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Image of the week | The UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Marcos Orellana, discussing his report on “The toxic impacts of some proposed climate change solutions” at the side event to the Human Rights Council “Integrating Detoxification and Decarbonization to Protect Human Rights of Affected Communities“, co-organized with the Permanent Mission of Chile, and co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Germany, the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Permanent Mission of the Philippines and the Geneva Climate Change Consultation Group (GeCCco), as part of the Geneva Toxic Free Talks.

Environment @ Human Rights Council

The 54th session of the Human Rights Council continues on its third week, and the environment remains high on the agenda, with:

  • Presentation by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples of his annual thematic report on “Green financing – a just transition to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples. The report aims to address ensuring the social and environmental interventions and safeguards needed to secure Indigenous Peoples’ rights and livelihoods when economies shift to sustainable development practices to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. An interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur will take place on 28 September 2023.
  • The Biennial panel discussion on youth and human rights, taking place on 26 September 2023 at 10:00 CEST, will be tackling “Young people’s engagement with climate change and global environmental decision-making processes“.

Other events of interest this week include:

Last week, toxic substances and waste were a central point for discussion at the Council as the UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights presented his report on “The toxic impacts of some proposed climate change solutions“. The Special Rapporteur highlighted that although decarbonization is imperative, certain technologies and strategies that present themselves as climate solutions continue to pose threats that aggravate the toxification of the planet and with it, human rights violations. Integrating decarbonization and detoxification strategies is a must. Human rights principles should guide these solutions. One key principle is the Right to Science, which is undermined by disinformation campaigns that push false or misleading climate solutions or that downplay the adverse human rights or toxic impacts of such technologies.

In relation, the Special Rapporteur, with the support of Earthjustice and the Geneva Environment Network, also held the 2023 edition of the Geneva Toxic Free Talks, which tackled timely toxics and human rights issues. The three days of conferences were “a space for giving voices to stakeholders, including actors in the frontlines that often do not have a voice. It has clarified issues of terminology, anticipates challenges, and helps us look at the horizon and be ahead of the curve.”  Rewatch the events and revisit the outcomes and highlights of the Geneva Toxic Free Talks.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development also presented his report to the Council, on “Reinvigorating the right to development: A vision for the future“. In his first report to the Council, the Special Rapporteur highlighted that the current model of development is neither inclusive nor sustainable, as it is focused on cumulative economic development, does not ensure the participation of people, and ignores planetary boundaries. The world needs planet-centered and participative development. The right to development goes hand-in-hand with the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.

 Our update on HRC54 provides the latest news and highlights the environmental-related activities of this session.

Geneva @ the International Conference on Chemicals Management

Numerous Geneva-based experts and diplomats are actively participating in the fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5), convening in Bonn this week, with the overarching task of adopting the Beyond 2020 Framework — the strategy to guide the goal of reaching the safe and sustainable management of chemicals. Home to several international organizations and multilateral environmental agreements addressing chemicals, waste and related pollution challenges, Geneva is a major global hub for the governance of hazardous substances and to beat pollution.  Follow the Earth Negotiations Bulletin live coverage of the Conference and find more information and resources in our update Towards ICCM5.

A group of UN human rights experts issued a statement last week calling on ICCM5 to be guided by human rights principles in the design of the post-2020 global policy framework on the sound management of chemicals and wastes. Echoing this call, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is organizing with the Geneva Environment Network and other co-sponsors, at ICCM5 a side event on Advancing a Human Rights-based Approach to Accelerate the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste for People and the Planet. Drawing upon the voices of the UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, UN entities, representatives from civil society organizations, and States delegates, the panel will share specific examples of rights-based environmental action targeting chemicals and waste, highlighting how States can take more effective action through compliance with their obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights to meet the ambition and correspondent action required to effectively protect human health and the environment from chemicals and waste throughout their lifecycle.→ Find more information on the event taking place on 27 September 2023 from 13:15–14:45 CEST.

Enhancing Participation in the Negotiation of a New Science-Policy Panel

The second meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG 2) on the Science-Policy Panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution will be held in person in Jordan, from 11 to 15 December 2023. To facilitate engagement and discussion among the stakeholders on this process, the Secretariat of the OEWG and the Geneva Environment Network have been co-convening a webinar series that kicked off in April 2023.

This week, a new webinar will present the accreditation and participation modalities for the OEWG for interested stakeholders. The event aims to enhance understanding of the participation of observers at the meetings of the OEWG and share information on how they can contribute to the work of OEWG. → Register to attend on Webex on Tuesday 26 September 2023 from 14:00–15:30.

Environmental Defenders on the Frontlines of the Triple Planetary Crisis

Earlier this month, a new report by the Global WitnessStanding Firm — documented at least 177 attacks against environmental defenders worldwide in 2022. This takes the total number of defenders killed between 2012 and 2022 to 1,910. At least 1,390 of these killings took place between the adoption of the Paris Agreement on 12 December 2015 and 31 December 2022. Amongst these fatal attacks, 34% target Indigenous people, despite them only making up 5% of the world’s population. As the field of human rights obligations related to a clean, safe, healthy and sustainable environment expands, the need to protect those who protect our environmental rights also becomes more urgent. The report recommends to hold companies and governments to account for the violence, criminalisation and other attacks faced by the defenders as they seek to protect their land, their communities and our planet.→ Learn more about Environmental Human Rights Defenders and the role of Geneva in our related update.

Last week news related to those at the forefront of the protection of our planet include:

Championing Real Climate Action

Last week, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres convened a Climate Ambition Summit in the framework of the 78th UN General Assembly. Stressing how extreme climate and weather events witnessed this summer evidence that “Humanity has opened the gates to hell“, the UN Secretary- General urged leaders to speed up action, address climate injustices and rebuild trust in rightfully angry peoples. The Climate Ambition Summit provided a prime for the upcoming Climate COP28 to be held in November in Dubai, where reflections during the first Global Stocktake since the 2015 Paris Agreement are expected to result in concrete solutions. Initiatives to scale up climate action launched last week include: 

  • A project aimed at providing financial and technical support to the realization of the UNSG’s Early Warnings for All initiative, whose goal is to ensure everyone on Earth is protected from hazardous weather, water, and climate events through life-saving early warning systems by the end of 2027.
  • The ‘Water at the Heart of Climate Action’ partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), The Netherlands Red Cross, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF). This collaboration will combine local knowledge and global technology to help communities understand and act on the water-related risks they face – before they become disasters.

Echoing international calls for accelerated action, a national Swiss climate demonstration will take place in Bern on 30 September 2023. People from all over the country, including those from Geneva, will gather to march with clear requests for the prioritization of immediate climate action and for it to be coupled with climate justice, accountability and responsibility calibrated on contributions to climate change.

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