By Chris Turner
By investing in family planning we can transform lives, improve health and economic outcomes, and help reduce our impact on the climate, but right now family planning is scarcely part of the conversation, writes Chris Turner, CEO of Marie Stopes International Australia (MSIA).
While politicians deliberate and access to global climate funding becomes increasingly technocratic, it seems the most effective approach to climate change may indeed be one of the simplest.
Since the invention of the contraceptive pill in the 1950’s, access to modern contraception has driven some of the key demographic and social changes in history. It has delivered improved health outcomes for mothers and babies as women are able to wait longer between births or delay having their first child. It created demographic shifts, as populations have fewer dependents and a more productive labour force. It has empowered girls and women to stay in school longer, seek higher education and participate in the formal economy. And now recent research has determined that contraception also has a key role to play in addressing climate change.
As global warming becomes more of a certainty and climate events become more frequent, it can feel overwhelming. It’s predicted that climate change will lead to more extreme weather events and disasters, climate related diseases, food insecurity and instability. Our part of the world is particularly at risk and more people in Asia and the Pacific are affected by climate related events than in any other region in the world – 83 per cent are affected by droughts, 97 per cent are affected by floods and 92 per cent are affected by storms.
In response to this reality, a number of research papers, think tanks and universities have been exploring practical approaches to climate action. Last year, 200 scholars, scientists and thought leaders identified a comprehensive list of solutions with the greatest potential to reduce emissions or sequester carbon from the atmosphere in a book called Project Drawdown. Amongst 100 quantified solutions, family planning and educating girls were ranked as the most effective combined solution to reverse climate change.
As one of the largest global providers of reproductive health services, my team at Marie Stopes International Australia has been exploring this link; how does access to contraception impact on climate change?
Poverty reduction and strengthening economies
When women can exercise reproductive choice, they are more likely to participate in education and the workforce. In most developing countries, female participation in the formal economy has increased as fertility has fallen. Women’s participation in the economy promotes economic growth and economies that are strong are better able to absorb the disturbances of climate change and recover from climate-related events.
Sustainable population growth
Scaling up access to voluntary, high quality sexual and reproductive health services in areas vulnerable to climate change can reduce the pressure that rapid population growth has on the living environment and reduce the harms associated with increasing numbers of people being exposed to climate risks.
Women’s participation and leadership
Women’s participation and leadership is important to climate change preparedness, resilience and action. Enabling women to control their bodies and reproductive health can help create opportunities for women to participate, lead and contribute to the conversation.
As a climate change mitigation strategy, family planning programs are also more cost-effective than other conventional, energy-focused solutions. One study found that $220 billion spent on providing family planning to those with an unmet need would reduce 34 gigatons of global carbon emissions, compared to $1 trillion for a similar outcome if spent on low carbon technologies.
Thankfully these choices aren’t exclusive, but right now family planning is scarcely part of the conversation. More than 100 million women have an identified but unmet need for family planning in Asia. By investing in family planning to reach more of these women, we can transform their lives, improve health and economic outcomes and help to reduce our impact on the climate as well as improve our ability to respond to the coming changes.
There is still much to be done. Click here to read the full paper.
Published on Pro Bono Australia on May 21, 2018
New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and collaborators found that most marine life in marine protected areas will not be able to tolerate warming ocean temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Marine protected areas have been established as a haven to protect threatened marine life, like polar bears, penguins and coral reefs, from the effects of fishing and other activities like mineral and oil extraction. The study found that with continued “business-as-usual” emissions, the protections currently in place won’t matter, because by 2100, warming and reduced oxygen concentration will make marine protected areas uninhabitable by most species currently residing in those areas.
The study, published today in Nature Climate Change, predicts that under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 emissions scenario, better known as the “business as usual scenario,” marine protected areas will warm by 2.8 degrees Celsius (or 5 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.
