Among the major global events that occupied attention in recent times are International Human Rights Day (December 10) and the virtual Climate Ambition Summit (December 12). Their respective themes “Stand up for Human Rights” and “Sprint to Glasgow” where the substantive meeting, COP-26 will be held in December 2021, were influenced by the intervention of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was recognized that human rights must be at the centre of the post COVID-19 world, and ambitious Climate Commitments must embrace the three pillars of the Paris Agreement: mitigation, adaptation and finance that will help to build towards a green and resilient recovery from COVID-19.
Human Rights must be at the Centre of the post COVID-19 world
The major takeaways from this year’s Human Rights agenda fall under the UN Human Rights generic call to action, “Stand up for Human Rights. They require: (a) ensuring that Human Rights are central to the recovery efforts; (b) reaching common global goals by creating equal opportunities for all; (c) re-building the world we want through global solidarity as well as interconnectedness and shared humanity; and (d) fostering more resilient and just societies by applying human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination.
The COVID-19 crisis has been fueled by deepening poverty, rising inequalities, structural and entrenched discrimination and other gaps in human rights protection. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is convinced that "only measures to close these gaps and advance human rights can ensure we fully recover and build back a world that is better, more resilient, just, and sustainable".
The Climate Ambitious Summit and the Global Surge Driven by COVID-19
What emerged out of virtual event was encouraging for those of us who participated. The Summit, co- hosted by UK, France and the UN attracted 70 Heads of State, along with regional and city leaders, and heads of major businesses. They delivered a raft of new measures, policies and plans, aimed at making a big dent in greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring that the warming of the planet is limited to 1.5c. The commitments to strengthen national climate plans (NCPs) grew significantly and came from of the world's biggest emitters. The UK, which is hosting next year’s UN Climate Conference in Scotland, announced that it will cut emissions by 68 per cent, compared to 1990 levels, the European Union bloc committed to a 55 per cent cut over the same time period. At least 24 countries announced new commitments, strategies or plans to reach carbon neutrality, and a number of states set out how they are going even further, with ambitious dates to reach net zero: Finland by 2035, Austria by 2040 and Sweden by 2045. Pakistan announced that it is scrapping plans for new coal power plants; India will soon more than double its renewable energy target, and China committed to increasing the share of non-fossil fuel in primary energy consumption to around 25% by 2030.
In addition, The UN Global Compact continues to support companies around the world to operate in a socially and environmentally responsible way and that includes coming up with innovative solutions to build prosperity without harming the planet. While the coronavirus wrought economic havoc on the world, with the release of COVID-19vaccines already being rolled out, economies are expected to begin opening up, and the UN is spearheading attempts to ensure that the world will “build back better”, rather than returning to a fossil-fuel dependent business as usual.
The innovative video interactions involving a wide range of stakeholders, revealed real momentum towards the next big step on the road to carbon neutrality at the COP-26 UN Climate Conference, in November 2021. Some of the UN features on the fight against the climate crisis through news stories, interviews and more, you will find here.
The Prospects for a Worthwhile Intervention by Latin America and the Caribbean(LAC)
One issue that emerged that may yet introduce an important development to be considered in Glasgow in 2021 is the Escazú Treaty by LAC designed to ensure rights to environmental information, public participation in environmental decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. It is the first such legally binding regional environmental and human rights agreement to a healthy environment. It addresses impunity of environmental human rights defenders and advocates for timely delivery of information to the public on environmental matters. This historic treaty on environmental rights from 22 LAC countries has so far been ratified by eleven: Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Uruguay. The implications of this LAC Initiative will be explored in greater detail, subsequently.
Let Voices Propel the Convergence of Human Rights and Climate justice
Access to Justice in environmental matters is supported by the "UN Elders". But more and more civil society activists are lending their voices to the cause as are angry youth. At the Ambition Climate Summit, youth leader, Ms. Selina Neirok Leem, described as a climate warrior, noted that the very survival of her home in The Marshall Islands is threatened by climate change and that, since Paris, temperatures have continued to rise, forest fires have continued to rage, and glaciers are still melting. Ms. Leem said that, even though she successfully fought for the 1.5c “lifeline” to be included in the Paris Agreement, she like Greta Thunberg remains angry and disappointed at the slow pace of change. While I do not have access to Ms. Leem's verbatim statement , the stern rebuke by Greta Thunberg at the UN General Assembly in November 2019 says it all.
CLIP - Climate activist Greta Thunberg's remarks at the Climate Action Summit at UN HQ in NY
Tags: The Climate Ambitious Summit and the Global Surge Driven by COVID 19
Human Rights the centre of the post COVID-19 world
Prospects of worthwhile intervention by LAC
Civil Society Advocates and Angry Youth Propel the Convergence of Human Rights Climate justice
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Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.