COP27 and the absence of “a safe and enabling environment” for environmental human rights defenders
Indigenous Lenca water protector Berta Cáceres was killed in March 2016, less than three months after the COP21 climate summit, for her opposition to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque River in Honduras. Photo by Carlos Castro.
The United Nations COP27 climate summit is set to start on November 6 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, a country where environmental defenders are repressed and there are an estimated 60,000 political prisoners behind bars.
The direness of this situation deepened just three days ago when the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released this report that says there is “no credible pathway to 1.5C in place” and that the current pledges by States for action by 2030, if delivered in full, would still mean a rise in global warming of about 2.5C.
Attacks on communities and defenders
The UN Human Rights Council has affirmed 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.”
That resolution was adopted in March 2019. At least 639 land and environmental defenders have been killed since then.
Furthermore, as Global Witness documented at COP26, more than 1,005 land and environmental rights defenders have been killed since the Paris Agreement was signed at COP21 in December 2015.
COPINH tweet: The image of Lenca environmental rights defender Berta Caceres was projected on a building in Glasgow during the COP26 summit last year.
Despite this death toll, the 10-page Glasgow work programme on Action for Climate Empowerment that emerged from COP26 in Scotland last year neither references human rights nor environmental defenders.
Renewables and continued attacks
Peace Brigades International-UK Section has also signed this statement that highlights:
“The profit driven extractive model has entrenched and exacerbated inequality, and contributed to driving conflict, environmental damage, attacks on communities and defenders, while simultaneously playing a significant role in emissions.”
The statement further notes: “An energy transition based on this model will fail.”
On that latter point, the statement details: “[There have been] at least 369 attacks on human rights, labour and environmental defenders around the world since 2015, including 98 killings, related to renewable energy projects, and 148 attacks, among them 13 killings, related to transition minerals mining.”
PBI webinar, November 15
To highlight the crucial role of environmental defenders, notably those who protect water, PBI is organizing a webinar for November 15 featuring frontline voices from Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, Nicaragua and Honduras.
To register for that webinar, please click here.
Members of COPINH, including Berta’s daughter Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, express their solidarity with Wet’suwet’en water protectors in northern British Columbia, Canada. As COP27 begins, a tunnel is being drilled under Wedzin Kwa, a river considered sacred to the Wet’suwet’en peoples, for a fracked gas pipeline that lacks their consent.
“Let us wake up! We’re out of time. We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction. The Gualcarque River has called upon us, as have other gravely threatened rivers. We must answer their call. Our Mother Earth – militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated – demands that we take action.”- Berta Cáceres, April 2015.