Last year’s 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26 UN) in Glasgow, UK, was a momentous occasion. Over 140 nations pledged to end deforestation in their countries by 2030; wealthy nations agreed to fund climate initiatives in low-income countries most affected by the climate crisis; and Indigenous activists, even as they were overlooked by officials at the conference, rallied defiantly in protest and demonstrations to show the world “We are not drowning! We are fighting!” The event seemingly got an abundance of media coverage and attention — likely because it was one of the first major international events since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
However, this year, much of that excitement seems to have dissipated. This year’s UN Climate Conference, COP27, is taking place in the seaside resort town of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. It’s occurring against the backdrop of unprecedented climate disasters, as nations around the world weather record-breaking heatwaves; face immense, unseasonable storms, hurricanes, and typhoons; endure droughts in some regions and devastating floods in others; and more.
Just last month, in October 2022, massive flooding destroyed infrastructure and homes in Australia; landslides took down bridges and roads and left multiple dead in Indonesia, and fires wiped out entire communities. Those who are experiencing these disasters firsthand know the truth. This is a crisis. However, as a spate of other international crises and conflicts garner airtime and attention, a defeated and compassion-fatigued public often struggles to find the urgency to face the massive problem that is our ever-warming planet.
The host of this year’s event, Egypt, has also been accused of using the event to gloss over its human rights abuses — including the jailing of hundreds of environmental activists, crackdown on civil societies, unlawful deportations and detainments, and more.
Many Egyptian civil society workers report that they have been barred from the conference, and activists are accusing the government of attempting to greenwash its abysmal environmental and human rights records by touting its host status this year.
In order to shine a light on the human rights abuses, greenwashing, and elitism pervading much of these climate discussions, Global Voices will release a special coverage, with a particular focus on sharing Indigenous narratives, stories of climate resistance, and the intersection between human rights and environmental justice. See our coverage below.