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Who are the activists fighting for system change around COP26?

In mainstream media, we always hear about politicians praising the newest scientific invention that will allegedly save the world. But we never talk about those who are fighting on the ground, organizing and defending themselves and their territories against capitalist and (neo-)colonial corporations. As we wrote in one of our previous blogposts (link), the solution to the climate crisis does not lie within the COP, but among those affected most by the climate crisis. In this blogpost, you have a chance to get to know some of the many inspiring people and organizations that fight for real system change to find just and anti-racist solutions to the climate crisis.

Omar Elmawi

Omar at a demonstration against EACOP during COP26

“The pipeline is going to affect more than 100.000 households, it’s going have a big impact, including affecting about 40 million people in their resources, in water and catchment areas. It’s going to affect a lot of farmers and it’s going to generate about 34 million tons of CO2 every year and that’s really big, because this means it will emit more than Tanzania and Uganda combined. This is a crisis and the people who benefit from all these projects are not the governments of these two countries, they are not the citizens of the countries, but the dirty fossil fuel companies, who are here in COP to lobby and make sure that we take longer to make action and come up with climate solutions. We cannot wait any longer. We will be doing everything legally possible to stop this disaster from happening. Because at the end of the day this is about us, this is about our loved ones, this is about our relatives. And therefore, we are going to make sure that this project is not going to take place!”

Omar Elmalwi about EACOP during COP26. EACOP is a pipeline that is currently being built in Tanzania and Uganda and, if finished, will be the longest heated crude oil pipeline of the world. This project is lead by French oil giant Total. Omar is part of a campaign against this pipeline, called StopEACOP.

More info under stopeacop.net

Catherine McAndrew

My name is Catherine, I work for the Landworkers’ Alliance. The LWA is a union of small farmers, growers, and foresters, which is affiliated to La Via Campesina. My work for the LWA covers supporting food justice projects, campaigning to make it easier to establish farms in and near cities, and working alongside agricultural workers’ unions in Spain which organise workers supplying produce to UK supermarkets.

The official summit itself was, as expected, a massive disappointment, committing to little in the way of substantive actions on the climate crisis. This is unsurprising considering there were more delegate from the fossil fuels industry attending the conference than any single country. Personally, I felt the opportunity to build links with other movements and activists from all over the world was far more significant than the conference itself. I took part in several sessions at the People’s Summit, including speaking with Sarah Woolley, General Secretary of the Bakers’ Food and Allied Workers’ Union on the exploitation of agricultural and food production workers. This event highlighted the power that supermarkets have over their supplying firms and how they excercise their dominance to drive down the wages and conditions of their workers. I spoke about my work with the SOC-SAT trade union, which organises agricultural workers in Almeria. Almeria is the source of 20% of Europe’s fresh produce, mostly for Northern European supermarkets. To support SOC-SAT, we have been trying to develop method for placing pressure on the supermarkets at the top of the supply chain to force them to resolve disputes in the interests of their workers.

My experience at the People’s Summit has convinced me even further that capitalism’s relationship with both people and nature is an utterly extractive one, and that the solutions for the climate crisis will come through the struggle of working people against this system. It was wonderful to spend my time in Glasgow meeting people waging that struggle from all over the world.

Sigar James Agumba

 I was born on 26th November 1987 to Paul Agumba Odhiambo (Father) and Norah Opiyo Sigar (Mother), second born and the eldest son in a bi-polygamous family of twenty (20) children. We remain nine siblings in the first household after death of two, and the same case in second household of stepmother– second wife. Certain aspects of African cultures necessitated this. I come from Homalime Village, Koguta Sub- Location, Kanam ‘A’ Location and West Karachuonyo Division within Rachuonyo North Sub-County, Karachuonyo Constituency, Homabay County in the Republic of Kenya.

I am a practicing and growing consultant in Gender Responsive Governance and Research; mostly on leadership, climate mitigation and adaptation interventions, and community livelihood development and education spectra.  My Masters (MA) studies in Gender and Development Studies at Egerton University [2017-date] is at last defense stages. Previously, I graduated with First Class Honours Degree (BA) in Gender, Women and Development Studies from the same institution [2014-2017] where i also served as the Students’ Chairman of for Nairobi City Campus. Importantly, I first underwent the Government of Kenya’s disciplined system as a trained Primary School Teacher for two years [2006-2008] at Kamwenja Teeachers’ Training College.

I have spearheaded a number of climate resilience driven initiatives and volunteered with various peace and cohesion as well as governance projects in Kibera Slums of Nairobi and some rural areas in Kenya. My desire is to see a global living ecosystem with tremendous depreciated level of green gases emission in the next decade. We need to live healthy, which is a matter of urgency to protect the survival and well-being of our future generations.

Teamwork and building, sharing, respects to humanity and World expeditions are always my driving value pillars. When I get to platforms of teaching and capacity building, I am deeply home and at peace. I am looking to a future where governance based of essential constitutional fidelity will allow more women and youth. I feel the aspiration, to get into leadership positions to constructively take part in decision making on matters smart climate.

