Each year at the UN climate talks, gender becomes a central thematic element in the negotiations. Today is that day, six years after the first Gender Day was incorporated into the UNFCCC.
Since then, every year, COPs have not only scheduled thematic days around agriculture and food security, cities, energy, forests, oceans, etc. but also dedicate a day to numerous events, special activities and initiatives focused on integrating the gender perspective in climate negotiations.
Greenpeace activists at the climate march in Bonn, 4 November 2017
But what is the gender approach? Gender is the social role assigned to men and women simply for being that: male or female. This leads to serious inequalities and can stall fair and peaceful progress.
By taking into account gender issues, we seek to address inequalities, shed light on them and try to advance solutions to a whole range of problems.
According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations):
“The impact of environmental degradation is gender-differentiated in terms of workloads and the quality of life; … gender disparities in natural resource management and participation in policy-making must be clearly understood.”
Taking gender into account allows us to understand the different vulnerabilities of both men and women. Like many other environmental and social problems, it is women who are the most vulnerable to climate change in many countries.
Ghalia Fayad, speaking on board the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior 4 Nov, 2016
Gender differences are also noticeable in consumer habits. For example, women are more likely to choose sustainable consumption such as eating less meat and have a greater openness to organic foods.
As stipulated in the Paris Agreement, during last year’s Marrakesh COP the parties adopted a series of decisions to improve how climate policy incorporates gender issues in all activities relating to adaptation, mitigation, as well as in decision-making on climate policy application.
Finally, on November 11 at COP23, the delegations of the UNFCCC adopted the Gender Action Plan. This should be approved this week in the COP plenary.
Greenpeace welcomes the inclusion of this approach in climate negotiations. We believe that in order to stop climate change we need an energy transition as well as fair and transformative policies that take into account the entire population.
Atmospheric CO2 levels are now at the highest level for the past 800,000 years. This is due to an industrial revolution characterised by a set of industrial, scientific and technological changes and developments that inevitably meant the design and implementation of the current economic model.
This is a model based on an intensive production system, the consumption of resources and dependence on fossil fuels to expand and develop, where tasks and jobs are based on the extraction and burning of coal, oil and gas, and where it is men who mainly hold the roles to achieve this production-based system.
The gender approach deals with these issues by analysing the division of labour, access to and control of resources and political participation in decision-making.
The fight against climate change, the move away from fossil fuels and the transition to an energy model based on 100% renewable energy is our chance to build a fair, peaceful and green future.
Greenpeace believes women are agents of change. If we want to advance more sustainable societies where health and wellbeing are a priority, it is essential to increase the number of women in decision-making positions and those taking part in climate and energy negotiations.
We, women and girls, make up 52% of the global population. There must be no negotiation of any kind that does not take into account half the population.
We are not a minority group, we are people with full rights. Although women are involved with climate and its protection on a daily basis, let's take advantage of Gender Day at the climate change talks to amplify our voice.
Tatiana Nuño is a climate campaigner with Greenpeace Spain and a member of the Spanish Gender Team
The year 2017 may become a historic milestone where the visceral effects of global heating - extreme storms and wildfires - finally reach public consciousness.
Homeowners Access Hurricane Irma Damage - 12 Sep, 2017
Humans have known about the effects of carbon in the atmosphere for two centuries, since the work of Joseph Fourier at the French Academy of Science. A century ago, Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius, calculated that doubling atmospheric CO2 would increase Earth's average temperature by 5-6°C, which now appears accurate. In 1981, Dr. James Hansen wrote the first NASA global temperature analysis, and in 1991, the UN convened the first climate conference in Berlin. As of today, none of this has significantly altered the actions of human society enough to actually reduce carbon emissions.
In the last few years, we have witnessed more wildfires and violent storms that are directly linked to global heating. This year, communities around the world have experienced a dramatic increase in climate-related natural disasters, costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars, and leaving behind devastation.
Year of the fire
I've lived on the west coast of Canada for 45 years, and during that time, I've witnessed a few days of smoke from wildfires in the interior fir and cedar forests. For the past two summers, however, the entire coast has been blanketed in thick smoke through July and August, the summer sun barely piercing the haze. Citizens experience respiratory problems, tourism is disrupted, and firefighting teams from the northern and southern hemispheres now routinely trade support teams in alternate seasons.
In February, the North Pole experienced a staggering +30°C temperature anomaly, unprecedented in modern record-keeping. The melting permafrost releases methane gas, a greenhouse-gas far more powerful than CO2. The Arctic contains about 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, stored as methane, and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has not yet accounted for this significant positive feedback of global heating. The 2017 data so far shows that over the last decade, Earth is heating about twice as fast as IPCC scientists had predicted.
