UN launches Environmental Rights Initiative
“Those who struggle to protect planet and people should be celebrated as heroes , but the sad fact is that many are paying a heavy price with their safety and sometimes their lives,” Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said Tuesday, launching the UN Environmental Rights Initiative in Geneva.
“It’s our duty to stand on the side of those who are on the right side of history. It means standing for the most fundamental and universal of human rights,” he added.
By helping people to understand how to defend their rights, and by assisting governments to safeguard environmental rights, UNEP maintains that the initiative will bring environmental protection nearer to the people.
Although, since the 1970s, environmental rights have grown more rapidly than any other human right and are enshrined in over 100 constitutions, in January the international non-governmental organization (NGO) Global Witness documented that almost four environmental defenders are being killed weekly – with the true total likely far higher.
Many more are harassed, intimidated and forced from their lands. Moreover, around 40-50 per cent of the 197 environmental defenders killed in 2017 came from indigenous and local communities.
“Violations of environmental rights have a profound impact on a wide variety of human rights, including the rights to life, self-determination, food, water, health, sanitation, housing, cultural, civil and political rights,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, recounting recent visits to Papua New Guinea and Fiji where he was made keenly aware of the impact of extractive industries and climate change on individual rights.
“It is crucial that those most affected are able to meaningfully participate in decisions relating to land and the environment,” he stressed.
Two disturbing counter-trends are underway. The first is the escalating intimidation and murder of environmental defenders, and the second is some countries’ attempts to limit NGO activities.
“States have a responsibility to prevent and punish rights abuses committed by private corporations within their territory, and businesses have an obligation to avoid infringing on the human rights of others,” Mr. Zeid continued. “I hope this new Initiative will be able to encourage States and businesses to comply with these obligations.”
Leo Heileman, UNEP director for the office in Latin America and the Caribbean called it “an opportunity to give environmental rights the same legal standing as human rights at the global level.”
Among other things, the initiative will help governments strengthen institutional capacities to develop and implement policy and legal frameworks protecting environmental rights, and assist businesses to better understand their environmental rights obligations and provide guidance on how to advance beyond a compliance culture.
“I am proposing to the UN Human Rights Council that the UN should join countries in recognizing a global right to a healthy environment,” said John Knox Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment . “The time has come to recognize this formal interdependence of human rights and the environment, not only at national level but at the UN level too.”
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UN sees ‘worrying’ gap between Paris climate pledges and emissions cuts needed
“One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future,” said UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Erik Solheim.
The Paris accord, adopted in 2015 by 195 countries, seeks to limit global warming in this century to under 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.
“If we invest in the right technologies, ensuring that the private sector is involved, we can still meet the promise we made to our children to protect their future. But we have to get on the case now,” the UNEP chief added.
The eighth edition of UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report, released ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in in Bonn next month, warns that as things stand, even full implementation of current national pledges makes a temperature rise of at least 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 very likely.
Should the United States follow through with its stated intention to leave the Paris accord in 2020, the picture could become even bleaker.
The pace of growth in carbon dioxide emissions have slowed, driven in part by renewable energy, notably in China and India, raising hopes that emissions have peaked, as they must by 2020, to remain on a successful climate trajectory.
To avoid overshooting the Paris goals, governments – including by updating their Paris pledges – the private sector, cities and others need to urgently pursue actions that will bring deeper and more-rapid cuts.
Source: The Emissions Gap Report 2017 | UNEP
The report also says that adopting new technologies in key sectors, such as agriculture, buildings, energy, forestry, industry and transport, at investment of under $100 per tonne, could reduce emissions by up to 36 gigatonnes per year by 2030, more than sufficient to bridge the gap.
However, it warns that other greenhouse gases, such as methane, are still rising, and a global economic growth spurt could easily put carbon dioxide emissions back on an upward trajectory.
Strong action on hydrofluorocarbons, through the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, and other short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon – could also make a real contribution.Back to Top
Hunger rates remain high amid conflict, climate shocks, warns UN food security report
According to the Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, issued Monday by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the need for external food assistance in 37 countries – either affected by conflict or adverse climate shocks – remains unchanged compared to the situation three months back.
“Civil war and insecurity are direct reasons for high hunger rates in 16 of those countries, ranging from Burundi to Yemen,” said FAO in a news release announcing the findings.
“Conflict is displacing millions of people, hampering agricultural activities and, in many cases, also driving basic food prices up sharply,” it added.
At the same time, inadequate and erratic rainfall is also posing a growing threat to food security in southern and eastern Africa, where many rural households have suffered from four consecutive drought-affected agricultural seasons.
In Somalia, aggregated cereal production for the country’s “deyr” rainy season is estimated at 20 per cent below average, and similar pattern in rainfall and yields has been observed in north-eastern Tanzania.
Furthermore, prices of staple cereals such as wheat, millet or sorghum continued to remain high as a result of removal of subsidies, increased demand, and weakening of currencies.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, inflation pushed prices to more than double in 2017 to a 42 percent annual rate.
Another factor driving up prices was the disruption of traditional trade routes due to violence, such as in and around the Sahel, as a result of which countries dependent on these routes (such as Libya) witnessed much higher prices as well as facing food shortages.
The FAO report lists the following 37 countries as currently in need of external food assistance: Afghanistan; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Guinea; Haiti; Iraq; Kenya; Lesotho; Liberia; Libya; Madagascar; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mozambique; Myanmar; Niger; Nigeria; Pakistan; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Syria; Uganda; Yemen; and Zimbabwe.
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