A Need for Concrete Action at COP21

From November 30th to December 11th, The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) will be held in Paris, the 21st annually held Conference of the Parties. This climate change conference began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and continued on to influence with the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, the, Montreal Action Plan, and the  Green Climate Fund. Now, the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) includes a near-universal membership of 195 parties across the globe. This year 2015’s objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from both the developed and the developing nations of the world. We have seen the countries who account for approximately ninety percent of the world’s emissions announcing climate targets including countries like China, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Brazil, and India. This December, the largest number of global stakeholders, international attendance of the decision makers across the globe with delegates, world class speakers including country Ministers, industry CEO and international leaders, and many more will be attending and participating at the event. It will be one of the largest ever held events in Paris. Thus, many look forward for strong action and commitment to be made at the conference and those countries will cooperate to make the world a better and a healthy planet to live environmentally.

Since diverse and active people are headed to the conference with different goals and interest in December at the Paris Conference.  We need to be careful that all interests are equally included at the talk. It is obvious and no doubt that big and prestigious community leaders from environmental agencies, business, and social leaders will attend to influence the outcome of the conference. However, will minority and or low income community voices be left out of the conversation? It would not make sense to create a legally binding agreement without considering the fact the most vulnerable and impacted communities are minority and low-income communities. Thus, Environmental Justice groups will continue to speak up to make sure the opinions and the interests are considered during the climate talks. It may be hard to speak up and let our interest be considered and placed on the table but we still have to try and inform those who may still not be familiar with the Environmental Justice groups. Environmental issues and especially the climate change issues are not an issue for certain groups but rather is an issue that impacts the whole globe wherever you are.  Once again, everyone’s interests and voices need to be heard equally when making a legally binding agreement regarding climate change. It would not make sense for the Environmental Justice groups to not be included and considered. We need to take active role and speak up for the community that we represent.

As a native of South Korea, I’ve learned about Korea’s role and action in the Paris Conference. Korea is one of the main polluter and is one of the contributors of the 90 percent of world’s pollutant emission. It is also the world’s 14th largest economy and as of 2013 is the 8th largest emitter of CO2 largely due to an energy-intensive structure of the industries. Thus, I hope to see Korea take part and active role in the Paris Conference. Its role should also be on to narrow the gap between the developed and developing countries as well. Korea was one of the poorest countries and now is an OECD and G20 member state which has developed to play a bridging role between the developed and the developing countries. Compared to Kyoto Protocol, this year’s post 2020 actions will apply to both the developed and developing member states and instead of top-down approach; it will be striving for a bottom-up approach. With these changes, Korea will have a transitional role to play to make the conference a success. What most might not understand is that Korea has overburdened and vulnerable communities as well and we would like to see that those groups that exists within Korea that speak up for them take action and be heard of as well.

The day before the Paris Conference on November 29th at 1pm in Seoul, Korea, there will be a national march that supports and advocates for Paris Conference which starts the next day from November 30th. Likewise, many of the people are looking for concrete action to be taken from the world leaders to make our world a healthy and sound environment to live in equally.

There is only 21 days left until the big event takes place in Paris gathering all the experts, passionate advocates, intelligences, leaders, governments, and many more. It is not easy and it is not often that all these people gather in one place to discuss about one issue. At the same time, climate change is very big and significantly affecting everyone that is sharing the planet. We need to use the 10 days in Paris to bring about the best solution to our world’s problem and that involves cooperating to tackle the climate issue together and incorporating all interest groups including the Environmental Justice group as well. Our world is facing a problem which no longer can be tolerated and neglected. Now is the time the world calls for firm actions to be taken together globally at the Paris Conference.


Ms. Shelly Lee- Climate Justice Intern

WE ACT for Environmental Justice COP21