Grass Fire in the Astrakhan Nature Reserve, Russia - 13 Mar, 2015
This extra heat means drier grasslands and forests, resulting in more frequent, more intense fires. Warmer temperatures add moisture to the atmosphere, which we might assume would dampen fires, but it has the opposite effect. Increased precipitation during the winter means that grasslands grow more. Then, during the drier summers, this extra growth becomes added fuel to the fires. Even a fraction of a degree increase to winter temperatures allows insects like pine beetles to move toward the poles, into boreal forests, killing more trees that also add fuel to fires.
During the summer of 2017, fires raged across Europe, killing hundreds, devastating communities, and leading the European Union to declare a state of emergency. Portugal suffered the worst fire season ever recorded, scorching almost 520,000 hectares of forest. It was six times the annual average for recent years, and killed over 100 people. The Interior Minister, Constanca Urbano de Sousa, remarked that she had wanted to quit after 64 people were killed in June wildfires and after investigators had chastised the official response. When October fires killed 42 more citizens, de Sousa resigned.
Meanwhile, four people died from fires in the Galicia region of northwest Spain. Fires in Croatia destroyed homes and other buildings in the village of Podstrana, and the historic town of Split. Along the Dalmatian coastline of the Adriatic Sea, grasslands and woods burned, along with homes, cars, and public buildings. On the southern Adriatic coast, in Montenegro, fires burned through the historic Lustica Peninsula town of Tivat, which had to be evacuated. Montenegro, unprepared for the scale of fires, asked NATO for firefighters, aircraft, and assistance with evacuations.
In Italy this year, some 900 wildfires burned over 130,000 hectares. Residents and tourists were forced to evacuate parts of Rome and Naples, including Mount Vesuvius national park and the Castelfusano coastal pine forest, south of Rome. A beach resort on the island of Sicily had to be evacuated. This is a typical impact of global heating. Italy experienced 30% less rain and 30% more wildfires. In July, fires burned near Castagniers and Nice, in southeast France and on the French island of Corsica. In southwest Turkey, fires destroyed 40 homes as communities evacuated.
July was the hottest month in 130 years of Moscow's recorded climate history, and smoke from fires blanketed the region. Within a few days in July, fires burned some 150,000 hectares during an historic heat wave and drought.
In May, under record high temperatures and dry conditions, China and Mongolia grew even hotter and drier, leading to some of the largest fires on Earth in recent history. Fires burned through the Greater Hinggan Mountains, threatening the Hanma Nature Reserve and the city of Hulun Buir. In early July, Mongolia's National Emergency Management Agency fought 11 major forest fires across northern Mongolia, exhausting their supply of fire extinguishing equipment. President Khaltmaa Battulga and Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat prohibited people from entering the forest areas, called an emergency meeting, and instructed their engineers to attempt creating artificial rainfall. Legions of Mongolian citizens, communicating through social media, joined the fire brigades, but by the end of July, they faced more than 20 major fires, some threatening the capital at Ulan Bator.
Fires in western North America, broke records in Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon, and California. The Seattle region experienced a +10°C temperature anomaly in August as fires burned through Washington state forests. Wildfires ravaged Oregon and killed 30 people in northern California, destroying some 3,500 homes and businesses in California's wine region, obliterating neighborhoods. Throughout the western United States, over a million hectares burned this summer.
Santa Rosa, California, fire devastation - 13 Oct, 2017
"Climate change is turning up the dial on everything," said LeRoy Westerling at the University of California. "Dry periods become more extreme, wet periods become more extreme, and fires are increasing. The ecosystem is changing."
Global heating has increased ocean temperatures, adding energy to storms. By October, the year 2017 already approached the all-time record for both total measured storm energy and accumulated damage. This summer, hurricanes Nate, Harvey, Irma, and Maria pounded the Caribbean and Southeastern US. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US has experienced 15 weather disasters this year that cost more than $1 billion, an all-time record. A study from 13 US federal agencies concluded that "extreme weather events have cost the United States $1.1 trillion since 1980."
Hurricane Harvey Flooding Rescue in Texas - 27 Aug, 2017
Storms have been getting stronger since the mid-1980s. An analysis of 167 years of data by the Associated Press found that no 30-year period in history had seen this many major storms. Typically, North Atlantic ocean temperatures remain too cool to support hurricane-level storms. This year, warmer than normal North Atlantic temperatures fueled tropical storm Ophelia to hurricane status on October 14, as it moved toward Ireland. Hurricane-force gusts of 192 km/hour hit Ireland, flooding coastal towns, and causing structural damage, vast power outages, and two deaths.
