Considering Climate Justice and Human Rights
Following the COVID-19 crisis and response, members have highlighted fundamental issues of concern in the context of climate justice, environmental rights and human rights, as well as the opportunity to reflect on what this crisis means in terms of advancing a transformative rights-based agenda on climate.
Members have highlighted that several countries have used the crisis to weaken environmental protections and enforcement as well as approve or facilitate fossil fuel and other environmentally destructive projects. For example, in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has suspended its enforcement of environmental laws during the COVID-19 crisis. In response, Amnesty International has called on the US to immediately revoke suspension of these environmental protections. Meanwhile in Colombia, the government has issued presidential decrees ordering the suspension of all in-person consultations, moving them instead to virtual platforms, thereby undermining participation rights, including the right to free, prior and informed consent, with significant ramifications for human and environmental rights. Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida is involved in challenging this development. In India, the government has cleared several infrastructure and development projects and is proposing amendments to dilute the environmental impact assessment process. In related developments, it also appears that corporate lobbyists, particularly from the oil and gas sector, are invoking the crisis to demand financial support as well as deregulation, including climate related deregulation (for example, postponing planned increases in federal carbon tax), including in the US, Canada and Australia.
In addition, members are reporting that in the wake of the crisis there has been increased repression of protest as well as greater persecution of environmental human rights defenders, who are sheltering in place and more easily targeted. For example, as noted by the InterAmerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), in Colombia, three social leaders were killed in one week after the introduction of quarantine measures. Franciscans International (FI) has described the violent police repression of a peaceful protest against mining by an affected community in Didipio, Philippines, in the midst of enhanced community lockdown. FI also reported that in Brazil, mining has been declared as essential activity, enabling the Amazon and indigenous territories to be further encroached, while protest by communities is made impossible.
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Considering Climate Justice and Human Rights in responding to COVID-19