HOT Partners with Indigenous Equity Leaders to Advocate for Climate Justice at COP28

by Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, CEO, Global Atlantic Fellow for Social Equity Lowitja Institute.

Few will have missed the news headlines over the past couple of weeks from COP28, the UN Climate Conference in Dubai. This yearly gathering brings together global leaders and guests from around the world to work together and mobilize collective global action to address the accelerating impacts of climate change. Among them this year were several Atlantic Fellows and Rhodes Scholars from across the globe and many different fields. On Dec. 5, 2023, thanks to an Atlantic Institute Connect Grant, 19 Atlantic Fellows and Rhodes Scholars gathered with a clear sense of purpose and motivation. We met in the early evening, after a full week of COP28 activities, to share our knowledge and experiences to build something that will generate future action. 

Out of this conversation, an exciting new Climate Justice Community of Practice has been born. The Climate Justice Community of Practice is intended to be a global network of Atlantic Fellows and Rhodes Scholars grounded in key shared values of equitable and safe health systems, decolonization, climate justice, and the empowerment of minoritized groups. The Climate Justice Community of Practice members have a wealth of experience and knowledge to contribute.

“COP28 allowed us as Atlantic Fellows and Rhodes Scholars to really strengthen our bonds, learn about each other’s work in the climate space, and it got everyone thinking about how to build a values-grounded international coalition to work powerfully in the fight against climate change, specifically in international spaces”.

Dany Sigwalt, Global Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity.

How did it emerge?

Over the previous weeks, Fellows and Scholars had represented our communities at COP28. As delegates, we observed critical discussions about mitigation, adaptation, and implementation. As key speakers and presenters, we advocated ensuring that the disproportionate impacts on minoritized communities were considered and acted upon at an international level. It was clear we had many shared interests and diverse skills that we could pool together.

What marked out COP28 was that it was the first ever to host a Health Day, a long-urged recognition that climate impacts on health and well-being could be catastrophic and that this issue needs to be elevated to the highest international priority.

 COP28 was a historical moment for the United Nations. For the first time, a day was dedicated to unpacking the disastrous consequences that climate change has on our health, especially the health of minoritized communities. As a leader who focuses on the social determinants of LGBTQI2S+ health, I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from and partner with Atlantic Fellows and Rhodes Scholars who care deeply about creating an accessible, vibrant, and healthy community for all.

Jordi Luke, CEO- Haus of Transcendent, Global Atlantic Fellow.

CEO of Lowitja Institute, Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, is the 2024 Victorian Australian of the Year winner. (Image: Salty Dingo)

Indigenous leadership

First Nations peoples globally contribute the least to climate change and yet they are impacted the most. Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, Global Atlantic Fellow for Social Equity, a proud Narrunga Kaurna woman and CEO of Australia’s Lowitja Institute, attended COP28 to connect with Indigenous peoples around the world and speak about ways to work together to address the climate crisis. She was proud to speak at a number of events and to be part of the launch of Australia’s first Climate and Health Strategy by Assistant Health Minister, Ged Kearney. For Adjunct Professor Mohamed, transforming the power structures that dictate global discussions regarding climate change and health is vital to ensuring that Indigenous peoples have bright futures. Part of this work is for nation-states to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Climate change is an intensification of colonization. Indigenous peoples survive and thrive because of our connections to Country, community and culture. Climate change threatens these connections. Indigenous peoples are guided by our traditional knowledge and experiences. We can lead the way out of this crisis. But the power structures need to change. Climate justice is the way forward. It is time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Indigenous peoples globally to be empowered to lead solutions; it is time for our peoples to have a voice.

Adjunct Professor Janine Mohmed, CEO- Lowitja Institute, Global Atlantic Fellow for Social Equity.