The Atlantic coasts of Ireland, England, France, Spain, and Portugal now face, for the first time, the sustained threat of hurricanes. Four years ago, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute predicted that by 2100, global warming would increase the frequency of hurricane winds in western Europe.
The extreme fires and storms of 2017 signify more than just a 'new normal'. With each fraction of a degree that Earth's average temperature increases, these fires and storms will increase in intensity. The effects of climate change are not linear. A one-degree increase in temperature will yield about four-times the intensity of fires and storms. Some evidence suggests that by mid-century, fires and storms could double in their destructive power.
A study published in Nature suggests that limiting global heating to the Paris goal of 2°C is now "unlikely". The UN now estimates that the median projected global temperature increase is 3.2°C with a likely range up to 4.9°C and a high end of 8°C. The "new normal" will be constant change; a growing intensity of storms, fires, and other extreme weather, for as long as human carbon emissions continue.
Even if it sounds hopeless, it’s not. We have the chance to act decisively to change our present. All we need to fix this massive challenge is at our disposal. We just need the courage to come together and make it happen.
Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.
Sources and Links:
How climate change is "turning up the dial" on wildfires: CBS News
"The Uninhabitable Earth,' David Wallace Wells: New York Magazine, June 2017
"Spain, Portugal Wildfires Kill at Least 39": weather.com
"Wildfires Roar Across Southern Europe": New York Times
Fires in Russia: the Telegraph
Forest fires in N. Mongolia: Xinhua news
Huge forest fire in northern China: South China Morning Post
Video, Fires in Mongolia / China: China People's Daily
Maps of 2017 global fires: Popular Science
Wildfires, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, October 2017: Countercurrents
Storms: weather and global warming: MPR News
Historic Storm: Ophelia Strikes Ireland with Hurricane Force: Robert Scribbler
Hurricane Ophelia Batters Ireland: Weather Underground
"Less than 2°C warming by 2100 unlikely": Nature, July 2017
"C02 Levels 50 Million Years Ago Tell Us About Climate Change Today": Clean Technica
Tropical forests no longer carbon sinks: Washington Post
120,000 mobile phones sold in a minute, 1 billion things sold in one day - this is the reality of Singles' Day. It's the world’s biggest online shopping day and it's happening on November 11.
Created by the Chinese company, Alibaba, in 2009, Singles' Day is now a big event for Chinese and international spenders, where online consumers participate in a massive 24-hour shopping spree. They are on track to top last year's sales of $17.8 billion.
That's more than the total e-commerce sales of Brazil in 2016. Alibaba founder Jack Ma refers to Singles' Day as a “Global Shopping Festival” and retailers around the world are quickly picking up on the trend.
But it's intensifying the worst aspects of consumerism; environmental damage, unnecessary spending, wasteful behaviour and dissatisfaction for shoppers.
Online shopping amplifies environmental costs of consumption
The production of the goods sold on Singles' Day use natural resources and pollute our environment. Fashion alone accounts for 28.5 % of the sales and has a direct impact on the local environment. 20% of rivers and lakes in China have been contaminated as a result of dying, printing, and treatment from the textile industry.
“Singles' Day is a catastrophe for the environment. Not only does it create huge amounts of waste, but the CO2 emissions from manufacturing, packaging, and shipping are enormous,” says Greenpeace East Asia toxics campaigner, Nie Li.
Details from China indicate that:
Singles' Day apparel sales produced 258,000 tonnes CO2 emissions. We would need 2.58 million trees to absorb it all.
The use of cell phones and computers to place online orders produced 3.22 million tonnes of CO2 in 2015.
The recycling rate of packaging materials remains low. Less than 10% of paper, cardboard and plastic packaging used in delivery are recycled.
From the shelves directly into waste
The aggressive 'Buy NOW' marketing that accompanies Singles' Days promotions amplifies our impulse to buy. People “keep getting duped, but because the items are so cheap, they don’t mind and just keep buying and buying, fuelling a vicious circle,” says Greenpeace campaigner Walton Li from Greenpeace Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Shopper, 2015
In a survey commissioned by Greenpeace Hong Kong, the most cited reasons for throwing away unused goods from Singles' Day shopping sprees were poor quality, wrong fit and the product looking different from what shoppers expected.
One in every four fashion items that Hongkongers buy online are not worn more than twice before being thrown away. All of this is results in an estimated 5.8 million garments being disposed every year.
Walton Li: “Sure, the cost of regret is low, but the environment is footing the bill, and those costs are high.”
