It's crucial that COP27 and climate action spaces at large dismantle decades of exclusion and ingrained ableism to center disabled people’s expertise and lived experiences in decision-making spaces.

The Conference of Parties (COP) has not always been accessible. A series of accessibility failures troubled people attending last year’s COP26. Lack of captions, sign language interpreters, and wheelchair-accessible entries signal who can and cannot participate on this global stage. This year, there are a few more events dedicated to disability topics, as well as some proactive initiatives from Egyptian hosts, but much more work remains.

Not only are there barriers to physically participating at COPs, but there is also an ongoing struggle to center disability within climate conversations on this global stage. Disabled people are more acutely harmed by climate change and eco-ableism. Germán Parodi, co-executive director at The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, points out that disabled people die or are injured 2 to 4 times more often than non-disabled people during or after a natural disaster. Yet there is still no Constituency for Disabled People to vouch for disability representation at COP27. This is important because constituencies help individuals and groups effectively advocate. But this is not just a post about vulnerability.

Ensuring disabled people are included in decision-making spaces builds momentum in moving climate action forward. The lived experience and expertise of disabled people are a driving force for presenting climate solutions with a unique and valuable perspective. In a panel on an inter-constituency movement, Pratima Gurung, academic activist and president of the National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal, grounds the opening statement in a dialogue on how disabled people with multiple, intersecting identities are agents of change. "We are not just victims but we are the key to solutions, which needs to be realized in climate policies and plans with concrete implementation," says Pratima Gurung. Disabled people are at the forefront of imagining and advancing climate-friendly futures rooted in intersectionality, justice, and care.

Read the full article about disability justice and climate action by Jimena Cuenca at NAAEE.