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COP 28 Should Amplify Voices of Disability Rights Activists

Those Most Affected by Climate Change Should Guide Response

Environmental activists with disabilities take part in a global climate strike on September 27, 2019 in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia. © 2019 WF Sihardian/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“If we don’t bring persons with disabilities to the table and think of an inclusive climate change response, we’re again looking at not just a future but a today where we’re leaving them out and behind.”

As world leaders gather for the 28th global climate conference (COP28) in Dubai, they should heed these words from Nidhi, an advocate from India fighting for climate justice inclusive of people with disabilities. They should no longer be an afterthought in climate negotiations and agreements.

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People with disabilities need to be heard on climate change issues. 
Vashkar Bhattacharjee, Bangladesh 
People with disabilities are the most vulnerable communities affected by the climate change. 
Nidhi Ashok Goyal, India 

Let me give you a few examples. 
Vashkar Bhattacharjee, Bangladesh 
Displacement is one of the biggest challenges for people with disabilities. 

Nidhi Ashok Goyal, India 
I live in Delhi, NCR, in India, where smoke levels are so high, people using assitd devices for respiration, all of them, it's impossible for them to live. 
Srinidhi Raghavan, India 

Summers can be very hard. Months of headaches and migraines, a lack of temperature regulation within the body, many persons with disabilities such as those with multiple sclerosis, living with mental health conditions that need anti-depressants, those with chronic fatigue and autoimmune conditions, all experience this at higher frequencies. 

Pierre Cooke, Trinidad & Tobago 
Year after year, persons in the Caribbean experience a sense of climate anxiety. Anxiety around the anticipation of some major catastrophic storm, disaster, and it's time we understand how that anxiety affects our mental health. 

Vashkar Bhattacharjee, Bangladesh 
We want our rights. We believe that people with disabilities can lead and perform like others to make disability inclusive climate change movement. We need disability-inclusive policies, laws and activities to ensure equal access for all. 

Pierre Cooke, Trinidad & Tobago 
I'm calling for more research, more data, a better understanding of exactly how we can look at climate change and mental health and create better solutions. 


Aphrodite Janeway, Canada 

The only viable solution in the world we live in is autonomy, true autonomy. When governments pay attention and meaningfully include those most at risk of climate change harms and it includes us people with disabilities, it will in turn enhance protection and safety for everyone. 

Nidhi Ashok Goyal, India 

Include persons across disabilities. Have them at the table. If we don’t bring persons with disabilities ttao the table and think of an inclusive climate change response, we’re again looking at not just a future but a today where we’re leaving them out and behind. 

So far, 2023 has been another catastrophic year witnessing the impacts of climate change. July was the hottest month ever recorded worldwide, wildfires raged in Canada, and scorching heatwaves hit Spain, India, and Bangladesh – to name a few. The rights of people with disabilities, including the right to life and the right to health, are disproportionately at risk during climate-related disasters, yet policies and practices fail to sufficiently protect them.

There is no time to waste in strengthening commitments toward climate action. Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the world needs to reduce emissions well before 2030 to avoid an overshoot of the 1.5 degrees Celsius limitation target. Governments have human rights obligations to address climate change, including addressing its chief drivers – fossil fuels and deforestation – and improving protection of and supporting at-risk populations in adapting to inevitable climate impacts.

At COP28, it’s important to ensure people with disabilities are included in climate negotiations and agreements to cut emissions by phasing out fossil fuels and protecting those most at risk of adverse climate effects. The United Arab Emirates, which is hosting COP28, should live up to its promise of striving “to make COP28 the most accessible and inclusive COP to date by proactively and authentically engaging with numerous constituencies and diverse groups, including … people with disabilities.”

COP negotiators and climate activists also need to take the demands for disability-inclusive climate justice seriously. Vashkar, an activist from Bangladesh, told us: “We believe that people with disabilities can lead and perform like others to create a disability inclusive climate change movement.”

As the world braces for worsening climate catastrophes, leaders should listen and be guided by people with disabilities and all those who have least contributed yet are most impacted by the single greatest threat to humanity. 

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