Shopping doesn't make us happy
Evidence suggests that shopping is not leading to real happiness. It's a way to kill time, relieve stress, and avoid boredom. But the cheap thrill of buying something new dies away pretty fast. Half of the people surveyed said that the immediate excitement of a shopping spree lasted less than a day.
Results from a Greenpeace commissioned survey on the shopping habits of people in Europe and Asia
If you are tempted to buy something on Singles' Day, think of the consequences. Shopping is done in an instant, but the consequences for our beautiful planet linger.
Lu Yen Roloff is the communications lead for the Detox my Fashion campaign.
This September I took my first trip to Russia to join the celebration of Greenpeace Russia’s 25 Year Anniversary.
In big cities like Moscow, oil powered transport is a major source of pollution and greenhouse gases emissions. This is why four major cities - Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens - have moved to ban diesel vehicles by 2025.
In Moscow for the 25th Anniversary of Greenpeace Russia - 23 Sep, 2017
Energy based on oil can never be clean, whatever carmakers say. In Russia, I saw one of the darkest sides of the oil industry, hidden far away from the capital, deep in the forests of the north...
We travelled 1500km north, to the Komi region, one of the oldest oil producing regions in Russia. At first sight, I was amazed by the beauty of the country. We travelled on the great Pechora River in a small boat and watched endless white beaches and beautiful boreal forests bathed in the bright yellow colours of Autumn.
But when I looked closer, I saw a different picture: dead trees, black swamps, toxic water glistening with oil.
Dead forest in Komi Republic - 20 Aug, 2014
We found a huge oil spill which had happened the previous spring. It looked like it could be up to 10 hectares wide. Little had been done to clean it up. We only saw a few tired workers trying to dig out oil with shovels. Russia is infamous for having thousands of oil spills, big and small, around the country.
In 1994, one of the biggest man-made oil catastrophes hit Komi. More than 100,000 tonnes of oil spilled into rivers and forests when an old pipeline broke. The traces are still visible as pieces of stone-hard oil in the soil.
We met activists from the Save the Pechora Committee, a local NGO that unites people determined to protect their native land. Many of them are indigenous Komi people whose ancestors lived in this northern region for centuries.
As recently as April there was another accident in the region. A huge fire broke out at an oil well dangerously close to Pechora river. Hundreds of firefighters were unable to stop it and the fire burned for an entire month. The inhabitants of the two small villages nearby had to breathe toxic stink damp air (polluted with hydrogen sulphide) and the snow was covered with black soot.
One of the local families warmly invited us to their house. They live in a village with just 10 homes and love their native land and its closeness with nature.
But Lukoil (“one of the largest publicly traded oil and gas companies in the world accounting for more than 2% of the world's oil production,” according to their website) is closing its circle of oil wells surrounding the village.
Nina Volotovskaya, one of the residents described a sunset; “I saw that the sky above the river became bright red. I called the local council and they said everything was fine. The authorities only visited us once, reassuring us that there was no threat. All that time we smelled rotten eggs. Accidents often happen here. From our house, I can see ten oil wells, and there are more and more each year. Lukoil never informs us or warns us – why would they bother about the opinion of a few families?”
A message from the banks of the Pechora river
Nina and thousands of other people like her all across the world have to pay with their health for so-called oil prosperity.
But these brave people give me hope. After 20 years of fighting against big oil, they haven’t given up. They’ve learnt how to map oil spills, how to measure water pollution and assess if the land was reclaimed in a proper way.
But they can’t stand alone against one of the most powerful industries in the world. They need our united efforts to ensure a future with clean air and clean water.
Lukoil, the company that has been poisoning Komi for years, is now heading to the Arctic. It is one of several fossil fuel companies that received licences from the Norwegian government to drill in the far north. These are areas that had never been exploited before. And we need to stop them. Click here to join us in suing the Norwegian government.
It’s up to all of us to remember that the oil we consume is destroying the planet and the lives of so many people across the globe.
MAKE SMTHNG Week is about taking action for a better world.
From 2-10 December, at the start of the holiday shopping season, we want to invite you to make something with us. In cities around the world, makers are gathering to demonstrate how we can unite to create unique alternatives to buying something new.
We are calling all DIY mavens, minimalists, vegans and vegetarians, upcyclers, swappers, sewers, crafters and zero wasters - you’re all invited to join Greenpeace in collaboration with Fashion Revolution, Shareable and many others to inspire you to make the most of our resources.
Many of you have already started to rediscover the art, craft and joy of making: cooking, mending clothes, fixing electronics, upcycling used goods, growing your own food. You're making your own cosmetics; cleaning with vinegar and baking soda, ditching plastic and sharing your clothes, bikes and homes with each other. MAKE SMTHNG Week is your showcase for creative, innovative and unique alternatives to shopping something new.
