The COP26 Glasgow Pact should include mechanisms to protect land defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On September 27, The Guardian reported: “Vital United Nations climate talks, billed as one of the last chances to stave off climate breakdown, will not produce the breakthrough needed to fulfil the aspiration of the Paris agreement, key players in the talks have conceded.”

“The UN, the UK hosts and other major figures involved in the talks have privately admitted that the original aim of the Cop26 summit will be missed, as the pledges on greenhouse gas emissions cuts from major economies will fall short of the halving of global emissions this decade needed to limit global heating to 1.5C.”

The article continues that the UN, UK and US however insisted that the goal of “keeping 1.5C alive” was still possible through a “Glasgow pact” that would allow for future updates to emissions pledges in the next few years.

While securing pledges to reduce carbon emissions by 45 per cent is not expected to be attained, a UK official expects progress in other areas including phasing out coal, providing climate finance to poor countries, and improving the protection of forests.

Global Witness has noted: “Land and environmental defenders play a vital role in protecting climate-critical forests and ecosystems. When they take a stand against the theft of their land, or the destruction of forests, they are increasingly being killed.”

It has also highlighted that on average four land and environmental defenders have been killed every week since the Paris Agreement in December 2015.

Earlier this month, its ‘Last Line of Defence’ report found that 227 land and environmental defenders had been killed in 2020 for peacefully standing against the destruction of nature. 125 of them, slightly more than half the global total, were killed in Colombia (65), Mexico (30), Honduras (17) and Guatemala (13).

That report warns: “The violence against land and environmental defenders and the climate crisis are intimately connected, and we will not solve one without the other.”

Cognizant of this longstanding issue, the UN Human Rights Council passed this resolution in 2019 that says defenders “must be ensured a safe and enabling environment to undertake their work free from hindrance and insecurity, in recognition of their important role in supporting States to fulfil their obligations under the Paris Agreement.”

Most recently, at the opening of the 48th session of the Human Rights Council on September 13, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet said that in many regions environmental human rights defenders were threatened, harassed and killed often with complete impunity and that her office would push for more ambitious, rights-based commitments at the COP26 summit.

Peace Brigades International-Canada is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to acknowledge the dangers faced by land and environmental defenders, both around the world and on Indigenous territories in Canada, and to advocate that their critical role be reflected in the statements and commitments made at the COP26 summit.

With news of the “Glasgow pact”, we believe significant protections for defenders should be included in that document as well.

COP26 is scheduled to take place from October 31 to November 12.

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