After a busy week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt for the international climate conference known as COP27, it is clear that climate change is not an isolated issue. Everything is affected by it: migration, taxes, socio-economic justice, racial justice. It is about community health from the macro scale to the most micro. It is affecting both our global systems and every local community, to different degrees.

This theme came through especially during roundtable negotiations about loss and damages and solutions. In these discussions, delegates talked about large issues such as record-breaking storms and rising sea levels, but also small communities – villages destroyed by extreme floods or landslides, and that don’t have the resources to build climate resilience.

It is about making sure that we have a future.

The historical origins of climate change are rooted in a lot of the same issues that have led to current inequalities in global systems like inequity between the global south and global north, systemic racism, global wealth distribution. Because climate change is about reckoning with our past, COP27 has evolved to become the nexus point for global advocacy on these issues. It is about dealing with our past and making sure that we not only have a future, but an equitable future.

Climate change is a global coordination issue, and as such climate issues are never going to be solved by one massive, holistic resolution made at COP. This does not mean the negotiations at COP aren’t valuable – I think they are. However, our expectations of them might not be what they should. Yes, there are slow moving actors and some actors who do not have genuine intentions. But progress has been made, slowly.

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Our climate situation is not going to be solved by negotiations alone. What gives me hope is the thousands of advocates who go to COP. It provides a central meeting place for advocates to connect, learn and take back what they learn to their homes. It gives them credibility when talking with their governments and creates a platform where the whole world can see what world leaders are doing and then address their progress. There are real consequences for governments in relation to civil society when leaders prove to be disingenuous or break promises.

It is easy for us to see the frustrations of climate negotiations and be discouraged, when we should really see that there are so many people who are working on this issue and are making progress, and the local work we implement makes a huge difference to their efforts.

That last point is not meant to delegitimize people’s concerns with climate change or to say that everything is fine and not to worry. It is not fine. We are in a global crisis and there is much work to be done. What I hope to convey is that there is work that we can do; there are ways that we can combat climate change, and we are not alone in that work.

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