DIY workshop during Beijing Design Week - 25 Sep, 2017
MAKE it happen
This movement is about much more than our organisation. Here’s what you can do:
Download our guidelines on how to get involved and share it with your friends
Watch out for our website where you'll be able to find an international event calendar and other resources.
Use our free branding toolkit to promote your own events and stories on social media, create posters, postcards and anything else.
Follow us on Instagram (@makesmthng) and tell the world about the things you’ve made by using the hashtag #makesmthng.
Get in touch with us by emailing email@example.com if you'd like to collaborate.
DIY workshop during Beijing Design Week - 25 Sep, 2017
Because we are buying too much stuff. There are billions of people on this planet who all shop for food, fashion and technology. To produce many of the goods we use, companies are contributing to climate change, destroying forests and polluting our oceans.
The amount of waste we create is mind-boggling. Every piece of plastic produced in the last 60 years still exists. As things get cheaper with planned obsolescence built in, we throw them away more often. In our consumerist societies, shopping counts for more than preserving things.
Plastic waste collected in Germany
We buy twice as many clothes as we did 20 years ago, and wear them for half as long. It’s now cheaper to buy new things than to repair them. Even though our technology is advanced enough to instantly connect all corners of the world, we still can’t repair our mobile phones.
We need to shift from a throw-away culture to one where we value things again. We envision a world where we make the most of our resources. Each of us can take small actions in our everyday lives that together create a monumental change.
Make it last
Clothes Swapping Party in Germany
Instead of buying fast fashion and throwing it out after wearing it a few times, we can make our clothes last by caring for them and repairing them. To turn away from mindless consumerism, we can stop supporting companies which produce phones that can’t be repaired or have replaceable elements and start fixing things again.
When we replace meat with vegan or vegetarian alternatives, we turn away from the most inefficient way of feeding the world’s population. And whenever we bring a reusable bag and say no to single-use plastic and polyester fashion, we are preventing another piece of plastic from polluting our planet’s oceans and beaches.
Help us change the story of hyperconsumption: MAKE SMTHNG!
Making something together in Beijing.
Lu Yen Roloff is the communications lead for the Detox my Fashion campaign.
You might remember that H&M has been heavily promoting its recycling scheme. Whenever Greenpeace campaigned on the need to limit their immense use of resources, H&M responded with grand promises that soon everything will be "kept in the loop" and that technical innovations will make their manufacturing chain more sustainable.
But can we still trust a company that publishes lengthy sustainability reports which fail to mention anything about burning tonnes of clothing? Any brand that spends millions promoting recycling campaigns has to stand up to scrutiny.
At our request, H&M has now finally admitted that this is not an isolated case, but the incineration of reject clothes is a common practice worldwide. They say that they only burn clothes that can’t be sold, gifted, or recycled - clothes that are unusable scrap due to production errors. They emphasise that it’s only a last resort: when the labels on jeans are contaminated with lead or when t-shirts are mouldy.
Shouldn’t any company that has committed to recycling find a way to remove contaminated labels from their jeans and recycle the rest? If they take the problem of dangerous chemicals seriously, they shouldn’t be releasing potentially harmful substances into the atmosphere.
Despite their talk, H&M and other textile companies are stubbornly continuing their operations in the same old wasteful way. It shows us how little they value their clothes.
Bestseller (the parent company of Vero Moda and Jack & Jones) burned even more clothing than H&M last year in Denmark, and luxury labels are known to destroy unsold clothes, to stop them reappearing on the second-hand market.
H&M has shown the world that damaged clothes don’t deserve to be fixed; that they should be thrown onto the flames because recycling would be too costly and time-consuming. If this is already too much effort, how is H&M’s highly anticipated closed loop recycling scheme ever going to work?
Every single t-shirt that they make pollutes the environment. Perhaps H&M is just using the idea of recycling as an excuse to continue to produce disposable clothes without restraint.
We need to break the cycle of overconsumption and end throw-away culture. Are you on board?
Two years ago, a courageous law student, Sarah Thomson, sued the New Zealand Government over its weak climate targets. Now she’s made history.
On 2 November, 2017, the High Court of New Zealand issued a game-changing ruling. It found that climate change presents significant risks and government actions on climate change are subject to judicial scrutiny. The court also found that the former Minister for Climate Change acted unlawfully by failing to review the country’s climate change targets after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published an updated report on climate science.
