The U.S. has positioned itself as a leader in the U.N. climate talks, and with good reason. As the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter, the country has to pledge to cut back significantly to make any deal worthwhile. In the binary view of the talks that splits countries between developing and developed, the U.S. is top dog in the advanced world.
But local and state officials are headed to the U.N. talks in Paris to remind the world—and even some U.S. officials—that the country isn’t a monolithic bloc and that some parts of the country are just as much at risk of climate change as the world’s poorest nations.
“Being a Southerner, the one thing you know for sure is we have become the sacrifice zone for the United States,” said Colette Pichon, a Louisiana-based attorney. “When you broaden your perspective, you see the global South bears that burden in respect to the global North."
"We are more in line with the marginalized peoples of the world,” she said.
Pichon is part of a 33-person delegation from the Gulf South in Paris to raise the region’s local issues to the international stage. The trip is the culmination of the yearlong Gulf South Rising campaign, organized around the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to draw attention to the environmental threats to the region, whether from oil activities or the global forces of climate change (among the group's major priorities is getting federal recognition for the United Houma Nation tribe to help its members deal with land erosion)