Big Climate Conversations: Agnes Leina on how climate change impacts women in indigenous communities
Agnes Leina | Mar 7th 2018

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we’re focussing on how climate and development actions impact women and girls in developing countries.

Agnes is the Executive Director of Illaramatak Community Concerns in Kenya, and a climate leader we had the pleasure to meet at the COP23 climate conference in Bonn. Agnes is an expert in foregrounding the human rights and social concerns of women and girls in climate negotiations at all levels, with over 15 years of experience working for rural Indigenous Pastoralist Communities.

In the words of Agnes, “success stories within climate projects require financial stability, environmental, social and financial safeguards and the cooperation of all agencies, private, non private, UN, national and international.”

Read her reflections on the recent climate negotiations and the importance of foregrounding local voices in climate projects below.

What are your personal ambitions in fighting climate change and, in your opinion, the biggest themes of the past COP?

As ambitious as it may sound, my personal ambitions for Bonn are to reduce carbon emissions below 1.5C, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement. The biggest themes for the last round of climate negotiations were ‘actions’. This theme seemed to run throughout the COP; translating the Paris Agreement into real, actionable themes. Also, the theme of Indigenous traditional knowledge and indigenous people was important. They not only live with the effects of climate change every day of their lives, but as holders of ancient knowledge, they are people with solutions for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The theme of mobility as a form of resilience to climate change was also there. It is evident that there is a lot of migration in many parts of the world because of climate change and therefore the theme of climate refugees was present.  More and more communities are being forced to migrate or move to safer places or cities due to floods, droughts, or the rise in sea levels. This means that countries have to come up with national policies on mobility to allow for organised movement of people as part of their adaptation measures. The mobility theme also incorporates pastoralist nomadic people who move from one place to another in search of greener pastures as part of their adaptation to extreme weather during drought – another aspect that should be considered in national policies and support.

The theme of gender and adaptation to climate change was also very evident. Women, as knowledge holders and as the most affected by climate change, should be included more in the decision-making processes for climate change policies, as well as in climate change project design, planning and implementation. They need to be part and parcel of climate decisions.

In your opinion, what is needed from the international community to make the transition to a low-carbon economy just for the people in developing countries?

Developing countries need a lot of support, especially financial support, from the international community. Many of these countries are victims of a changing climate they did not contribute to, yet are suffering all the consequences. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects are now happening in developing countries but we can still drastically improve the way these projects are managed on average on a global scale.  Financial support should be directed to the champions of climate change, those on the ground, and not subject to bureaucracy. The developing countries will also need to build the capacity of their citizens to understand the urgency of climate change adaptation and mitigation where applicable.

For instance, the United Nations will need to support communities to implement free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) which means involving communities at the beginning (during design and planning), and during the implementation of green smart projects. They must be given the opportunity to approve (or reject) projects prior to the commencement of operations. This includes participation in setting the terms and conditions that address the economic, social and environmental impacts of all phases of the project.

Watch Agnes Leina’s interview with Global Goals UN at the COP23 in Bonn last year

Which safeguards should carbon reduction projects adhere to in order to benefit local communities?

Carbon reduction projects need to have very clear environmental safeguards before they are established.  It is very important that projects have full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in order to inform the people about the direct impacts of the projects.  Safeguards serve to identify, avoid, and minimise harms to local people and the environment, so it is important to carry out environmental and social impact assessments, consulting with affected communities about potential project impacts, and restoring the livelihoods of displaced peoples.

These safeguards will be an effective way to ensure that environmental concerns, social concerns and community voices are represented in the design and implementation of climate smart projects or clean development mechanisms.

Safeguards should also consider disadvantaged communities, such as indigenous peoples, rural or remote people and women and children. This will minimise risks and resistance from communities and will care for the human rights concerns of the people such as land rights, mobility rights, livelihoods rights, cultural rights, religious site protection rights and socio-cultural rights, among others.

What is needed to scale up and expand success stories?

In order to scale up success stories it is important that adherence to human rights and FPIC in all projects is considered to minimise negative impact stories. This could be anything from evictions to the killing of human rights defenders as they defend their access and control of land. Thus, it is important to encourage a dialogue before and after the implementation of any climate resilience projects anywhere in the world. Success stories within climate projects require financial stability, environmental, social and financial safeguards and the cooperation of all agencies, private, non-private, UN, national and international. Informed consent and access to benefit sharing is also key to the success of the world’s carbon reduction efforts.


Photo credit: Africa Time


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