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MN voices carry environmental justice message at global conference

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Thursday, December 14, 2023   

A high-stakes global climate conference wrapped up this week, with a new agreement concerning fossil fuels in place.

But it wasn't just elected leaders having talks - environmental justice advocates from Minnesota are reflecting on their participation.

At the two-week-long Conference of the Parties (COP) 28 summit, some 200 countries agreed to a more aggressive push in phasing out energy sources like coal.

Underneath those high-profile negotiations were discussions about helping under-developed countries affected by climate disasters.

Carolina Ortiz, associate executive director with Minnesota's Communities Organizing Latino Power and Action, or COPAL, said it aligns with her team's desire to make environmental justice a priority.

"We need to continue pressuring our world leaders to do better," said Ortiz, "and to continue making sure that we're putting community lives before profit."

Earlier in the conference, leaders agreed to establish a loss and damage fund of nearly $800 million for smaller nations vulnerable to climate change.

Advocates for some of those countries say it's a positive step but stress the need for sustainable help.

As for the fossil fuel agreement, some nations acknowledge that implementation will be vital for that plan to work.

COPAL was part of a regional delegation - led by the organization Climate Generation - that attended the conference. Officials said the goal was to introduce voices they feel aren't heard.

Ortiz said the public needs to know more about things like climate migration, and that it's not just an issue happening elsewhere in the world.

"You know," said Ortiz, "we're seeing it from people that live in South Minneapolis, North Minneapolis - different parts of Minnesota - that are living in disadvantaged communities where they're being more directly impacted by pollution and other things like that that affect their daily lives."

Ortiz suggested that as regional climate issues worsen, people living in those underserved communities could be forced to uproot their lives in hopes of improving health outcomes.

Meanwhile, climate analysts say disasters elsewhere in the country might prompt people to move to places like the Midwest, raising questions about whether "haven cities" have enough resources.



Disclosure: COPAL MN contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Environmental Justice, Immigrant Issues, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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