Canadian ecumenical community supports women’s participation at COP24


Jessica Steele and Georgine Kengne
Jessica Steele and Georgine Kengne

Today marks the official start of COP24 – the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – in Katowice, Poland and Jessica Steele and Georgine Kengne are there representing KAIROS Canada under the accreditation of The United Church of Canada.

As observers, Jessica and Georgine will witness discussions and decisions by states at official sessions and engage with other civil society actors.  Observer participation at COP promotes transparency, which is more crucial than ever at this year as states are set to develop rules and work plans for achieving their commitments under the Paris Agreement.  All eyes will be on governments to  see if they respond with concrete action to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report’s urgent warning to hold global warming to 1.5°C.

“It is time that Canada steps up to this challenge by agreeing to more ambitious climate targets. We need to commit in word and in action to facilitate a transition away from fossil fuels and to supporting communities both in Canada and abroad who are being most affected by the climate crisis,” says Jessica.  Georgine adds, “I think world leaders and polluters have had enough time to discuss. It is time to save the planet.”

Jessica and Georgine’s participation is significant  because the UNFCCC’s Gender Action Plan, which was adopted at COP23 in Bonn, becomes operational this year.  Recognizing that women disproportionately bear the brunt of climate impacts and hold key local knowledge about resources, the Plan aims to bolster women’s influence in climate change dialogue and decisions to improve the effectiveness of the UNFCCC.

Jessica and Georgine will participate in key meetings around just transition, community and indigenous knowledge, and gender.  COP24 is in an industrial region of Poland undergoing significant change and solidarity and just transition of industrial regions is one of the Polish presidency’s key messages.  Last year’s COP23 in Bonn saw increased commitment from states to phase out coal-fired electricity generation by 2030 with the Powering Past Coal Alliance, and this year’s COP is an opportunity to move that work forward.  In addition, the adoption of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, which will allow for Indigenous peoples and communities on the frontlines of climate change to share lessons learned and perspectives on reducing emissions, adapting, and building resilience, will be an important outcome of this year’s conference.

Both women bring diverse experience to their participation at COP24.  Georgine’s work on Consent and Just Alternative Development at WoMin: African Women Unite Against Destructive Resource Extraction seeks to build a women-centred and ecologically responsive African alternative to the current destructive model of extractivism.  WoMin empowers and supports women impacted by extractives industries to advocate for both short-term and longer-term changes in advancing alternative models of development.  Jessica , an environmental educator and climate change activist from Coast Salish Territory in Vancouver, works with the Ocean Wise Conservation Association’s Ocean Bridge program where she enables youth and young adults across the country to participate in ocean conservation service projects.

Both Jessica and Georgine have strong ties to the ecumenical community in Canada and globally.  Jessica is a member of the PWRDF Youth Council and represents PWRDF on the KAIROS Ecological Justice Circle.  Georgine is the former General Secretary of the Nairobi-based World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) – Africa, which has worked closely with KAIROS on climate change, debt cancellation, and HIV/AIDS advocacy issues in Africa.  The knowledge and experience gained from COP24 as women and as climate activists will not only strengthen their professional work, but the work of climate justice within these networks and the wider ecumenical community as well.

Jessica and Georgine’s participation is jointly supported by The United Church of Canada, KAIROS Canada, and the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF).  The United Church of Canada (UCC) is the only Canadian church with official observer status at COP and this year invited the ecumenical community to nominate participants for its delegation.  Follow KAIROS Canada on Facebook and Twitter for news from Jessica and Georgine at COP24!


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