The study concludes that such rapid and extreme warming would devastate the species and ecosystems currently located in marine protected areas. This could lead to extinctions of some of the world’s most unique animals, loss of biodiversity, and changes in ocean food-webs. It could also have considerable negative impacts on the productivity of fisheries and on tourism revenue. Many of these marine species exist as small populations with low genetic diversity that are vulnerable to environmental change and unlikely to adapt to ocean warming.
Authorities in Peru and Paraguay are using vicious smear campaigns, forced evictions and unfounded criminal charges against land and environmental activists who dare to speak out about human rights issues, Amnesty International said in a new report released today.
“Those who bravely stand up to defend their land and the environment are frequently targeted because of their work. These attacks have a devastating impact on their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as that of their families and communities,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
“The authorities in Peru and Paraguay must immediately stop misusing their criminal justice systems to persecute human rights defenders, obstruct their work and scare them into staying silent. Instead of criminalizing people for defending their land and natural resources, both States must take timely and effective measures to protect them.”
A Recipe for Criminalization: Defenders of the Environment, Territory and Land in Peru and Paraguay documents how authorities use harassment, stigmatization and intimidation tactics to undermine and obstruct community efforts to protect their land or water resources.
The majority of the threats and attacks that Amnesty International has documented against human rights defenders in the Americas in recent years have been directed against communities or organizations dedicated to defending rights related to land, territory and the environment.
The report reveals how authorities in Paraguay subject community leaders to smear campaigns, forced evictions and unfounded judicial processes, to block them from carrying out their peaceful human rights work and to dissuade others from speaking against injustices. It also documents how Peruvian authorities stigmatize human rights defenders, as well as several alleged instances of the police using unnecessary and excessive force against people demonstrating against mining projects.
The report highlights emblematic cases, including that of Raúl Marín, a Paraguayan human rights lawyer who faces frequent harassment and stigmatization because of his work. Police arrested Raúl on 13 January 2016, while he was providing legal assistance to people forcefully evicted from the urban community of San Lorenzo. He was arbitrarily detained for a month and has since spent more than two years under house arrest for alleged “obstruction of justice”.
Raúl, who also faces two charges for “trespassing” from 2015, has denounced several obstructions of his right to an adequate defence, including being denied access to his case file for months. Having examined the case against Raúl, Amnesty International did not find any evidence that supports the charges against him. The organization is concerned that Paraguayan authorities are misusing the law to obstruct Raúl’s work on behalf of families and communities whose human rights have been violated.
The report documents another emblematic case in Peru, where police arrested 16 community leaders who were campaigning to protect their land and water resources from the Conga mining project in the northern Cajamarca region on 26 April 2013. The public prosecutor’s office charged them with abduction and coercion, and sought prison sentences of more than 30 years.
Amnesty International found that the prosecutors based their case on contradictory and second-hand testimony and failed to present any evidence of the alleged crimes during the public hearings that the organization attended. On 28 March 2017, a court dismissed the case due to lack of evidence.
Amnesty International calls on the authorities in Peru and Paraguay to publicly recognize the legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders working on issues related to land, territory and the environment; stop misusing the justice system to harass and discredit them; identify and drop any unfounded criminal proceedings against them; and investigate and bring to justice all those responsible for threatening and attacking them.
Both States should also incorporate gender and ethnicity considerations into public policies to protect human rights defenders; and take measures to combat the structural causes of the violence against them, including impunity, stigmatization and discrimination.
Published on AI on April 26, 2018
By Nate Raymond
Massachusetts’ top court on Friday rejected Exxon Mobil Corp’s bid to block the state’s attorney general from obtaining records to investigate whether the company for decades concealed its knowledge of the role fossil fuels play in climate change.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Attorney General Maura Healey had jurisdiction to seek records to probe whether the oil company’s marketing or sale of fossil fuel products violated the state’s consumer protection law.
The ruling marked another setback for Exxon after a federal judge in March dismissed a related lawsuit it filed seeking to block investigations by Healey and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, both of whom are Democrats.
