While certain organs of the UN establishment in Geneva and a host of NGO and state actors continue their drive toward the best sort of 1970s legal instrument that sort of provides a legal-normative baseline for managing economic activities as a function of human rights traditionally understood, the rest of the UN establishment has moved on. They have moved on in two important ways--the first has been in their efforts to re-situate the human rights and economic activity conversation within the broader conversation about planetary stewardship that de-centers rights talk and places it within a context of sustainability obligations. The second has been to tie this new human rights-sustainability narrative, one that embeds the human within broader ecologies, to the issue of climate change, and to global human responsibility for avoiding ecological catastrophe (and therefore irremediable cascades of human rights threats).
To that end those who drive the state system and its international organs have been seeking to spotlight the climate conversation at the head of rights and sustainability narratives, and to re-orient human centered rights talk within the broader framework of individual and collective responsibility for the protection of the planet only within which might human rights be better aligned with the realities of human existence on the planet. This is a conversation in which all collective organs--states, enterprises, NGOs, religious institutions, and the like share, in substantially equivalent measure--a responsibility and from which sustainability based rights clusters might be better developed and implemented.
All of this remains at a formative stage. That is not surprising--the business of constructing the current orthodoxy around a people centered human rights took the better part of a generation. To move this along at the international, state, global, and private levels (spheres) a long postponed conference (one of the additional tragedies of the COVID pandemic) hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference, will take place from 31 October to 12 November 2021 in the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, UK.
In the run up to the conference many public and private organs have been producing reports and similar offerings, all designed to enagage in the conversation, and in the process, contribute to and perhaps gide the construction of meaning, and from meaning to derive action, around the imperatives of climate change and its risks for human rights and sustainability (broadly understood). This is all to be welcomed.
This post highlights the work, United Nations Environment Programme, Emissions Gap Report 2021: The Heat Is On – A World of Climate Promises Not Yet Delivered (Nairobi, 2021)--projected out both to critical actors and the masses that might be relied on to put pressure on those organs (in liberal democratic states anyway)--released 26 October 2021. The Press Release notes:
The Emissions Gap Report 2021 shows that new national climate pledges combined with other mitigation measures put the world on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7°C by the end of the century. That is well above the goals of the Paris climate agreement and would lead to catastrophic changes in the Earth’s climate. To keep global warming below 1.5°C this century, the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement, the world needs to halve annual greenhouse gas emissions in the next eight years.
If implemented effectively, net-zero emissions pledges could limit warming to 2.2°C, closer to the well-below 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement. However, many national climate plans delay action until after 2030. The reduction of methane emissions from the fossil fuel, waste and agriculture sectors could help close the emissions gap and reduce warming in the short term, the report finds.
Carbon markets could also help slash emissions. But that would only happen if rules are clearly defined and target actual reductions in emissions, while being supported by arrangements to track progress and provide transparency.
The UNEP website notes: "Since its inception in 1972, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been the global authority that sets the environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment."
The Report may be accessed HERE; the Executive Summary may be accessed HERE. The key conclusions follow below (from the Executive Summary). Most interesting perhaps is Point 10 that suggests the role of carbon markets.
The pity, of course, is that like their human rights counterparts, it is still difficult for climate and sustainability focused international institutions to begin to embrace more proactively the potential synergies of human rights in the efforts to meet the challenge of climate change. In that respect the "siloing" of the Sustainability Development Goals, at least as a loose framework for interlinking human rights and sustainability responsibilities, continues to appear to emphasize the spaces between the 17 SDGs and the gulf between the conceptual lenses of human rights and those of sustainability (including climate change) rather than working toward a better framing of their intensifying connections and inter-linkages. That blindness on both sides of the human rights and sustainability efforts will prove a significant intensifier of the tragedies of the failures of institutional developments for managing human rights wrongs within an overall context in which these are understood as a function of greater environmental, sustainability, and climate system protection duties.