European Union environment ministers agree to negotiating position for UN COP26 climate summit

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: EU environment ministers meet in Luxembourg to discuss COP26 summit.

On October 7, Euractiv reported: “EU environment ministers on Wednesday (6 October) agreed on an ambitious stance going into the COP26 climate summit in November, but said they will only implement it if all other signatories of the Paris Agreement commit to do the same.”

“The conclusions passed by the EU’s 27 environment ministers highlighted the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis, saying global warming ‘is a direct and existential threat to humanity and biodiversity that spares no country’.”

The article adds: “Campaigners say this weakens the EU’s stance at COP26, and comes as an uneasy reminder of the failed Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, where Europe only committed to increase its climate ambition if other countries did the same.”

The 30-point statement agreed to by EU environment ministers can be read here.

Point 6 of their statement: “RECALLS that the EU is committed to promoting an equity- and human rights-based approach and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and RECOGNISES that climate change policies have gender-differentiated impacts and that gender equality and women’s empowerment need to be promoted for effective climate action.”

Point 9 “NOTES that much more global ambition is needed if we are to arrive in Glasgow with commitments that, in aggregate, keep the 1.5 °C objective within reach, in line with the Paris Agreement.”

And point 24 “HIGHLIGHTS the importance of non-Party stakeholder action and ENCOURAGES their further efforts towards the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.”

Unfortunately, their agreement does not specifically mention land and environmental rights defenders on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

This is a significant omission given Global Witness has documented that there were 227 lethal attacks against these defenders in 2020. More than half this global total were killed in Colombia (65), Mexico (30), Honduras (17), Guatemala (13) and Nicaragua (12).

Human rights and respect for Indigenous rights

It is positive, however, that point 6 mention a human rights-based approach and respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Violence against women environmental human rights defenders

With respect to their understanding of the gender-differentiated impacts of climate change, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has noted: “There have been numerous examples of gender-based violence directed against environmental defenders and activists, who try to stop the destruction or degradation of their land, natural resources and communities.”

The Paris Agreement, role of non-Party stakeholder action

It is also important that their statement reflects the importance of non-Party stakeholders and the need to implement the Paris Agreement.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has stated that: “Human rights defenders, including environmental human rights 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.”

Canada’s position at COP26

Unlike the EU, Canada’s negotiating position for COP26 has not been made public.

The Canadian minister of environment and climate change was in Milan, Italy on October 1 meeting with other environment ministers to set the final agenda for the COP26 summit when Fridays for Future had a major mobilization in that city.

Fridays for Future demands that governments: “Stop the violence and criminalization against indigenous peoples, small farmers, small fisherfolk, and other environmental and land defenders. Support the work they do.  Respect and listen to our defenders.”

PBI webinar, November 6

Peace Brigades International will be holding a webinar on COP26 and land defenders on Saturday November 6 at 1 pm EST (Ontario/Quebec) and 1900 CEST (European time).

It will feature frontline environmental defenders from Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.

To register for this webinar, please click here.

We will be amplifying their voices, highlighting their stories of resistance, and calling for protection measures to be reflected in the Glasgow Pact emerging from COP26.

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