HBCU Climate Change Delegation Converge on COP21 in Paris

The HBCU Climate Change Consortium converged on the COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris, France November 30 – December 13, 2015. Forty-four delegates (29 students and 15 mentors) representing 15 HBCU’s traveled to Paris, France to participate in the twenty-first 21st , Conference of the Parties Climate Change Conference. 

Leaders from over 190 countries negotiated core issues on the 1.5o target, the Green Climate Fund, meeting the US Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) and long-term decarbonization and loss and damage. Several HBCU delegates participated in interviews and press briefings in the official climate negotiations space called the “Blue Zone.”

Twenty-two of the forty-four HBCU representatives were selected as official delegates to attend the official  climate negotiations side-events in the “Blue-Zone” of the conference.   The other HBCU delegates attended several side-events in the civil society space called the “Green Zone,” Climate Generations area. Some of the side-events included:

  • Interactive Simulation of UN Climate Negotiations
  • How to Implement the Paris Agreement  Among Citizens
  • Youth Caucus
  • Eliminating the Effects of Racism on Our Work to Sustain All Life
  • Climate & Health Summit
  • Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change
  • The Cost of Coal Film Festival
  • Press Briefing with the U.S. Department of State,  Karen Florini, Deputy Special Envoy and M. Allyn Books-LaSure, Senior Advisor, Bureau of Public Affairs.

Six HBCU student delegates participated in a NAACP youth panel, “Racial Justice Dimensions of the Struggle to Address Climate Change, Part I,” subtopic, “Climate Justice Experiences and Leadership of African American Youth.”  The interactive session addressed ways that youth advocates can educate environmental justice communities through faith based organizations, elementary and secondary schools, and organizations serving the elderly community. Participants of this session will develop a blueprint to advance a climate justice agenda for and by people of the African Diaspora and African Americans from the global south. The youth panelist included Shermeese DeWalt, Claflin University, Helen Kassa, NAACP San Jose, CA, Adria Peterkin, Howard University, Edwin Simpson, Claflin University, Jylise Smith, NAACP, Steven Washington, Texas Southern University, Isaac Wilkins, Howard University, and Aara’l Yarber, Howard University. 

HBCU COP21 student delegates participated in the session, “Racial Justice Dimensions of the Struggle to Address Climate Change, Part II.” This session addressed how climate change adversely impacts Afro descendant communities in the global south and global north. Participants discussed who the power holders are and the role that race and class plays on decisions effecting vulnerable communities.

Drs. Beverly Wright and Robert Bullard participated on a panel with NAACP entitled, “Racial Justice Dimensions of the Struggle to Address Climate Change Part III.” Participants discussed racial justice and Afro-Descendant leadership in advancing climate justice. Youth leaders from the HBCU Climate Change Initiative and the NAACP gave testimonies about the adverse impact of climate change in their perspective communities. 

The panel was followed by a “Black Lives Matter,” demonstration in the Green Zone at COP21. The demonstration was an opportunity for HBCU delegates to lift up their voices in protest to the continued discrimination on black lives concerning environmental racism and police brutality. 

On Saturday, December 12th the Paris Agreement was signed by 186 countries that will include new climate commitments from all major countries and set in motion efforts to require deeper emissions reduction commitments and mobilize greater investments to assist developing countries in building low-carbon, climate resilient economies.

HBCU delegates will continue their climate justice advocacy and education efforts addressing equity and inclusion at the upcoming 4th Annual HBCU Climate Change Conference in New Orleans, LA, March 30 – April 3, 2016.