Pueblo Waorani – Ramón Uboñe & Marcia Enqueri


La lucha del pueblo Waorani fue la iniciativa de crear una protección y defender su territorio ancestral Waorani, con el propósito de que sea reconocida ante las leyes del estado ecuatoriano, y de esta manera defender el territorio reducida actualmente, por diferentes agentes provenientes del estado. A la vez, el inicio de la exploración y explotación petrolera, dentro del territorio waorani requería de una comunidad en defensa territorial propia, para vigilar las actividades petroleras y además para proteger a los pueblos en aislamiento voluntario Tageiri- Taromenani de tal manera todos unidos podemos defender el cambio climático para las futuras generaciones, que en lo posible evitar las desastres consecuencias ecológicas y culturales que ha tenido gran impacto para el pueblo Waorani en la parte norte y sur de la amazonia ecuatoriana.


The struggle of the Waorani people was initiated to protect and defend their ancestral Waorani territory, by achieving its legal recognition by the Ecuadorian state and in this way protect their territory that is currently  taken over by different state actors. The beginning of oil exploration and exploitation within the Waorani territory also required that the community organized for territorial defense, to monitor oil activities and also to protect the Peoples in voluntary isolation, the Tageiri- Taromenani. All together, they organize to fight climate change for the future generations, and to avoid as much as possible the disastrous ecological and cultural consequences and impacts it has already had for the Waorani people in the northern and southern part of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Jimmy Thomson

My name is Jimmy, I’m 29 years old and live in the Southwest of England. I am a new entrant to farming currently working at Radford Mill Farm in Somerset. I am passionate about building alternative food systems to the highly exploitation and destructive industrial food model dominated by agribusiness, multinational corporations and supermarkets that currently drives insatiable consumption patterns in the Global North. I’m a strong advocate of agroecology and food sovereignty as a necessary and desirable response: diverse food producers, culturally appropriate food, localized food systems, short supply chains that support local economies, ecologically and socially just farming and land use, promotion of soil health, low-carbon food, connecting people to food and so much more.

The People’s Summit at COP26 in Glasgow not only connected issues of climate justice to food, farming and land but also joined the dots between other broader yet interconnected international struggles in the fight against climate injustice. The climate crisis can often leave me in a state of inertia. After leaving Glasgow, having participated in the People’s Summit, I left fired up, more informed and better equipped to be the change that we need.

Agroecological farming has the potential to help solve the interwoven crises we face. It grounds me in a place, makes me work with rather than against nature and teaches me how to produce nutritious food that is good for people and our natural world.

Cultural survival

COP26 Coalition Peoples’ Summit Panel: Indigenous Feminisms Fighting on the Frontlines of Climate Change; Daisee Francour (Oneida), left, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications and Avexnim Cojti (Maya K’iche’), center, Director of Programs at Cultural Survival.

There are 476.6 million Indigenous people, belonging to 5,000 different groups, in 90 countries, speaking 4,000 languages. Indigenous communities have resisted discriminatory colonial powers, extractive industries, and corporate greed with tremendous resilience, courage, and skill, but their protests are too often ignored by governments and corporations.

Cultural Survival  is an Indigenous-led organization that advocates for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and supports Indigenous communities’ self-determination, cultures, and political resilience, since 1972. This organization works toward a future that respects and honors Indigenous Peoples’ inherent rights and dynamic cultures, deeply and richly interwoven in lands, languages, spiritual traditions, and artistic expression, rooted in self-determination and self-governance. For almost 50 years, Cultural Survival has partnered with Indigenous communities to advance Indigenous Peoples’ rights and cultures worldwide. The organization has built a robust network of partnerships with Indigenous communities spanning over 70 countries on 6 continents.

Indigenous rights are the solution to climate change! Cultural Survival believes that Indigenous Peoples have the power and solutions to solve many of today’s problems when respected and empowered to do so.

Their delegation of Indigenous women participated in various dialogues about the importance of engaging, centering, and financially resourcing Indigenous women’s leadership in addressing, adapting to, and mitigating climate change. From caring for their families, communities, food systems, waterways, lands, territories, traditional governance systems, cultures, and languages, Indigenous women are on the frontlines of climate change and have had an active voice at COP26.

This year, Indigenous Peoples represented the second-largest civil society delegation in attendance at COP26, second only to oil and gas lobbyists which accounted for 500+ delegates. In an analysis of COP26 decisions, Cultural Survival stated that despite the tremendous efforts brought forth by Indigenous Peoples from across the world, global leaders failed to act on the urgency of the climate crisis and empathize with what Indigenous Peoples experience on a daily basis – the direct impacts and catastrophes of climate change.

