The month of September saw significant strides being taken within the area of climate change and human rights.
A global call for the United Nations to recognise the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment was launched at the start of the month. The call came ahead of the 45th Session of the Human Rights Council. The Council is an intergovernmental body within the UN which meets three times per year to promote education, follow up on commitments and prevent human rights violations. FWCC, QEW and AFSC added their signatures to those of over 900 civil society, NGO and Indigenous Peoples’ organisations worldwide.
The 45th Session also saw the adoption of a Resolution on Child Rights and the Environment, which urges states to consider recognizing a right to healthy environment in their national legislation. The resolution is a critical step forward on the recognition of a global right and comes at the same time as the opening of consultations on this topic by the core group of States responsible for the annual resolution on human rights and the environment.
Friend Frank Granshaw was recently in touch to share his work as part of the organizing group for the PDX Climate Bridge ahead of what would have been COP26 in November. The group has put together a virtual “Bridge Kit” to offer a guide to those looking to organize a local bridge to COP26. The PDX Climate Bridge sits under the umbrella of the Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network, delivering education for sustainable development to local communities.
Frank is a Quaker from the Pacific Northwestern United States. A retired geology instructor, he now teaches climate science for nonscientists at a local university and is heavily involved in climate and sustainability education and advocacy through several secular and religious organizations. He writes:
During a recent visit to the Oregon state capital I was asked during an elevator conversation with a capital staffer what I was doing there. I explained that I was there with a group talking with legislators about supporting climate related legislation. When asked about what motivated me to do so, I responded that I was originally trained as a glacial geologist and that I’m a grandparent. At which point she smiled and said that explains it.
As part of his teaching on the general studies course at Portland State University, Frank has published a Climate Toolkit: A Resource Manual for Climate Science and Action. It offers an accessible guide to climate science and action, and is written in such a way that it can be used in many different settings, including study groups, churches, community groups, or workplaces.
FWCC, in collaboration with young Friends from around the world and across the Quaker branches, are hosting a series of 5 online workshops over 10 weeks. These sessions will be run by young Quakers for young Quakers through Friends World Committee for Consultation on 5 Saturdays between August 29 and October 24, 2020.
Each session will explore climate action, peace, and justice in relation to one of the five testimonies: Truth, Equality, Peace, Simplicity and Community. There will be a chance to hear from 2 – 3 speakers (who will be Young Friends from across the FWCC sections), to talk in zoom breakout rooms exploring the session’s theme, and a chance to gather and reflect on our discussions together.
The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivered a powerful message where he shared that “The current crisis is an unprecedented wake-up call. We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.” He continued by proposing a six-step plan for action. On the same link you will also find the message of General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande who wrote that “We will only preserve Mother Earth through a paradigm shift from a human-centric society to an Earth-centred global ecosystem.”
A group of interfaith groups working on the international climate negotiations, which this year were supposed to take place in Glasgow, have released a statement regarding its cancellation, as well as speaking on COVID-19 and climate change. The Quaker United Nations Office helped write the statement, and Friends World Committee on Consultation is a signatory.
QUNO, through the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), is the only faith-based observer at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). At the latest IPCC Meeting, held from 24-28 February in Paris, countries negotiated an outline for the Synthesis Report of the upcoming 6th Assessment Report, to be released in 2022.
QUNO’s Representative for Climate Change, Lindsey Fielder Cook, made four interventions during the week, which can be found here, alongside additional information. These related to the addition of (or protecting existing) language on the essential role of civil society/public participation, rights-based approaches to climate action, non-economic losses and loss and damage when calculating ‘costs’, and ‘behavior change’ to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to locked in climate change.
QUNO delivered an oral statement at the 43rd session of the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC), recognizing the work of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment showing how human rights are seriously affected by a degraded environment. QUNO’s statement, delivered by Programme Assistant Detmer Yens Kremer, encouraged the HRC to make “an historic contribution by adopting a resolution recognizing the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment,” and also emphasized that the time for action is now.
For the next session of the Human Rights Council, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has released a report on the rights of the child through a healthy environment. This report details the obligations of states and the responsibilities of states regarding the enjoyment of children’s rights and the environment. It includes climate change child activists, environmental health impacts of child labor, and best practices from international, regional, and national governments.
Lindsey Fielder Cook (Programme Representative Human Impacts of Climate Change, QUNO) has written an article summarizing and analyzing what happened during the COP25 in Madrid, Spain. She writes that “the COP25 was a sign of shifting pressures even in this tense geo-political environment. And this is important to note, since a COP is a reflection of national politics; essential work for progressive positions begins at home.” The article can be found here.
On December 3rd, Quaker United Nations Office and Quaker EarthCare Witness, together with Franciscans International, Brahma Kumaris, and World Council of Churches, hosted a side event at the COP25 in Madrid, Spain. This event was entitled “Inspiring Courage to Act and Adapt in a Climate Emergency”. The discussion was to explore ways to transform lives, communities, politics, and economics in our global efforts to mitigate, adapt, and foster resilience. The panel featured voices from state delegations, indigenous communities, faith-based organizations, science, and international organizations. The incomplete broadcast can be found here, and will be updated once technological issues are resolved.