– Calling for disability inclusive climate action at Klimaatmars 2021

Published on: December 15, 2021

On November 6 2021, during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the biggest climate march the Netherlands has ever known took place in Amsterdam. Over 40.000 people joined the march that started at Dam Square and ended in Westerpark. People from different backgrounds (age, gender, ethnicity, disability) walked together in solidarity. The chants, the music and the creative protest boards formed a colourful and energetic atmosphere. The core message of the march was: ambitious action for climate justice now.

Justice for the planet and its people, including people with disabilities. DCDD participated in the march, to raise awareness on the specific impact of climate change and natural disasters on people with disabilities. And to call for a disability inclusive climate response. One of our slogans was inspired by Adrien Weibgen who is a Staff Attorney at the Urban Justice Center and author of “The Right to be Rescued”. In a video of Rooted in Rights she states the following: “When you know in advance who is most likely to be harmed by a disaster and you don’t do anything about it, then that is a choice”. Rooted in Rights is an organization that raises awareness on the need of disability inclusion during evacuation and risk reduction. Their goal is to reach all emergency planners, local city councils, county government and other people that are involved in evacuation and risk reduction plans to see this video so that people with disabilities will be included in the future.

The lack of attention to disability inclusion and accessibility was unfortunately exemplified at the start of COP26 in Glasgow. Israel’s energy minister Karine Elharrar was not able to attend the first full day of COP26 because the venue was not wheelchair accessible. The event also failed to include British sign language interpreters and captions for the broadcasting of COP26. All in spite of the UN’s commitment towards disability rights and inclusion. 

The final text from COP26 only included one mention of disability. While international disability organisations are welcoming this as an important step towards just climate action, there is a need for a more  disability inclusive strategy so that nobody gets left behind. In a video of the European Disability Forum the importance of participation is explained: “If these policies and programs are designed based on consultation with people with disabilities and their representative organizations, they can be actually wonderful opportunities not only to address the climate crisis, but also to enhance the inclusion of people with disabilities to enhace accessibility.” – Elham Youssefian. A paper from the GLAD Network and reflections from CBM Global present timely insights and recommendations on the inclusive way forward.

DCDD was happy to see the accessibility measures taken at the Climate March in Amsterdam this November, such as sign language interpretation at the main stage and reserved wheelchair spots. Yet, also here some work remains in making accessibility a more consistent part of the preparation process, and in creating space for the voices and perspectives of people with disabilities on stage. All in all, it was an important day in which people with and without disabilities came together with a loud and clear message: climate justice now! 

Feel free to get in contact with us if you want to know more about disability inclusion within the fight against climate change. 

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