Exxon argued that because it is incorporated in Texas and New Jersey, Healey had no basis to issue a demand for documents in 2016 to conduct a Massachusetts-based investigation of whether it misled consumers and investors.
But Justice Elspeth Cypher, writing for a 6-0 court, said jurisdiction existed because of Exxon’s control over advertising conducted for about 300 franchise gas stations operating under the Exxon and Mobil brands in Massachusetts.
She said Healey’s probe related to how manmade greenhouse gas emissions had caused climate change, “a distinctly modern threat that grows more serious with time, and the effects of which are already being felt in Massachusetts.”
Healey said she hoped Exxon would now turn over documents it has fought hard against disclosing, showing what it knew about climate change and when it knew it.
“I hope this decision will encourage Exxon to end their scorched earth campaign,” she said.
Scott Silvestri, a spokesman for Exxon, said the company was considering its next steps.
Healey and Schneiderman launched their investigations following news reports in 2015 saying Exxon’s own scientists determined that fossil fuel combustion must be reduced to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Those reports by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times were based on documents from the 1970s and 1980s. Exxon contended that the documents were not inconsistent with its public positions.
Exxon has called the investigations politically motivated and in a separate lawsuit filed in federal court claimed that Schneiderman and Healey were conspiring to “silence and intimidate one side of the public policy debate.”
But U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan dismissed that case in March, rejecting as “implausible” Exxons’ claim Healey and Schneiderman were pursuing bad faith investigations in order to violate its constitutional rights.
Published on Reuters on April 13, 2018
By Anastasia Moloney
Colombia’s highest court has told the government it must take urgent action to protect its Amazon rainforest and stem rising deforestation, in what campaigners said was an historic moment that should help conserve forests and counter climate change.
In their ruling on Thursday, the judges said that Colombia - which is home to a swathe of rainforest roughly the size of Germany and England combined - saw deforestation rates in its Amazon region increase by 44 percent from 2015 to 2016.
“It is clear, despite numerous international commitments, regulations ... that the Colombian state has not efficiently addressed the problem of deforestation in the Amazon,” the supreme court said.
The ruling comes after a group of 25 young plaintiffs, ranging in age from seven to 26, filed a lawsuit against the government in January demanding it protect their right to a healthy environment.
The plaintiffs had said the government’s failure to stop the destruction of the Amazon jeopardized their futures and violated their constitutional rights to a healthy environment, life, food and water.
Bogota-based rights group Dejusticia, which supported the plaintiffs’ case, said the verdict meant it was the first time a lawsuit of this kind had been ruled upon favorably in Latin America.
“The Supreme Court’s decision marks an historical precedent in terms of climate change litigation,” said Camila Bustos, one of the plaintiffs and a researcher at Dejusticia.
In its ruling, the court recognized Colombia’s Amazon as an “entity subject of rights”, which means that the rainforest has been granted the same legal rights as a human being.
“The ruling states the importance of protecting the rights of future generations, and even declares the Amazon a subject of rights,” Bustos told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The court ordered the government - both at the local and national level - along with the environment and agriculture ministries and environmental authorities to come up with action plans within four months to combat deforestation in the Amazon.
The Amazon’s destruction leads to “imminent and serious” damage to children and adults for both present and future generations, the judges said.
The ruling stated that forests were being felled to make way for more grazing and agricultural land, as well as coca crops - the raw ingredient for cocaine - illegal mining and logging.
Deforestation is a key source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change, which damages ecosystems and water sources and leads to land degradation, the court said.
“Without a healthy environment, subjects of law and living beings in general will not be able to survive, let alone safeguard those rights for our children or for future generations,” the ruling said.
The lawsuit follows a surge in litigation around the world demanding action or claiming damages over the impact of climate change - from rising sea levels to pollution.
Published on Reuters on April 6, 2018
Friends of the Earth is threatening to take Shell to court in the Netherlands over its part in causing climate change.
The NGO has accused the oil & gas giant of “acting like big tobacco” in ignoring the science and damage its activities are doing to the planet.
