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Shaping a Just World

24.11.2022

COP27: Putting the debate about race at the centre of discussions

Leaders of the Brazilian black movement have come to COP27 with a fundamental demand: to place the racial debate at the centre of the climate negotiations, internationally and domestically.

 

Leaders of the Brazilian black movement have come to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, with a fundamental demand: to place the racial debate at the centre of the climate negotiations, internationally and domestically.

The 40-strong delegation from the Black Coalition for Rights, which includes more than 200 different organisations, has come to COP27 to present their position that there cannot be »climate justice without racial justice«. Today, 17 November, members of the Coalition participated in a meeting between president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and representatives of civil society, during which they handed Lula a letter calling for his government to ensure that the fight against environmental racism is a central element of structuring »Brazilian and global economic development«.

In Brazil, a country where more than half the population is black, environmental racism is a huge problem. In many of Brazil’s major cities, a disproportionate number of citizens living in Brazil’s infamous favelas identify as black. These urban communities often suffer from a lack of basic services, such as sanitation and refuse collection, and also face frequent floods and landslides. They are among the more than three billion people around the globe living in parts of the world considered »highly vulnerable« to the impacts of climate change, and this vulnerability is severely exacerbated by inequalities of race, gender and income.

As Douglas Belchior, history professor and leader of black rights organisation Uneafro, argues: »There is no social crisis in Brazil that is not primarily racial.«

Here at COP27, Belchior has been able to link this underlying premise to elements such as Carbon Markets under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

»We want to provide this understanding here too by demanding that the rich pay the bill, that carbon markets be socially and racially fair, and that financial resources reach those most in need. Our core demand is that negotiators address these issues that concern our lives.«

 

 

Twenty-six-year-old Amanda Costa, one of few official UN Youth Ambassadors, is another black leader here at COP27 who focuses on highlighting the importance of racial equity in climate action. As director of the Instituto Perifa Sustentável (»Sustainable Periphery Institute«) and a resident of Brasilândia, she has dedicated much of her twenties to mobilising young people from Brazilian favelas and working with them to come up with solutions to the environmental and climate-related problems they face in their communities.

 

 

Costa has been working with young leaders across São Paulo to develop strategies to adapt to climate change and become more resilient. This is especially important to Costa, who was born and raised in a favela in the Brasilândia district of São Paulo where she lives to this day.

A few days before leaving for Sharm el-Sheikh, Costa’s organisation led a participatory mapping project with community members, aiming to identify the parts of their community most affected by environmental and climate-related issues in their region, including flooding and landslides, as well as hazardous waste management.

 

 

»It's really crazy to be here. Leaving Brasilândia and occupying space alongside the biggest decision-makers in Brazil reminds me that this is much bigger than me,« Costa said during COP27. »But I can't be naive and romanticise this place. I'm here, but there's a thousand problems going on in my neighbourhood. It's time to guide a sustainable development agenda for those on the peripheries, in the favelas and among communities,« she added.

While at COP27, Costa has focussed on presenting some of her findings.

»Very few black people have been able to access this type of space, and even fewer people from the favelas. So it is very important for us to be here and share our data, our ammunition and experiences that highlight what we are already coming up against,« she declared.

»It's not just about us participating in the conference, it's about representing Brasilândia and occupying this space, presenting demands and returning to our community to shape the discussion back home.«

 

Anna Beatriz Anjos is an investigative journalist based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. As a reporter, she covers the impacts of the climate crisis, socio-environmental conflicts, and indigenous populations and local communities. She had contributed in transnational investigative projects led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ): Pandora Papers (2021) and Implant Files (2018).


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