COP28 draft Global Stocktake fails to recognize the need to include and protect land and environmental defenders
Photo: Delegates at a plenary session of COP28. Photo by UN Climate Change/Kiara Worth.
The latest draft of the Global Stocktake (GST) – essentially the COP28 summit declaration – was released on Friday December 8.
It can be read here.
Significantly, the GST still does not include any reference to environmental defenders.
Global Witness has documented that at least 1,390 land and environmental defenders have been killed since the COP21 summit in December 2015.
At the PBI-Canada-organized webinar this past December 7 on COP28 and environmental defenders, UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst noted:
“Currently, as you know, there is no clear reference to environmental human rights defenders in the current draft document on the loss and damage fund. That’s why it’s also important to have a clear reference to human rights defenders in the final outcome document of COP28. It’s also why it’s important to keep clear references to defenders and Indigenous peoples in all documents related to the protection of human rights.”
Of the 177 defenders killed in 2022, 88 per cent were killed in Latin America and 36 per cent were Indigenous peoples.
Many more have been harassed, threatened and criminalized.
On the PBI-Canada-organized webinar, Wet’suwet’en land defender Eve Saint shared her experience of being arrested at gunpoint by the C-IRG, a special unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) deployed against land defenders, for peacefully resisting the construction – without free, prior and informed consent – of the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on her territory in northern British Columbia, Canada.
Colombian water protector Yuli Velasquez also shared in our webinar how she has experienced three armed attacks against her life since January 2021 for protecting the San Silvestre wetland near the city of Barrancabermeja. She recently commented in El Pais: “Governments must listen to environmental defenders and take account of their demands. We have much to contribute in terms of addressing the climate crisis. The COP28 is a good opportunity for states to show they truly value our work.”
In 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Council affirmed: “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.”
And yet something as seemingly simple as including their single 42-word sentence in the draft GST/COP28 summit declaration has not happened.
The Human Rights & Climate Change Working Group has also recommended that this single 50-word sentence could be included in the COP28 text:
“Urging all Parties to commit to the enhanced protection of environmental human rights defenders, including reporting, investigating and seeking accountability and redress for reprisals against environmental human rights defenders, and public information about the actions taken to do so as well as public recognition of the importance of their work.”
As hope for inclusion in COP28 dims, attention is starting to turn to a Peoples’ Summit that could take place at the time of COP30 in Brazil.
At the PBI-Canada-organized webinar on COP28 and environmental defenders, Global Witness policy advisory Javier Garate commented:
“There are big plans for organizing a parallel COP of civil society and I think it is a huge opportunity for all of us to work together towards COP30 in Brazil with all the energy to put the issues of local communities, Indigenous communities, land and environmental defenders that need to be at the centre of this conversation and to demand as we talk about climate solutions and the fight against climate change that the work, the protection, and the struggle of local communities has to be at the center of those conversations.”
We look forward to engaging in that parallel summit in Belém do Pará, Brazil in 2025 and share the concern that it is still two years away and that on average a land and environmental defender is killed every two days.
COP28 concludes on Tuesday December 12.
For additional analysis on the most recent Global Stocktake draft, see ‘This may be our last chance’: Cop28 talks enter final phase (The Guardian, December 8).