Monday, December 14, 2015

Local Plea for Climate Justice was Heard at Paris Talks

UB Law students presented WNY climate pledge 
to national figure

By David Kowalski

The Rise Up For Climate Justice Campaign of Western NY created a pledge calling on President Obama and U.S. negotiators in Paris to make bold cuts in global warming pollution and to ensure justice for communities and workers during the necessary shift from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy sources. 

The campaign succeeded in outreach efforts to diverse groups of people and organizations in WNY and asked them to endorse the Climate Justice Pledge. Signatories included people of different faith groups, labor unions, students, people of color, indigenous peoples, teachers, community activists, environmentalists, artists, performers and local politicians.

Following a well-attended September rally at Niagara Square and subsequent events, the campaign sponsored a community Gathering on November 28 in Buffalo. About 200 supporters of the campaign gathered in the Temple Beth Zion auditorium to express their concerns about climate change and participate in various ceremonies (Video credit: Diana Strablow).

                                       Community Gathering       Photo credit: Jim Anderson
[Click image to enlarge]

One ceremony at the Gathering involved the campaign's Climate Justice Pledge. A scroll bearing names of organizations and people who signed the Pledge was presented by Lynda Schneekloth, chair of the local Sierra Club Niagara Group, to University at Buffalo Law students Bridget Steele and Andrea DiNatale.
UB Law students accept the scroll of Pledge signers. Photo credit: Nate Schneekloth
The students and their faculty adviser, Jessica Owley, planned to transport the Pledge scroll to Paris and deliver it to a national Sierra Club official who could pass it on to a U.S. negotiator at the U.N. Climate Conference.

The scroll contained 2,361 names of citizens, organizations and local public officials from Western New York who signed the Climate Justice Pledge. Among the organizations were 17 labor unions, 13 faith groups, 9 socio-economic & civic groups, 7 union leaders, 3 peace groups, 9 elected officials, 1 political party, and 8 environmental groups. The list is here.

Scroll of Climate Justice Pledge signers. Photo credit: Lynda Schneekloth
The UB student-faculty contingent traveled to Paris and arrived at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12. They shared their observations, opinions and photos through social media, primarily on a website called SUNY Buffalo Law School’s Climate Change Blog.

On Dec. 9, a blog titled "WNY Climate Justice Pledge Makes It to Paris" was posted on their website. As it turned out, the Pledge not only made it to Paris, the students managed to connect with a national figure, Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the national Sierra Club, and present to him the scroll of WNY Climate Justice Pledge signers!
Michael Brune holding the Scroll presented by Alyssa Erazo, reading the Pledge, and Collin Doane.
Following the presentation describing the significance of the WNY Climate Justice Pledge scroll and the diversity of pledge signers, Michael Brune accepted the scroll and said "This is how we will win."

"Twenty minutes after receiving the scroll from the representatives of Buffalo, Mike Brune was set to meet with John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, to convey to the US Delegation the hopes of the American people, including Western New Yorkers," Chris Kennedy wrote in her blog post. She added:
"I would like to think that it was the commitment and enthusiasm of the people of Western New York that made John Kerry decide that the U.S. needed to support a Climate Change Agreement with a Legally Binding Transparency System.

Although that may not be the case, I am sure it is not coincidence that Kerry changed his tune shortly after meeting with Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune who passed our message and our scroll along."
John Kerry served as the top U.S. negotiator at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris. We may never know what transpired between John Kerry and Michael Brune, who heard WNY Climate Justice Pledge message when he received the scroll and said "This is how we will win."

What is clear is that, thanks to this terrific group of young law students and their University at Buffalo faculty advisor, the Western New York plea for Climate Justice was indeed heard at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. And for that accomplishment alone, we can all feel very proud of them and extremely grateful.

UB law students (L to R): Bridget Steele, Leah Bernhardi, Christina Kennedy, Alyssa Erazo, and Collin Doane. (Center) Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club in holding the WNY Climate Justice Pledge scroll. (Far Right) Sandy Chelnov, Rise Up for Climate Justice Campaign.
 [Click image to enlarge]

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