Friends of the Earth is willing to challenge the energy company for breaching Dutch laws on hazardous negligence if it doesn’t accelerate its plans to combat climate change. This could mean forcing the company to increase its level of renewable energy investments, which the group claims sits at only 5 percent.
Shell, which is headquartered in The Hague, has made initial progress towards moving away from fossil fuels, including investing in hydrogen fuel. It has publicly acknowledging the role energy plays in contributing to climate change and says it supports the goals of the Paris Agreement.
"Science tells us that time isn’t a luxury we have where climate change is concerned. When world leaders met in Paris in 2015 they agreed to end the fossil fuel era, but in the meantime, Shell continues to invest in new oil and gas sources”, said Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s Chief Executive in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“Shell must now move on from its history of earth damaging fossil fuel extraction and play a major part in the transition to a sustainable future, to keep temperature rises to near 1.5 degrees Celsius. Currently, Shell and companies like it, are acting like big tobacco in decades past by failing to take responsibility for the harm that they cause”, he added.
The action is the latest in a string of legal cases which are fast becoming the new battleground in the fight against climate change. Earlier this year, compensation cases were brought by both New York City and Los Angeles against some of the largest fossil fuel companies in the world.
New York Mayor de Blasio said at the time: “We’re bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits”.
Published on Climate Action Programme on April 4, 2018.
Worsening land degradation caused by human activities is undermining the well-being of two fifths of humanity, driving species extinctions and intensifying climate change. It is also a major contributor to mass human migration and increased conflict, according to the world’s first comprehensive evidence-based assessment of land degradation and restoration.
The dangers of land degradation, which cost the equivalent of about 10% of the world’s annual gross product in 2010 through the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, are detailed for policymakers, together with a catalogue of corrective options, in the three-year assessment report by more than 100 leading experts from 45 countries, launched today.
Produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the report was approved at the 6th session of the IPBES Plenary in Medellín, Colombia. IPBES has 129 State Members.
Providing the best-available evidence for policymakers to make better-informed decisions, the report draws on more than 3,000 scientific, Government, indigenous and local knowledge sources. Extensively peer-reviewed, it was improved by more than 7,300 comments, received from over 200 external reviewers.
Serious Danger to Human Well-being
Rapid expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands is the most extensive global direct driver of land degradation, causing significant loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services – food security, water purification, the provision of energy and other contributions of nature essential to people. This has reached ‘critical’ levels in many parts of the world, the report says.
“With negative impacts on the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people, the degradation of the Earth’s land surface through human activities is pushing the planet towards a sixth mass species extinction,” said Prof. Robert Scholes (South Africa), co-chair of the assessment with Dr. Luca Montanarella (Italy). “Avoiding, reducing and reversing this problem, and restoring degraded land, is an urgent priority to protect the biodiversity and ecosystem services vital to all life on Earth and to ensure human well-being.”
“Wetlands have been particularly hard hit,” said Dr. Montanarella. “We have seen losses of 87% in wetland areas since the start of the modern era – with 54% lost since 1900.”
According to the authors, land degradation manifests in many ways: land abandonment, declining populations of wild species, loss of soil and soil health, rangelands and fresh water, as well as deforestation.
Underlying drivers of land degradation, says the report, are the high-consumption lifestyles in the most developed economies, combined with rising consumption in developing and emerging economies. High and rising per capita consumption, amplified by continued population growth in many parts of the world, can drive unsustainable levels of agricultural expansion, natural resource and mineral extraction, and urbanization – typically leading to greater levels of land degradation.
By 2014, more than 1.5 billion hectares of natural ecosystems had been converted to croplands. Less than 25% of the Earth’s land surface has escaped substantial impacts of human activity – and by 2050, the IPBES experts estimate this will have fallen to less than 10%.
Crop and grazing lands now cover more than one third of the Earth´s land surface, with recent clearance of native habitats, including forests, grasslands and wetlands, being concentrated in some of the most species-rich ecosystems on the planet.
