European Interest

Protect environmental defenders from intimidation and violence, MEPs urge

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Members on the Foreign Affairs Committee call on the EU to strongly support environmental rights defenders and their legal representatives, and condemn all attacks against these campaigners.

On Thursday (results announced on Friday), Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a report assessing the situation of environmental defenders around the world, and what the EU and third countries can do to better assist and protect these human rights activists from reprisals.                                                                                                 The text notes that the impact of climate change and the continued environmental degradation of freshwater resources, ecosystems, and livelihoods of communities are already preventing many from enjoying their human rights. This includes the rights to life, food security, safe drinking water and sanitation, health, housing, work and development, in many parts of the world.                                                                                                        It also highlights the very precarious situation for human rights defenders on the front line of climate action, who are often working to save their local communities, while facing abuse, intimidation, violence and murders in many isolated rural areas, and in a climate of near total impunity.                                                                                               Therefore, MEPs state that the EU should do more to support environmental rights defenders, who are often members of various indigenous communities.

Fighting impunity at global level and helping displaced persons

The European Union should make the fight against impunity of environmental crimes at global level one of its key foreign policy priorities, MEPs urge. They encourage the EU and the member states, with the active support of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, to pave the way within the International Criminal Court (ICC) towards new negotiations between the parties, in order to recognise ‘ecocide’ as an international crime under the Rome Statute.                                                                                                     The EU should also lead more efforts to support people displaced due to climate change who are no longer able to live in their places of residence, for example because of floods, drought, land destruction and other similar phenomena, MEPs say.

Corporate due diligence and accountability is crucial

Members further underline that corporate due diligence and sustainable corporate accountability are indispensable in preventing and protecting against severe human rights and environmental violations. They call on the EU to support sustainable and accountable corporate governance as an important element of the European Green Deal.                          The text also urges all EU countries to implement effective regulatory measures to identify, assess, prevent, mitigate and monitor potential corporate-related human rights abuses and hold businesses accountable to ensure they fulfil their due diligence obligations regarding the impact of climate change on human rights.                                                             For all the details, the report will be available in full in due time here. It was adopted by 53 votes in favour, 10 against with 4 abstentions.

“Climate change and increased global warming is not just scientific evidence. It is a tangible reality that is having a tremendous impact on the full enjoyment of human rights of present and future generations. This is why, from the European Parliament, we call for the fundamental right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment to be guaranteed trough urgent and concrete actions and commitments. The Paris Agreement is the first international treaty to explicitly recognise the link between climate action and human rights, thus allowing the use of existing human rights-related legal instruments to urge states and private corporations to reduce emissions. Secondly, we urge the EU to further protect environmental defenders. In 2020, at least 331 human rights defenders were killed. 69% of them were environmental defenders and 26% of them worked specifically on indigenous peoples’ rights. Today, we demand justice and access to effective remedies and redress for them”, said rapporteur María Soraya Rodríguez Ramos (Renew Europe, Spain) after the vote.

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