Developing ‘climate resilience’ in the face of global warming through the rule of law

17 2021

Developing ‘climate resilience’ in the face of global warming through the rule of law

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The Council of Europe must help develop “climate resilience” to deal with global warming by promoting the rule of law - meaning the supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, separation of powers, participation in decision making, and transparency, according to the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, meeting today by video-conference.

Adopting a report by #Edite-Estrela (Portugal, #SOC), the committee encouraged member States to respond to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s call and to adopt the aim of “net zero emissions” to keep the global temperature increase in line with the Paris Agreement's overarching objective, amounting to an increase in average temperatures of 1.5°C It encouraged Turkey to ratify the Agreement.

Stressing the importance of the role of parliaments, the committee proposed the establishment of a parliamentary network under its auspices, whose task would be to monitor action by national authorities to meet the commitments made in response to the climate crisis, and to foster regular opportunities for parliamentarians in Europe and on other continents to pool their experience.

Finally, the committee recommended that the Committee of Ministers incorporate the sustainable development goals, and those aimed at tackling the climate crisis, into all Council of Europe activities, including when preparing strategies and action plans.

Report (provisional version)

16 March 2021

Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development
Climate crisis and the rule of law

Rapporteur: Ms Edite Estrela, Portugal, SOC
Report1 - A. Draft resolution[2 ]part.

1. 30 years of reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have helped to establish a broad scientific consensus on the severity of the climate crisis, acknowledging that irreversible changes have occurred under human influence. We face a local, national, regional and global challenge, which requires everyone to play their part.

2. The Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly had occasion, very early on, to take action to combat this threat to human rights and humankind in its entirety. The Assembly refers to Principle [1] of the Stockholm Declaration (1972), which states: “Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment, for present and future generations”.

3. The Parliamentary Assembly intends, pursuant to the commitments it made in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, to help to develop climate resilience. This must equip our societies to cope with the blows and the threats that global overheating deals us, both from the outside and from the inside, through its work to promote the rule of law, meaning the supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness, and transparency.

4. The Assembly urges the member States, while securing everyone’s dignity and well-being:

4.1. to adopt the aim of “net zero emissions”, based on clear and credible plans to meet commitments to keep the global temperature increase in line with the preferred objective of the Paris Agreement, amounting to an increase in average temperatures of 1.5°C;

4.2. to continue to take a holistic approach combining economic, social and political development and environmental protection, in a spirit of equality and solidarity of purpose (see Resolution 1292 (2002)). It invites them therefore to make widespread use of assessments of the environmental impact of public policies at local, national and regional level, incorporating economic, social and political criteria and supporting the undertakings made under the Paris Agreement;

4.3. to launch, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and as quickly as possible, ambitious recovery programmes respecting the limit of 1.5°C set by the Paris Agreement;

4.4. to schedule, as soon as possible, parliamentary debates on the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), so as to share information, in full transparency, on the national ambitions arising from the preferred objective set by the Paris Agreement; and

4.5. to exercise the utmost caution and restraint when adopting measures that might necessitate derogation from the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and before doing so, explore every possibility for responding to the emergency situation using normal measures (see Resolution 2209 (2018)).

5. The Assembly calls on Turkey to join the international consensus by ratifying the Paris Agreement.

6. The Assembly emphasises the importance of the involvement of parliaments. Renewing the ground-breaking commitment to combating the climate crisis which it made through Resolution 1292 (2002), it calls for the establishment of a parliamentary network operating under the auspices of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. Its task will be to monitor the action taken by the national authorities to honour the strong commitments they have made vis-à-vis the climate crisis while fostering the mutual enrichment of ideas and setting up regular opportunities for parliamentarians in Europe and on other continents to pool their experience.

B. Draft recommendation[3]

1. The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution ... (2021). The Earth has entered the Anthropocene Era and irreversible changes have been made. Despite the strong commitments made in connection with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, the possibility of a doomsday scenario cannot be ruled out. The climate crisis is a local, national, regional, and global challenge, which humankind must face up to.