The report says increasing demand for food and biofuels will likely lead to continued increase in nutrient and chemical inputs and a shift towards industrialized livestock production systems, with pesticide and fertilizer use expected to double by 2050.
Avoidance of further agricultural expansion into native habitats can be achieved through yield increases on the existing farmlands, shifts towards less land degrading diets, such as those with more plant-based foods and less animal protein from unsustainable sources, and reductions in food loss and waste.
Strong Links to Climate Change
“Through this report, the global community of experts has delivered a frank and urgent warning, with clear options to address dire environmental damage,” said Sir Robert Watson, Chair of IPBES.
“Land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are three different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices on the health of our natural environment. We cannot afford to tackle any one of these three threats in isolation – they each deserve the highest policy priority and must be addressed together.”
The IPBES report finds that land degradation is a major contributor to climate change, with deforestation alone contributing about 10% of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Another major driver of the changing climate has been the release of carbon previously stored in the soil, with land degradation between 2000 and 2009 responsible for annual global emissions of up to 4.4 billion tonnes of CO2.
Given the importance of soil’s carbon absorption and storage functions, the avoidance, reduction and reversal of land degradation could provide more than a third of the most cost-effective greenhouse gas mitigation activities needed by 2030 to keep global warming under the 2°C threshold targeted in the Paris Agreement on climate change, increase food and water security, and contribute to the avoidance of conflict and migration.
Projections to 2050
“In just over three decades from now, an estimated 4 billion people will live in drylands,” said Prof. Scholes. “By then it is likely that land degradation, together with the closely related problems of climate change, will have forced 50-700 million people to migrate. Decreasing land productivity also makes societies more vulnerable to social instability – particularly in dryland areas, where years with extremely low rainfall have been associated with an increase of up to 45% in violent conflict.”
Dr. Montanarella added: “By 2050, the combination of land degradation and climate change is predicted to reduce global crop yields by an average of 10%, and by up to 50% in some regions. In the future, most degradation will occur in Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia – the areas with the most land still remaining that is suitable for agriculture.”
The report also underlines the challenges that land degradation poses, and the importance of restoration, for key international development objectives, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. “The greatest value of the assessment is the evidence that it provides to decision makers in Government, business, academia and even at the level of local communities,” said Dr. Anne Larigauderie, Executive Secretary of IPBES. “With better information, backed by the consensus of the world’s leading experts, we can all make better choices for more effective action.”
Options for Land Restoration
The report notes that successful examples of land restoration are found in every ecosystem, and that many well-tested practices and techniques, both traditional and modern, can avoid or reverse degradation.
In croplands, for instance, some of these include reducing soil loss and improving soil health, the use of salt tolerant crops, conservation agriculture and integrated crop, livestock and forestry systems.
In rangelands with traditional grazing, maintenance of appropriate fire regimes, and the reinstatement or development of local livestock management practices and institutions have proven effective.
Successful responses in wetlands have included control over pollution sources, managing the wetlands as part of the landscape, and reflooding wetlands damaged by draining.
In urban areas, urban spatial planning, replanting with native species, the development of ‘green infrastructure’ such as parks and riverways, remediation of contaminated and sealed soils (e.g. under asphalt), wastewater treatment and river channel restoration are identified as key options for action.
Opportunities to accelerate action identified in the report include:
Making the point that existing multilateral environmental agreements provide a good platform for action to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation and promote restoration, the authors observe, however, that greater commitment and more effective cooperation is needed at the national and local levels to achieve the goals of zero net land degradation, no loss of biodiversity and improved human well-being.
Among the areas identified by the report as opportunities for further research are:
Environmental and Economic Sense
The report found that higher employment and other benefits of land restoration often exceed by far the costs involved. On average, the benefits of restoration are 10 times higher than the costs (estimated across nine different biomes), and, for regions like Asia and Africa, the cost of inaction in the face of land degradation is at least three times higher than the cost of action.