The court didn’t issue an order against the recently elected government because the new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has committed the country to zero carbon by 2050. While Sarah is excited about the new 2050 target, she believes there needs to be a concrete plan to achieve it. Sarah hasn’t ruled out an appeal.
This ruling is a big deal.
It demonstrates that countries must review climate decisions in line with updated science and courts will weigh in on inadequate efforts to respond to climate change.
Here’s why this ruling from a small South Pacific country court will have a big impact on global climate action.
1. People are securing big wins for the climate in court.
First there was the case brought by the Urgenda Foundation and 900 co-plaintiffs. They argued that the Netherlands committed a tort of negligence against its citizens by contributing to climate change. The court agreed and ordered the government to increase its emission reduction targets.
Then in Pakistan a farmer sued the Federal government, arguing that inaction on climate change violated the constitutional rights to life and dignity. Again, the court agreed and ordered the government to act and placed it under judicial supervision.
Members of the Senior Women for Climate Protection deliver their legal complaint against Swiss authorities to the court in May, 2017.
And the wins continue. In the USA, 21 young people and a climate scientist, as guardians for future generations, sued the government for violating their rights by committing the US to a fossil fuel based energy system. In rejecting government and industry efforts to have the case dismissed, the court ruled that their case could proceed to trial and identified a new right to “a climate system capable of sustaining human life.”
Like the landmark decisions that came before it, the New Zealand High Court’s ruling will inspire more people to sue. It provides strong legal arguments in favor of government accountability for weak climate policies in other pending cases, such as the climate lawsuit brought by over 700 Swiss senior women.
2. The stage is set for the climate trial in Norway and human rights investigation in the Philippines.
Another epic court battle is set to begin on 14 November, and a Norwegian court could be the next to hold a government accountable in a climate case.
Greenpeace Nordic and Nature & Youth filed a lawsuit against the Norwegian Government for opening up new areas in the Arctic for drilling for oil and gas, further north than ever before. They allege that the licenses infringe the Constitutional right to a healthy environment, explicitly safeguarded for future generations, as well as contravening the Paris Agreement.
Plaintiffs and supporters stand outside the Norwegian courthouse in Oslo with the lawsuit against the Norwegian government in October, 2016.
On the other side of the world, the people of Tacloban are marking the 4th anniversary of super typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in November 2013. At least 6,300 lives were lost and millions of others were affected and have yet to recover. Like Sarah and the youth in Norway, disaster survivors and other Filipinos are using the power of the law to accelerate action on climate change.
In September 2015, they filed a legal petition, triggering a powerful human rights body to launch a serious investigation into the responsibility big fossil fuel companies have for fuelling climate impacts that contribute to human rights harms. On December 11th, the Commission will be holding a preliminary conference with the aim of finding a speedy resolution, which the people hope will work to prevent climate-related human rights harms.
3. Climate litigation creates a strong mandate for global climate action.
The Paris Climate Agreement set down a bold ambition to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We’re in a race against time to increase climate action to meet this target.
Right now, governments are gathering in Bonn, Germany at the 23rd annual Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This should also be the moment where countries prepare to speed up their global climate action efforts.
The New Zealand ruling is a warning to all governments. If countries fail to get their act together to make sure deadly climate impacts are averted, they too will be hauled into court.
Kristin Casper is Litigation Counsel for the global Climate Justice and Liability Project with Greenpeace Canada and Kate Simcock is a Campaigner at Greenpeace New Zealand.
“We will use the full extent of our fiscal and legal influence to bring the individuals and the organisation behind these criminal, barbaric acts to justice.” — The chief of security for DESA, builder of the Agua Zarca dam project opposed by the late Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, in a text message to company executives and PR representatives on February 21, 2016.
That message and many others were revealed in a new investigation from the Grupo Asesor Internacional de Personas Expertas (GAIPE) into the death of Goldman Prize winner Berta Cáceres. It’s been 20 months since Berta was assassinated in her own home, and one year since GAIPE formed to do what the Honduran government has not: find out who was behind her murder.
Of the eight men accused of killing Berta, not one has been identified as the mastermind behind the crime. Through public records, GAIPE obtained text messages, phone records, emails, photos, and other evidence that the planning, execution, and subsequent cover up of Berta’s murder began in November 2015.
Most importantly, they conclude that DESA, the Honduran government, and the banks financing the Agua Zarca dam all had a role to play in the death of Berta Cáceres.
1. The company
"I have spent a lot of money and political capital to get these three warrants out.” — Translation of a text from a DESA executive in 2013 referencing attempts to arrest Berta and two other Indigenous activists.
