11 Nov 2022

COP27 summit: NZ group lobbies for more disabled people's involvement

9:26 pm on 11 November 2022
Disabled people meet at COP27 in Cairo, Egypt

Photo: Supplied / David Tong

A group of New Zealanders is fighting for those with disabilities to have more of a voice and proper support at UN climate conferences.

Greens co-leader James Shaw also addressed the disability issues event held on the side of the COP27 summit in Egypt, which was hosted by the SustainedAbility Disability & Climate Network.

Kera Sherwood-O'Regan of the Disabled Persons Assembly NZ helped run the event, and said the aim was to get formal recognition for the disability group as a constituency.

This would unlock practical measures such as permanent access to high level and closed events, and the use of meeting rooms.

But the big win would be getting speaking slots at the start and end of the conference.

"When we have the space [for opening remarks] we can set the tone for negotiations at the beginning of the conference.

"And when we have the opportunity to make closing remarks it's an important space to hold parties accountable for the decisions they have made during the conferences."

Disabled people meet at COP27 in Cairo, Egypt - NZ disability activist Kera Sherwood-O'Regan

Kera Sherwood-O'Regan has helped to organise a disability issues event in Egypt. Photo: Supplied / David Tong

She has been calling for countries to join their network.

"To ensure that the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] makes dedicated plans and commitments to uphold and embed disability rights within these negotiations, and - critically - that such a plan takes into account the lived experiences of indigenous people with disabilities, and those who are multiply marginalised."

She said it was significant to have the climate change minister speaking so strongly in support of their work.

Shaw said it was critical those with disabilities could participate in international climate talks.

"People with disabilities are disproportionally and negatively affected by climate change and by our current responses to it."

Shaw said getting the expertise of those with disabilities was a necessary step for climate justice, and there needed to be an action plan on the issue.

Sherwood-O'Regan said the group came about because young people with disabilities found it difficult to take part in UN climate conferences.

She said often in the climate movement protests or actions were planned without thinking about whether it was accessible for those with disabilities.

Disabled people meet at COP27 in Cairo, Egypt

Photo: Supplied / David Tong

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