“Fully deploying the toolbox of proven ways to stop and reverse land degradation is not only vital to ensure food security, reduce climate change and protect biodiversity,” said Dr. Montanarella, “It’s also economically prudent and increasingly urgent.”
Echoing this message, Sir Robert Watson, said: “Of the many valuable messages in the report, this ranks among the most important: implementing the right actions to combat land degradation can transform the lives of millions of people across the planet, but this will become more difficult and more costly the longer we take to act.”
Published on IPBES in March 2018
Singapore has announced plans to introduce a new carbon tax from 2019.
The tax will initially be levied at $5 Singapore dollars ($3.8 US) on all facilities which produce 25,000 tonnes, or more, of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
Heng Swee Keat, the country’s Minister of Finance, made the announcement on Monday in the yearly budget proposals.
Agence France-Presse reported Mr Heng saying: "Singapore produces less carbon emissions per dollar of GDP than most countries"
“We intend to further reduce our emissions intensity to make a bigger effort to combat climate change."
“In doing so, we will take into account international climate change developments, the progress of our emissions mitigation efforts and our economic competitiveness…The economically efficient way to maintain a transparent, fair and consistent carbon price across the economy to incentivise emissions reduction", he added.
It’s estimated that 30-40 companies will be impacted by the tax, which contribute up to 80 percent of Singapore’s carbon emissions, according to The Straits Times. These are taken from the petroleum refining, chemicals and semiconductor sectors.
Despite its small size, no larger than a city, Singapore ranks 32nd in the world for carbon dioxide emissions, per capita, just behind Germany, according to data from the World Bank.
The decision to tax companies emitting 25,000 tonnes follows China’s own plans to launch a carbon market on companies producing more than 26,000 tonnes. However, China’s goal is to cover more than 7,000 companies which emit a total of 3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases.
There are also government plans to help power companies and businesses to improve energy efficiency. Mr Heng announced an Energy Efficiency Fund which will prioritise funding towards projects which have greater reductions in emissions.
Published on Climate Action on February 19, 2018
By Camila Bustos
I remember being at the Paris climate negotiations in 2015 and hearing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reaffirm the government’s commitment to reach zero-net deforestation in the Colombian Amazon by 2020.
At the time, the government also announced its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030 and prided itself on supporting strong climate action.
By then, I had been an activist for coal divestment, researched fossil fuel extraction, pushed for local climate change legislation, and attended enough UN climate talks to know one thing: climate change was threatening the fulfillment of human rights around the world and we were not doing nearly enough to stop it.
That was also when I learned that despite the slow progress at the climate negotiations and the failure of governments to advance their plans to tackle emissions and adapt to a warming world, climate advocates were turning to a new strategy: climate litigation.
This is why I decided to join 24 other young Colombians in suing the national government for failing to curb deforestation in the Amazon region.
Today, cattle ranching, the expansion of the agricultural frontier, and mining are driving the destruction of our forest. The most recent data shows that deforestation increased by 44 percent in 2016, which is equal to 178,597 acres of forest loss.
With Dejusticia’s support, we are arguing that deforestation is violating our constitutional right to a healthy environment, which in turn threatens our right to water, food, and health.
As we began developing the lawsuit, we learned about the intrinsic connections between the Amazon and the water cycle that supplies the rest of the nation. We learned about how deforesting one area could have a significant impact thousands of kilometers away. We learned that,according to official projections, we could expect a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2070.
The more we read and studied about climate impacts in Colombia, the clearer the sense of urgency we felt.
We realized we had to ask the government to back its international rhetoric on deforestation with concrete and effective actions on the ground. Not only is the destruction of forests the greatest source behind Colombia’s greenhouse gas emissions, but it is also a threat to local ecosystems and the people that depend on them for their livelihoods.
But our petitions do not end there. We are also asking that the government creates an inter-generational agreement on climate change, outlining the measures that the government will adopt to reduce deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. We ask that this document also includes the adaptation and mitigation strategies each vulnerable municipality in the country will implement.
