02 March 2023 - NPWJ News Digest on Environmental Justice and Human Rights


Need for the Indigenous in Climate Justice Conversations
mahabahu, 02 Mar 2023

Indigenous communities around the world are at the frontline of a changing climate. Their livelihoods are endangered, their settlements are threatened, and their economies are on the brink of total collapse. According to research, indigenous people, or native settlers, make less than five percent of the global population - roughly 370 million in numerical terms. Distributed in all major continents except Antarctica, these people inhabit some of the harshest environments on the planet. From jungles of the Amazon, to desolate mountains of Tibet, native communities mostly inhabit ecosystems susceptible to major changes in the environment. Most indigenous people today, therefore, are already impacted by climate change. 

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International courts and climate change
The Hindu, 01 Mar 2023

A group of 16 countries has launched a gallant effort to fight the problem of climate change — an existential threat to human civilisation — at the United Nations (UN). Led by Vanuatu — an island country in the South Pacific Ocean — the group seeks an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the issue of climate change. Notwithstanding the presence of several international legal instruments on climate change such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, the international community has fallen short of delivering concrete solutions to the problem of climate changeThe recently concluded 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP-27) where countries failed to narrow their differences on critical issues such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions perfectly exemplifies the failure of the international community to get its act together on the issue of climate change.

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HHS’s Environmental Justice Index institutionalizes climate apartheid
Stat News, 01 Mar 2023

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has for decades ignored its responsibility to enforce civil rights laws, as I argued last year in a First Opinion essay. Doing nothing to protect minority populations from inequitable health harms resulting from the health care industry’s greenhouse gas emissions constitutes environmental and institutional racism. HHS has now chosen to make matters worse by creating an Environmental Justice Index (EJI) that will do many things — except provide environmental justice. In announcing the index, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra stated that “Too many communities . . . particularly low-income . . . and communities of color continue to bear the brunt of pollution.” HHS describes the EJI as “the first national, placed-based tool” to measure and map areas of the United States that are most at risk for the health effects of environmental issues.

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The World Is Finally Cracking Down on ‘Greenwashing’
The Atlantic, 01 Mar 2023

Greenwashing happens because companies know that a growing number of consumers and investors care about the climate, but it’s much easier to take small or symbolic actions that don’t cut into their bottom line—tiny “win-win” actions that don’t make a real difference. But something is happening in the world of financial regulation that could help. Very soon, many big companies around the world will be legally required to disclose information about their emissions and how exactly they plan to hit the targets they keep announcing. Corporate climate promises, it seems, might soon have to be more than just empty words. Still, there may be limits to what can be accomplished through financial regulation, a system designed to protect investors rather than the planet.

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“Not climate justice:” Greta Thunberg joins call to tear down two huge Norway wind farms
Renew Economy, 28 Feb 2023

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg has joined hundreds of activists blocking entrances to Norway’s energy ministry, protesting against two wind farms built on land traditionally used by the indigenous Sami people. The 20-year-old environmental campaigner has lent her voice to protestors in Norway seeking to have two wind farms in central Norway torn down. While this may seem counter-intuitive to Thunberg’s usual protests, the two wind farms have already been stripped of their operating licenses by Norway’s supreme court in a case which found that the cultural rights of the indigenous Sami reindeer herders had been contravened.The ruling, handed down in October 2021, recognised that location of the two wind farms at Storheia and Roan in the Fosen region of central Norway – part of the larger Fosen wind farm, comprising six wind farms with a combined capacity of over 1GW – had subsequently interfered with the rights of Sami herders.

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Beyond Black History Month: taking action on environmental racism and justice
Environmental Defence, 27 Feb 2023

In Canada, a long-standing history of government and corporate negligence has created a reality where Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities are disproportionately exposed to polluting industries and other environmental hazards. The toxic legacies and burdens of these industries have been linked to high rates of cancer, reproductive diseases, respiratory illnesses, and other health problems in these communities. While solving these issues is complex, and entrenched within political and corporate systems, we can seek opportunities to address past harms and build better futures for Indigenous and racialized peoples. To start, our elected officials must help clean up and rectify the legacy of toxic contamination faced by these communities. 

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