10 Lessons From Copenhagen

Between meetings, demonstrations, conversations and media interviews, the NAACP emerges with 10 lessons from the Climate Change Conference.

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“Green economy,” “green jobs” and “clean energy” are things we all agree are good, right? The problem is that these phrases are vague—often deliberately so. For some, a discussion of “clean energy” includes the concept of “clean coal” which, of course, is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as coal mining and processing that isn’t hazardous to the environment and its inhabitants. Similarly, many other so-called solutions for climate change may be ineffective at best, and harmful at worst.

6. What seems “good” to some isn’t necessarily good for all.

On its face, the Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) sounds like a positive global-warming solution. The program aims to preserve forests and help economic development in developing nations with the financial support of wealthy nations. But according to indigenous communities globally, the REDD may result in a government land grab on long-held indigenous territory in countries such as Guyana, Indonesia, Suriname, Paraguay, etc., taking away rights to forests, traditional territories and medicines. For every proposed “solution,” there is an impact that must be considered.

5. Identity is related to level of oppression.

Whether it is the climate justice movement or the targets of our activism, we have all fallen short of recognizing and addressing intersectionality, or, put simply, the intersection of identity and oppression. For example, the disproportionate impact of climate change on women is well-documented—women experience increased work burdens during food shortages, for example, and are often the last to eat the worst portion in times of famine. And often we fail to mention the added burden on women when we’re talking about race, class, indigenous issues, etc.

4. Local community action is the key to real and lasting change.

In order to survive the coming transition and mitigate the impact of climate change, communities must focus on self-reliance, resistance and resilience. Across the globe, local communities are already engaged in emergency planning for climate-related disasters, and are beginning to look at ways to develop self-sustaining economies that minimize energy-dependent imports. Some have begun to fight back against those who would encroach on their rights.

3. President Obama may not be able to do it alone, but WE CAN do it together. And we must!

President Obama has the power to lead wealthy nations toward strong emissions-cutting targets. As communities of color, we listened to his campaign promises and mobilized the masses to put him in office. Now we need to support him in delivering on those promises by speaking with one voice, pushing for aggressive targets and ensuring that communities of color in the United States—and countries in the global south—are in leadership in determining adaptation funding allocation.

2. A people, united, will never be defeated.