What I find most exciting about the prospect of a court ruling in our favor is that our case is not an exception, but part of a broader movement seeking justice through climate change litigation. The climate movement is evolving and, as we increase pressure on governments to act on climate, we diversify our toolkit and strategies to demand social change.
We hope that our lawsuit can help inform and shape public debates, calling attention to the monumental crisis the planet is facing.
I am proud of being one the the plaintiffs behind this lawsuit. I am proud of being part of a generation that refuses to sit in silence.
Published on Thomson Reuters Foundation News on January 31, 2018
During the World Economic Forum in Davos the French President Emmanuel Macron announced that all the country’s coal-fired plants will shut down by 2021- 2 years earlier than initially planned.
The initial pledge had been made by Mr. Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande in November 2016 during COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco. There, he pledged to decommission all France’s coal plants by 2023 and he also vowed to make France carbon neutral by 2050.
President Macron accelerated the timetable for the country’s coal phase out as he has committed to making France a model in the fight against climate change.
He also strongly advocated for the advantages and the economic benefits climate action is offering, as, for example, coal plants are not only an environmental burden from the moment that clean energy technologies are evidently more cost competitive.
According to a recent report from the Carbon Tracker, a London-based think tank on the impact of climate change to the financial markets, more than 50 percent of the European Union’s 619 coal-fired plants are losing money- a figure set to rise to 97 percent by 2030.
Rapidly falling renewable energy costs, stricter air pollution regulations and higher carbon prices are some of the reasons fossil fuels are increasingly outpriced by clean energy technologies.
France is only approximately 1 percent energy dependent from coal-fired stations. However, the French president seeks to send a strong signal about the country’s determination to become a climate leader. This is particularly directed towards US president Donald Trump, who strives to revive the United States’ coal industry, and withdrew the country from the Paris Agreement.
The French president also called for the EU to set a stable carbon price which will send the right signals to the energy market.
In regards to his meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping, President Macron saluted the country’s commitment to the fight against climate change. In a comment about the gigantic infrastructure project aiming to connect China with the European continent, he noted: “The new Silk Road has to be a green road. We cannot have a coal-based route”.
Published on Climate Action Programme on January 29, 2018
Human rights and environment
In recent years, the recognition of the links between human rights and the environment has greatly increased. The number and scope of international and domestic laws, judicial decisions, and academic studies on the relationship between human rights and the environment have grown rapidly.
Many States now incorporate a right to a healthy environment in their constitutions. Many questions about the relationship of human rights and the environment remain unresolved, however, and require further examination.
As a result, in March 2012 the Human Rights Council decided to establish a mandate on human rights and the environment, which will (among other tasks) study the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and promote best practices relating to the use of human rights in environmental policymaking.
Mr. John Knox was appointed in August 2012 to a three-year term as the first Independent Expert on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. His mandate was further extended in March 2015 for another three years as a Special Rapporteur.
The resolution 16/11 adopted by the Human Rights Council on 12th of April 2011 entitled “Human Rights and the environment” requested the Office of the High Commissioner “in consultation with and taking into account the views of States Members of the United Nations, relevant international organizations and intergovernmental bodies, including the United Nations Environment Programme and relevant multilateral environmental agreements, special procedures, treaty bodies and other stakeholders, to conduct, within existing resources, a detailed analytical study on the relationship between human rights and the environment” (para.1).
See also the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes
Human rights and climate change
In its 5th Assessment Report (2014), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) unequivocally confirmed that climate change is real and that human-made greenhouse gas emissions are its primary cause. The report identified the increasing frequency of extreme weather events and natural disasters, rising sea-levels, floods, heat waves, droughts, desertification, water shortages, and the spread of tropical and vector-borne diseases as some of the adverse impacts of climate change. These phenomena directly and indirectly threaten the full and effective enjoyment of a range of human rights by people throughout the world, including the rights to life, water and sanitation, food, health, housing, self-determination, culture and development.