The Agua Zarca dam project, approved by Honduran officials in 2013, is a multi-million dollar mega-dam that threatens the survival of Honduras’ Indigenous Lenca community and the health of the Gualcarque River. Berta and her organisation COPINH (the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras) were its primary opponents.
The GAIPE investigation revealed that DESA deployed private security forces, hired hitmen, and influenced law enforcement in order to neutralise Berta and other Lenca activists opposing the Agua Zarca dam.
2. The government
“I’ve requested the commissioner’s help … and he promised his support. He will share the details of the murder with me and he suggested we make a statement to disassociate ourselves from the event.” — Translation of a text between executives and employees at DESA sent 14 hour after Berta’s murder.
The investigation also recounts frequent meetings between DESA executives and partners, Honduran government authorities, and security forces as early as 2012. These meetings opened the door for DESA employees to direct police and members of the military toward repressing those who opposed the Agua Zarca dam.
The Honduran Ministry of National Security played a double role in this plan, both providing protection to the Agua Zarca project headquarters and its managers while denying it to Berta at the same time.
3. The banks
DESA did not have enough money on its own to complete construction on the Agua Zarca dam. Funders like the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, Dutch development bank, and Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation (Finnfund) turned a blind eye to its strategy to repress Berta and other activists.
It’s likely that these banks have valuable information pertaining to Berta’s murder that they have not yet made available to investigators.
Threats to environmental defenders are on the rise
Of all the deeply disturbing information contained in the GAIPE report, the most painful is that Berta’s murder was not an isolated incident. In fact, the report points to a “political system of attacks against human rights defenders in the wider context of violence that impacts everyone in Honduras.”
According to Global Witness, 200 environmental activists across 24 countries were murdered in 2016. Forty percent of those killed were Indigenous, like Berta. Brazil saw the most deaths of any country, with Honduras in fifth place.
Berta once said that the fight to protect human rights “is despised and made invisible because, for those with political and economic power, it’s a bad example. It inspires the struggle for liberation and shows that other ways of life that protect the planet are possible.”
Her words — along with those of the countless human rights defenders she’s inspired — continue to confront the governments and corporate bullies that seek to impose their will at the expense of people and the planet.
This new report is crucial to bringing justice to those who planned and carried out Berta’s murder. But more than that, it’s crucial to protecting those who speak out against injustice at a time when we must all raise our voices to protect human rights and the environment.
Two days ago, the gavel came down in an adjudication decision which may, more than any other recent hammer-strike, determine the future of fishing: The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) officially bestowed its blue-and-white fish-check label to a massive factory operator that targets Antarctic krill. This is not a good thing.
Antarctic krill are tiny shrimp-like crustaceans that cluster in vast multitudes (known as blooms) in the waters of the Southern Ocean. They form a critical building block in the oceanic food web: small fish consume the krill before being eaten themselves by seals, penguins, toothfish, and other animals.
Krill are also a primary source of nourishment for migratory whales -- in fact, the majority of the worlds baleen whales journey to the southern ocean to feed on krill and replenish their energy supplies after depleting their reserves during their mating and calving seasons.
While krill in their vast numbers do seem on the surface to be an inexhaustible resource, one would hope that, by this time, we have learned that this mindless assumption will never be accurate in regard to any of the inhabitants of our finite planet. There is no such thing as an inexhaustible resource. Ask any great auk or passenger pigeon, theyll tell you. Oh, wait -- you can't ask them. Because there arent any left. Because there's no such thing as an inexhaustible resource.
There are a few things that we are certain of about krill. The first is that the tiny animal, like many other sea creatures -- especially crustaceans -- is vulnerable to climate change, especially through the ocean acidification trends resulting from the rising levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
Nowhere in the Marine Stewardship Council certification system are the potential effects of climate change even discussed, let alone taken into account by the methodology. Strike one.
Next, we know that Antarctic krill exist in the Southern Ocean an area adjacent to a land mass that is uninhabited by humans. The simple fact that we are sending fishing vessels into this area bespeaks an unsustainable paradigm, known as finite expansion. There is a certain amount of ocean on this planet. That we continue to fish farther, deeper, and longer simply underscores the fact that we are not approaching the management of our oceanic resources from a sensible and comprehensive standpoint that would account for the idea that one day one day quite soon, actually these fishing boats are going to bump up against the ice shelf. No more expansion. What then?
The Marine Stewardship Council methodology again fails to even consider these perspectives, concentrating instead on discrete management techniques that do not consider the idea that sustainability is more than a fishery-by-fishery label it is a way of looking at the world. Strike two.
Finally, we know that we have only a very rudimentary understanding these tiny animals. Krill have been studied only cursorily and we have almost no knowledge of their life history and behavior. It is irresponsible in the extreme to proceed with the certification of a fishery that is so cloaked in mystery we have no idea what kind of damage we could be doing. Strike three.
