COP26 draft text fails land and environmental rights defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

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In the lead-up to COP26, Fridays for Future demanded: “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.”

“It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure.” – Greta Thunberg

A draft of a summit agreement was published on November 10 by the COP26 presidency.

The 71-point document can be read here.

Overall, while the document reaffirms the goal of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the current policies of governments would mean a 2.7C temperature increase and pledges in the lead-up to COP26 would mean a 2.4C increase.

This is a look at six of the points in the draft text that either do not mention or do not adequately reflect the dangers faced by frontline defenders.

Point 20: “Emphasizes the critical importance of nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches, including protecting and restoring forests, in reducing emissions, enhancing removals and protecting biodiversity.”

While protecting forests is a laudable aspiration, there are concerns that nature-based solutions such as the 30×30 initiative could see the militarization of conservation and the criminalization and forced displacement of Indigenous peoples from their lands.

Point 30: “Urges the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism, multilateral development banks and other financial institutions to further scale-up investments in climate action and calls for continued increase in the scale and effectiveness of climate finance from all sources globally.”

This point does not reflect that multilateral development banks and other financial institutions often finance climate destructive megaprojects (like the Coastal GasLink and Line 3 pipelines) that result in the criminalization and violence against land defenders.

Point 51: “Also recognizes the important role of non-Party stakeholders, including civil society, indigenous peoples, youth and other stakeholders in contributing to progress towards the objective of the Convention and the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

This line does not recognize the significant role played by land and environmental rights defenders. More than 1,005 of these defenders have been murdered since the COP21 summit in December 2015. There is no call for that violence to stop.

Point 62: “Urges Parties to swiftly begin implementing the Glasgow Work Programme on Action for Climate Empowerment, taking into consideration human rights and gender.”

On November 6, David R. Boyd, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, tweeted: “How on Earth can there be no mention of #HumanRights in the COP26 work programme on public participation in climate action?”

Point 66: “Emphasizes the important role that indigenous peoples’ knowledge and experience can play in effective action on climate change and urges Parties to actively involve indigenous peoples in implementing climate action.”

This point does not adequately reflect the significant role played by Indigenous land defenders on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Over one-third of the 1,005 land defenders killed since COP21 were Indigenous land defenders.

Point 68: “Encourages Parties to increase the full, meaningful and equal participation of women in climate action, and to ensure gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation, which is vital for raising ambition and achieving climate goals.”

This point does not adequately reflect the issue of gender-based violence against Indigenous women environmental human rights defenders on the frontlines defending their territories, resources and rights from extractive projects and corporate interests.

PBI webinar on COP26

At the Peace Brigades International webinar on November 6, Boyd stated: “We need more defenders of the right to a healthy environment, Indigenous rights, the rights of the child and other human rights. And yet in far too many states today standing up for the environment is a dangerous and even deadly activity.”

To watch the video of the webinar with Boyd and six frontline environmental defenders from Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Mexico and Nicaragua who are accompanied by PBI, please click here.

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