2. The climate crisis is a systemic threat, which puts institutions and societies to the test. It questions our ability to react to risks and vulnerabilities which were not seen in time for what they really were. Like the Covid- 19 pandemic, this crisis amplifies the effects of other crises, namely those of society, the economy and democracy.

3 The Parliamentary Assembly is convinced that the Council of Europe can help to establish climate resilience in the face of global overheating by drawing on the rule of law, democracy and human rights. The rule of law orchestrates the capacity of institutions to play their role with due regard for the separation of powers and when faced with adversity. The Parliamentary Assembly invites the Committee of Ministers to reincorporate the task of protecting the environment into the Council of Europe’s intergovernmental activities as a matter of priority.

4. Bearing in mind the huge changes in mentalities and attitudes required to meet the challenge of the climate crisis, the Assembly solemnly emphasises the scale of the efforts required. The last ways of tackling the climate crisis will have to be attempted over the next nine years because it may be too late afterwards. Consequently, the Assembly calls on the organisation to mobilise every partner, at local, national, regional and world level, to make these changes promptly and to share the results of their experimentation.

5. The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

5.1. incorporate sustainable development and climate crisis-tackling objectives into all of the Council of Europe’s activities and operations, including when preparing strategies and action plans;

5.2. to encourage Council of Europe partners, whether from the public or private sector, to implement the states’ commitments with regard to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions;

5.3. to assess and limit the Council of Europe’s environmental impact at local, national, regional, and international level so as to enhance its sustainability.

C. Explanatory memorandum by the Rapporteur, Ms Edite Estrela

1. Introduction

1. In a bid to tackle the climate crisis, the international community committed itself to a number of targets by approving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015 and signing the Paris Agreement in December of the same year. United Nations Secretary General, Mr António Guterres, has placed sustainable development goals among the three strategic priorities of his mandate. Under the Paris Agreement, 196 countries and territories recognised by the United Nations are committed to beginning a long-term transition and addressing the challenge of global warming. The United States joined the Agreement again in February 2021. In Europe, Turkey is the last state not to have ratified it.

2. With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is facing the worst health catastrophe since the Spanish flu of 1918. Given the situation, the organisers of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (#COP26)[4] have opted to postpone by one year the meeting originally scheduled for December 2020 in Glasgow so as to hold a truly meaningful meeting, give delegates time to clarify their objectives and review the “nationally determined contributions”. On the occasion of the 5[th] anniversary of the Paris Agreement, António Guterres called on all the stakeholders to pursue the highest possible ambitions at the next COP26[5]. Already in 2018, in its annual report on the environment, the United Nations organisation regretted that “weak enforcement [was] a global trend that [was] exacerbating environmental threats, despite a 38-fold increase in environmental laws since 1972”.

3. And so, a potential doomsday scenario caused by global warming remains a real challenge. As the UK daily newspaper, The Guardian suggests, climate crisis is a more accurate term than climate change to reflect the true seriousness of the situation. Laurent Fabius,[6 ]former President of COP21, preferred the term “bouleversement climatique ” (climate upheaval) since the situation is unprecedented and under no circumstances can we revert to the previous status quo. Many cities[7] have declared a climate emergency in Europe.[8] They were followed by the Scottish, Welsh and UK Parliaments in a non-binding resolution in May 2019. Pope Francis declared a state of climate emergency in June 2019 and called for sweeping reforms. The European Parliament adopted a resolution in November 2019, declaring a climate and environmental emergency in Europe and in the world.

4. Even if the worst scenario - the planet heating up by more than 1.5-2°C - could still be avoided (and this is by no means certain), far-reaching changes to our societies are taking place. In the Arctic, for example, [9 ]Greenland’s ice sheet is melting at an unprecedented rate, resulting in a rise in sea levels. The scientific community warns that worldwide greenhouse gas emissions must be halved by 2030 and net zero carbon must be achieved by 2050. The new decade we entered this year will be decisive. We are faced with a systemic danger: it will put our institutions to the test by challenging their ability to develop “climate resilience” so as to equip our societies against the risks and vulnerabilities whose urgency we have been unable or unwilling to recognise in time.