And yet in the face of all these worries, the rubber stamp comes down and the MSC pronounces the krill fishery to be sustainable. Lets not forget that vehement objections to this certification have already been lodged by the Pew Environment Group and the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition. These objections were overruled -- but let us not forget that the three strikes listed above were not taken into account in the decision, as they are simply not part of the MSC methodology... and if something isn't part of the system, it apparently doesn't have any relevance on reality. Or so the adjudication decision would lead one to believe.
There is a conceptual concern here too. The certification of this fishery gives an unofficial nod to the basic idea that vacuuming up the tiny life forms forming the foundations of the oceanic ecosystem is an acceptable practice. In reality, its not. Even the United States fishery management authorities banned fishing for krill in US waters, specifically to allow it to remain in the ocean as a food source for other organisms.
Legitimizing and expanding Antarctic krill fishing is simply transferring our unceasing resource demand to a hitherto unrecognized protein source. This is not the way to move forward in fact, pulling too hard on this loose yarn just might unravel the whole tapestry. The certification of krill makes no sense. Its a minuscule building-block animal on the other side of the world that simply doesnt belong to us. We cant even eat it the krill will just be used to make oil, fish food, and other rendered products. And for this, we may end up short-changing whales, toothfish, seals, and other animals all because the powers that be refuse to look at the entire issue from a larger perspective. Fishing for krill will not feed the world -- but it just might end up starving it.
[This blog was first published by Greenpeace USA on May 26, 2010]
A common thread throughout history is that great leaders did the right thing at the right time, with courage and integrity. The current climate crisis has thrust our generation into such a moment in history.
Today, we face a threat and an opportunity like none we have seen before and have a small window of time in which to take decisive, bold action against climate change and deliver true security and justice for everyone.
It is not an easy challenge, but it’s one we can achieve with a sense of shared leadership. The enormity of climate change could easily dwarf us individually, but collectively we can rise to the challenge.
We can’t avert catastrophic climate change if only a few of us take action. It requires something of us all: from citizens to city mayors, from corporate CEOs to those on the frontlines of climate change, and world leaders too.
Hot air balloon over Hamburg during the G20 summit - 5 Jul, 2017
As politicians and non-state actors arrive in Bonn for the UN climate talks (COP23 - the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC) we will be looking for shared climate leadership to emerge.
In the two years since the Paris Climate Agreement signalled the intention to limit global warming to 1.5ºC, world leaders have failed to deliver on their promise.
This was exposed in the UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report 2017, which showed that the pledges countries have made would only deliver a third of what is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Climate action from the private sector and sub-national action is not enough to close the gap.
The World Meteorological Organisation’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin revealed that levels of carbon dioxide had surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016. Rapidly increasing levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases can spark unprecedented changes in climate systems, they warned.
Time is running out. This year’s climate-fuelled hurricanes, floods and droughts will rapidly worsen if we fail to seize our moment. The sooner we act, the better. Bonn must help turn the tide.
Shared leadership. We can’t go it alone.
That’s the message G7 and G20 leaders gave to US President Donald Trump after he announced that the US would turn its back on the Paris agreement. The G7 and G20 held the line and recommitted to Paris, isolating Trump.
Supporters for the Paris Agreement at the COP22 in Marrakech - 18 Nov, 2016
A large non-federal US delegation will attend next week’s climate talks. They tell a different story about the reality of how the US is still committing to climate action, displaying the kind of leadership that we hear about in historic moments: the strength to stand up for what’s right. Likewise, two members of Pacific Island Represent will be in Bonn to call on world leaders to honour their Paris commitments.
And they are not alone. In Norway, the first developed country to ratify the Paris Agreement, people are taking the Norwegian government to court over its Arctic oil drilling, exposing its climate hypocrisy. This lawsuit is part of a global wave of people litigating to hold governments and big polluters to account as the rapid pace of climate change outstrips our ability to adapt.
Leadership is having the courage to say enough is enough.
But they need support. Germany, as host of the UN climate talks with climate vulnerable Fiji, has an obligation to lead the way. Germany still doesn’t have a plan to phase-out coal or combustion engines, unlike other European states like Italy, France and the UK. That is not shared leadership.
We are calling on world leaders to come forward, not just in Bonn, but in the days, weeks, and months afterwards to say that they will stand on the right side of history, that they will be remembered for the decisions they take now.
They will do so because the moment is here. This is our defining now.
Otherwise, history will only judge them harshly.
Jennifer Morgan is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.