The organization also argued that it is essential that Indigenous Peoples have direct access to finance. Funding mechanisms should be directly accessible to Indigenous Peoples and directly reach local communities at the forefront of climate change so that they can continue to sustainably manage forests, lands, and territories for the benefit of all. Dedicated climate financing for Indigenous Peoples could provide support for them to maintain, restore and enhance their knowledge and practices that care for the Earth, to promote Indigenous food sovereignty, create an appropriate structure for loss and damage to compensate Indigenous Peoples, and advance the rights of Indigenous women and persons with disabilities within the climate agenda.

The organization recognizes that if we are to win the climate change war, we will have to amp up our efforts both at the local and international levels. They recognize that we could talk all we want at global conferences, but the real effects and changes will only happen at the local level. “Local resilience requires local traditional knowledge. We cannot address a global crisis without focusing on local, place-based solutions,” stated Galina Angarova (Buryat), Cultural Survival Executive Director. Supporting Indigenous communities at the local level supports and enriches the ecosystem in that region, and the health of that regional ecosystem impacts that of surrounding ecosystems. This strengthens the interconnected and interdependent web of ecosystems (or web of life), and Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge is the catalyst for the climate change mitigation our world desperately needs.

Check Cultural Survival official website
Check this Indigenous People’s Analysis of COP26 Decisions

Jean-Mathieu Thevenot

Jean Thevenot is a member of the Youth Articulations of La Via Campesina internationaly and regionaly in France with ELB / Confederation Paysanne. Recently became a farmer on a piece of land with a friend & partner in the Basque Country, producing organic seedlings for gardeners and professionals. Working with a wide range of varieties of veggies, flowers and aromatics using local seeds. A nomadic childhood following humanitarian-working parents pushed him towards international solidarity which he pursued in anti-extractivists networks (Yes to Life No to Mining) and now within La Via Campesina. Working with European Coordination of Via Campesina youth articulation on various issues from working conditions in european agriculture to defence of LGBTQIA+ rights, as well as the promotion of the UNDROP. On climate issues we denounce the false solutions that agribusiness seeks to impose on people around the world: GMOs, digitization of agriculture, compensation, etc. Especially about digitalization and new “intelligent” technologies which are very dangerous options leading us toward a countryside with no farmers, and which have a huge material footprint. Peasant-based agroecology in a food sovereignty framework is the best way to solve the climate crisis!

La Via Campesina

Paula Gioia (right), is a peasant farmer and a beekeeper, working on a community farm in Germany. They are a representative of La Via Campesina, which is an international movement bringing together millions of peasants, small and medium size farmers, landless people, rural women and youth, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world.

“Humanity is facing daily historical floods, fires, droughts, increasing hunger, making life more and more difficult for all of us, peasants, pastoralists, fishers and other rural communities. And what do we see inside the COP? We see market-based solutions, we see risky techno fixes, we see net zero proposals. All of them coming by corporate-controlled governments, coming from transnationals, coming from philanthropists, coming from mass media. And what they are feeding is actually the climate inaction of all of them. We are the ones actually feeding the world. Nature-based solitons, climate-smart agriculture, and geoengineering, all of these are bullshit.”

Together with millions of others, small-scale food producers and organizations we join the large convergence of struggles against fossil fuel capitalism, against racism, against colonialism and against patriarchy. We stand for systemic change rooted in the rights of humanity and of Mother Earth. And I can guarantee you from our side we will remain working towards agroecological farming, sustainable forestry, and a better land use. Our rural solutions serve the people, serve the climate, serve the nature, the transition has to be now! Peasant agroecology and food sovereignty can feed the world, can cool the planet, and fit climate justice. Therefore I urge land workers, pastoralists, fisherfolks, migrant workers, contract workers, landless people, indigenous people, we must be involved and be in the center of public policy making, we have to be part of implementation processes towards a just transition in the food systems. And I call you, agroecological land workers and territory defenders of the world, unite! Globalize the struggle, globalize hope!”

Vanessa Nakate

Vanessa Nakate is a Ugandan Climate Justice Activist. Starting in 2018, she began solitary strike action against inaction on the climate crisis. Vanessa is part of Fridays for Future MAPA (Most Affected Peoples and Areas), and has spoken out about the interlinking crises of climate, food and capitalism.

Leaders have failed to understand that we cannot eat coal we cannot drink oil and we cannot breathe so-called natural gas. Is there anyone among you who can help me to explain to girls dropping out of schools, women walking long distances to collect water and find food for their families, that the decisions made by governments right now are only going to increase the challenges they are facing?”

“The climate and ecological crisis is not just about weather patterns, or data points or net zero targets, it is about real people, real children, real people like you and me. And it is not taking place a century in time, it is happening right now. We have to bring global temperatures to 1.5°, 2° is already hell for us, it is already destruction, it is already suffering, it is already disaster.”

“The climate and ecological crisis are already here but so are citizens from around the globe. Leaders rarely have the courage to lead. It takes citizens, people like you and me, to rise up and demand action. And when we do that in great enough numbers our leaders will move and till then we must demand that our leaders treat the climate crisis like a crisis, we must demand that our leaders stop holding meaningless summits and start taking meaningful action.”