The People’s Summit for Climate Justice at COP26

by Musa Hussain 

Attending the United Nations climate summit called COP26 was an incredible experience in so many different ways. It was a privilege to be able to listen to, converse with, and learn from so many different climate justice activists and leaders from around the world. While attending the official COP was an amazing experience, what I found just as rewarding was spending time with the more grassroots centered groups and activists who converged at venues around the city.

These discussions and panels, organized by The People’s Summit for Climate Justice focused on how climate injustice intersects with other forms of oppression from racism to capitalism to imperialism. By highlighting the voices of indigenous people and others who have been marginalized, events at the People’s Summit helped me understand the ways in which the effects of climate change are disproportionately felt by those who actually contribute the least to it. Further, listening to speakers at the People’s Summit made me realize that what works as a solution to climate change for one group might not work for another group. While climate change is felt all over the world, its effects differ from region to region, from country to country, and each community has a different understanding of the best way to mitigate these effects.

For example, at a panel on eco-socialism, a Mexican activist pointed out that his solution of nationalizing the fossil fuel industry as an initial step to phasing it out would not, and does not work in countries such as Mexico where the federal government actually uses their control of the oil industry to enrich corrupt political actors, and to continue releasing emissions. I also found the more social, informal, and discussion-based events held by the People’s Summit to be fantastic.

While attending panels and lectures at the official conference was an absolute honor, conversing and grabbing a drink with some fellow climate activists we met through events at the People’s Summit was especially cool. For me, a hugely important part of the climate movement is learning from your fellow activists and building solidarity across the world, and this is something that can best be done through simply sitting down and talking with someone who might live across the world, but shares the same fight against climate change.

Overall, being part of both COP and the People’s Summit was an absolute honor, and the experience will allow me to become a better climate activist at UConn and in the global fight against climate change. By observing these two sides of the climate movement and their contrasting perspectives and strategies, I was able to understand that the fight against climate change is one that must be fought on many fronts, with a variety of tactics.