Guilbeault to lead Canadian delegation at COP27, environmental human rights defenders not yet on agenda

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault at COP26 last year. Photo by La Presse canadienne / Sean Kilpatrick.

An Environment and Climate Change Canada media release notes:

Over the course of COP27, Canada will support ambitious outcomes within the negotiations, including on issues related to climate finance and adaptation.

Canada will also advance concrete actions that raise global ambition, including building international support for the phasing-out of coal-fired electricity, reducing methane emissions, increasing climate finance commitments from developed nations, cutting plastic waste, and protecting nature.

Canada will also have a national Pavilion to highlight both domestic and international leadership in the fight against climate change and promote Canadian innovations, from low-carbon businesses and clean technologies to sustainable finance and nature-based solutions.

The Canadian delegation will also include Catherine Stewart, Ambassador for Climate Change, and Steven Kuhn, Canada’s Chief Negotiator for Climate Change.

Photo: Guilbeault and Kuhn at COP26.

Environmental human rights 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.

Despite this death toll, and the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee resolution on a defender protection policy, 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.


In the lead up to COP27, EarthRights International, Global Witness, Natural Justice, Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA), CIVICUS, and the International Land Coalition have released a set of recommendations for policymakers attending COP27 calling on them to take meaningful steps to protect those on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

Silvana Baldovino of SPDA says: “A higher recognition and incorporation by UNFCCC and COP27 of the role of defenders in facing the climate crisis is crucial to move States towards stronger protection schemes.”

Amnesty International has also called on all parties to: “Ensure the action plan recognizes the role of environmental human rights defenders in promoting effective and ambitious climate action and includes concrete measures to protect them in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.”

Other notable concerns

Global ambition: Greenpeace says Canada should be proposing at least a 60 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels. Last year, the Canadian government proposed an emission reductions target of 40 to 45 per cent by 2030.

Climate finance: Environmental Defence says Canada should contribute $9 billion a year in annual climate financing to countries bearing the brunt of climate change. Canada’s previous commitment of $2.65 billion will be increased to $5.3 billion over the next 5 years.

Fossil fuel subsidies: A new report released by Oil Change International notes that between 2019 and 2021 Export Development Canada provided on average CAD $11.3 billion annually in support for the oil and gas sector.

Domestic leadership: In 2018, the Canadian government bought the existing Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline for $4.5 billion and committed to spend an additional $7.4 billion to expand the capacity of that pipeline (from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 bpd). The cost to complete that pipeline has now soared to $21.4 billion.

Domestic leadership: In 2020, the federal government’s export credit agency, Export Development Canada (EDC), said it would lend up to $500 million to build the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline. More than 74 people, including land defenders, allies and journalists, have been arrested resisting this pipeline that could produce 125 million metric tons of CO2 pollution annually over the next 25-50 years. The pipeline will feed the LNG Canada export terminal, that has been praised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Webinar, November 15

Peace Brigades International-Canada is helping to organize a webinar that will amplify the voices of frontline environmental defenders in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, Nicaragua and Honduras.

To register for that webinar, please click here.

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