to be nominal stakeholders in decision-making and planning. If decision-making processes of REDD fail to acknowledge the roles, skills and knowledge of women, the sustainable use and management of forests for climate change mitigation will be severely constrained.

Having said all this, REDD does provide opportunities to make significant, immediate and direct contributions to the lives of rural women. REDD can reward women for their biodiversity stewardship (especially regarding saving seeds and nurturing trees) through targeted and effective public governance

measures that pay them for their time. It could also provide a renewed focus on reforms to decentralize forest management and institutions, to make them more accessible and responsive to the needs of rural women. Thus it could reduce the vulnerability of women to climate change while also creating new financing and mechanisms to address poverty alleviation goals.

And it is of utmost importance that we keep the pressure on REDD to make the most of these opportunities. Without a strong text, the lives of rural women will become incredibly difficult. Without a loophole-free text (for example, the UN definition of forests currently fails to differentiate between plantations and forests), deforestation may yet continue, contributing to nightmarish situations similar to that in Malaysia in the palm oil plantations. Over half of the workforce in the plantation are women, performing the most menial and underpaid jobs on contract – most often the role of pesticide sprayer. These women have been described as “poisoned and silenced” – without any proper protective equipment they deal with toxic chemicals such as the insecticide Parakat (which women are much more susceptible to because of our thinner skins) and suffer all kinds of terrible health consequences, with no medical care available to them.

So what we can do to ensure REDD properly considers and responds to the role of women with regards to the protection of forests across the world, before they sign it off in November?

First off, we can talk about it. We must not underestimate the power of raising awareness about these issues, and about the situation that many women will find themselves in should they not get a fair deal. We can support organizations such as the Green Belt Movement, who are doing fantastic work with women and tree planting in Kenya, or the Women’s Environment Network who have a dedicated programme that raises awareness of the link between gender and climate change. We can get involved in female-led activist groups like Climate Rush, set up our own, or find our own way to stand in solidarity with women across the world. Get involved. It’s not too late. If you are a woman, start thinking about governance and decision-making as something you could do. We might be running out of time, but we can only change things if we’re in it for the long haul.

Above all, we must keep pressuring our governments, decide not to give up, and know that even though Copenhagen failed, things do move forward (even if ever-so-slowly). To take our eye off the ball even for one second might mean a text full of holes and we’d be missing a real opportunity – not only to reduce deforestation and protect our warming world, but to protect and improve the lives of women across it.

Picture credit Marc Johns

That’s so crazy it just might work!

13 Aug

This is cross-posted from The Otesha Project UK blog

It’s sad but true that in a month, I’ll be leaving my current role at Otesha to go back to school and do a masters at Sussex Uni in Climate Change & Policy. I’m a mix of emotions – sad to be leaving, excited to move to a new city but also thinking a lot about what it means to be moving away from all the invigorating, life-affirming, life-changing grassroots work that I’ve been privileged to be involved in these past couple of years, and moving towards talk of economics, markets, policy and acronyms.

I’ve had to justify my position to a lot of people, who think the system is broken and therefore I shouldn’t go there, that change can only happen on the ground. On the flipside, others have breathed a sigh of relief – “thank god” I can see them thinking “she’s going to get off her bike and start making real change where it matters”!

But surely, SURELY, it can’t be that cut and dried. The environmental justice movement is a spectrum, and there is a need for us all, and therefore maybe we need to do it all. I want to be able to engage at that level, and talk to big and important people, and tell them with confidence why they are clearly wrong not to put global equality, safety and health at the top of their priority list. But at the same time, I’ll never stop doing cool things on the ground, challenging the system we’re working in, empowering others and riding my bike!

I stumbled across this Sesame Street video on another blog, and it reminded me how intelligent that show was (no reason to go to school when you have Jim Henson’s moral code) and got me thinking about all this movement stuff. It’s a brilliant illustration of how we might all march to a different beat, but how powerful and creative we can be when we work together – “suppose you do your kind of drumming and I do my kind of drumming at the SAME TIME”?

I imagine here that Bert is working for DECC (he’s a bit like that isn’t he), slow and steady. And Ernie is a rebel Climate Camper. We need both and we need them at the same time. This is urgent stuff and we can’t leave any doors unopened. But whatever you do, as Bert says, you gotta have soul.

Last Day in the UN!

17 Dec

This is cross-posted from the UK Youth Delegation to Copenhagen blog

Wednesday was the last day that the UK Youth Delegation had any presence within the UN. Watch this to see what Emma, Dave, Anna and Josh did with it – it’s exciting!

Don’t Ask Me I’m Just a Minister

14 Dec

This is cross-posted from the UK Youth Delegation to Copenhagen blog

Song for our negotiators

13 Dec

This is cross-posted from the UK Youth Delegation to Copenhagen blog

So here I am, sitting in plenary
With you, our negotiators, sitting in front of me.
Talks offtrack, this is whack, are you taking it seriously?
But it’s alright for you cos you’ll be dead in 2050.

It’s alright for you with your nice family,
Your hotel room for free with a colour tv.

It’s alright for you, so at ease with 4 degrees.
Shrug your shoulders and blame it on the political breeze.

It’s alright for you, you’ve achieved your dream,
Best mates with Ed and Gordon, you’re in the A team.

But I’d like a quick word, cos this is absurd.
The talks at Copenhagen resemble a great, steaming turd…

What about responsibility?
What about your ability to help protect the fundamental rights of humanity?
What about my right to choose to have a family?
Oh yeah, I forgot, you’ll be dead in 2050.

You’ll be dead in 2050
So maybe that’s why
When confronted with the science you just close your eyes.

You’ll be dead in 2050
So maybe you don’t care
You choose not to see our fists raised up in the air.

You’ll be dead in 2050
So maybe you have no fear
But let me remind you, I’ll still be here.