5. The United Nations defines the rule of law as the supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness, and procedural and legal transparency.[10 ]For the French making, legal writer and lawyer François Sureau: “The rule of law, in terms of its principles and organs, was designed so that neither the desires of the government nor the fears of the people should override the foundations of public order, and first and foremost freedom”. [11 ]Together with human rights and democracy, it forges society’s resilience in the face of blows and threats, whether external or internal, and is a fundamental pillar of the values that unite the member states of the Council of Europe.

6. In the environmental sphere, the rule of law “offers a framework for addressing the gap between environmental laws on the books and in practice and is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”.[12 ]This report will begin by examining the threats and vulnerabilities, before describing the tools that already exist to back up our conception of the rule of law. Lastly, it will give an overview of the avenues that the Council of Europe should explore in order to support its member states and other countries.

7. In December 2020, the UN Secretary General issued a wake-up call, urging leaders to declare a state of climate emergency until carbon neutrality was reached. The Assembly has already had occasion to express its views on emergency laws in its Resolution 2209 (2018). In this crisis, the Council of Europe will retain amonitoring role. The worst environmental disasters have given rise to the most effective legal tools; it is highly likely that innovative approaches will be needed to meet the challenges of the climate crisis. The current situation is not favourable for the environment. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that change is possible and that we can look critically at the way we behave as individuals. It reminds us that even though our generations have been relatively spared up to now, today we are facing an unprecedented situation and we know that we will have to rise to the challenges that are undoubtedly ahead of us. It is still possible to overcome these challenges, even though rising temperatures could claim more victims than all active epidemics combined. [14]

8. The climate crisis threatens all the progress made since the Second World War. My aim, in this report, is to alert my fellow parliamentarians to the extent of the efforts and changes in mentality and attitudes needed not only to tackle the climate crisis and honour the international commitments entered into by the member states, but above all to demonstrate that we care about future generations and are preparing for the future within the time limits set by our respective electoral mandates. Above all, we must keep our hopes up, as new ideas arise every day on how to combat global warming. More than ever, the Council of Europe will be called upon to pursue its mission to defend not only the rule of law, but also human rights and democracy. It must, alongside its member states, assist the relevant institutions in their ability to resist threats and look ahead to a profoundly transformed society without any regression of rights. With a history of more than 70 years during which it has helped to bring about profound changes in mentalities and attitudes, the Council of Europe has a role to play in helping to create new instruments for climate resilience while at the same time ensuring that those who are weakest are not left unprotected.

9. As part of my work as rapporteur, a public hearing by videoconference was organised by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development on 6 July 2020 attended by Mr Robert Vautard, member of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and Director of the Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute attached to the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin, and Mr Paweł Wargan, co-ordinator of the coalition of political parties “New Green Deal for Europe”. [15]

2. Cumulative threats to the rule of law

10. In Europe, both urban and rural areas will suffer the effects of rapid climate change: rising sea levels, higher temperatures and water scarcity. According to a ranking of cities threatened by rising sea levels published by Nestpick,[16 ]Amsterdam and Cardiff in Europe are among the ten most threatened cities in the world. As early as 2002 at the Earth Summit, Jacques Chirac warned that “our house is burning, and we look away”. In January 2020, 175,000 inhabitants of Jakarta were displaced by torrential rains that ravaged the Indonesian capital [17 ]A billion people could face insufferable temperatures within 50 years and each year, devastating fires destroy thousands of natural habitats around the world, particularly in Australia, Brazil and California. Exceptional climate events are ever more recurrent. The effects will be felt by both rich and poor, but most keenly by the poorest and most vulnerable.

11. The temporary drop in global greenhouse gas emissions caused by the abrupt halt in human activities as a result of Covid-19 should not cause us to lose sight of this high priority. The current situation is not a favourable one for the environment, even if it offers an apparent respite.

Adopted Report integral [PDF] : https://www.lsnn.n...teCrisisProv-EN.pdf

[1 ]Reference to Committee: Reference no. 4475 of 29 November 2019.
[2 ]Draft resolution adopted with a very large majority by the Committee on 16 March 2021.
[3 ]Draft recommendation adopted unanimously by the Committee on 16 March 2021.

Source by Pace_COE

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