Dec 10, 2012

Open letter from European Youth to Connie Hedegaard

by YFoEE — last modified Dec 10, 2012 10:15 AM

On the last day of the COP 18 UN climate talks, European youth gathered in Brussels have drafted this open letter to Connie Hedegaard, the EU commissioner for climate action. Please read the letter we have sent to her, and forward it far and wide.

Dear Commissioner Hedegaard,

We, European youth and civil society, are writing to you in these critical final hours of the UN climate talks in Doha to demand that the EU acts now and changes its position at the UNFCCC.

We have witnessed over the past two weeks the EU's consistent refusal to live up to its responsibilities, and we condemn this lack of progress. The EU claims to be a climate leader but it is acting as a blocker.

Inaction for the next 8 years is not acceptable. A 20% reductions pledge under the Kyoto Protocol is simply a smokescreen; this target has already been met so we know that you are pledging zero. The EU has proved it has the capability to cut its emissions quickly and deeply and we need to take the lead on the world stage in cutting further emissions. Your 0% pledge COP-out will subject us to catastrophic climate change. The EU is supposed to protect us and youth around the world. You are not fulfilling your duty.

We welcome pledges for climate finance from certain member states and the EU under the Bali Action Plan but it falls far short of what is needed for mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries. It is especially inadequate if we consider the implications of a weak EU mitigation target. The EU in Doha have blocked discussions on finance; failing to set an aggregate target and refusing to discuss the suggestion that climate finance must be scaled up each year. This is unacceptable. We call on the EU to provide scaled up aggregate climate finance and we demand assurance that this will be new, additional, public funding – not a simple redirection of Official Development Aid as we have seen with the EU's fast-start finance pledges.

Stop using Poland as an excuse for EU inaction. You must move beyond internal differences and take collective responsibility for the sake of current and future generations. By representing the economic interests of a select few, you are betraying us and our right to a clean and just future. By refusing to make meaningful progress under the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Action Plan – as agreed in the Durban Platform – you are betraying the poorest and most vulnerable communities across the world. We stand in solidarity with them and we reject your empty pledges.

There might have been a time when decision-makers could ignore us; that time is now over. We are not one person. We are not one country. We are uniting and mobilising. We are many and the message is spreading fast. There is growing discontent with the way the EU conducts itself on the international stage. The EU is supposed to speak on our behalf, but our voice is being stifled and it is clear that you are not representing us. The deal on the table is simply a suicide pact for the people of the Global South and we will actively resist your decision to condone such an injustice.

We will be watching you in these final hours of negotiations in Doha. We demand that you refuse to sign us up to an unjust deal. We demand that you act to drastically increase your finance and mitigation commitments. This is not negotiable. We will not back down.


European Youth and Civil Society Organisations

Organisational signatories:

Qatar in Brussels
Push Europe
Young Friends of the Earth Europe
UK Youth Climate Coalition
Young Friends of the Earth Flanders - Brussels
Powershift Belgium
Global2000 Jugend
Young Friends of the Earth Croatia


To sign onto this letter as an individual or organisation, please contact  lucy@pusheurope.eu

December 10 is international human rights day: FoEI remembers environmental activists

by Denis Burke — last modified Dec 10, 2012 12:00 PM

Friends of the Earth International marks December 10 – the international day for human rights – by reflecting on the sacrifices and victories of environmental activists around the world. Human rights abuses perpetrated against environmental activists have gained more and more attention in recent times.

Victor BarroGlobal demand for ever diminishing levels of natural resources has caused increased competition among transnational corporations (TNCs), which often leads to irreparable social and environmental damage and to brutal responses to protests, including the criminalization of environmental and human rights defenders.

This year alone, Friends of the Earth groups have been among the targets of human rights abuses. Friends of the Earth groups in the Phillippines, Uganda, Swaziland, Mozambique, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, among others, have been the targets of transnational corporations or government harassment, intimidation or arbitrary arrest.

There can be no doubt as to the legitimacy of the right to protest, to peacefully protect your community and to voice concerns about international projects that impact your way of life, culture or family. Most of the cases that Friends of the Earth International has handled in 2012 have been related to protests around the extractive industries; particularly dams, mines and plantations (land grabbing has been a common cause of protest that has often been met with an unlawful, inhumane response).

The severity of this situation has recently become clearer thanks to the committed work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. Friends of the Earth advocates for justice for those affected and works to raise awareness with the support of the European Union.

When we talk about violations committed against environmental activists, we refer to individuals or groups who are victims of human rights violations because of their involvement in environmental activism, including all people opposed to destructive projects in the extractive, infrastructure and development sector; the rights of indigenous communities and minorities; the rights of women, communicators, lawyers, academics; or simply those who defend their own rights to protect their sustainable livelihoods, such as artisanal fisherfolk. When we talk about environmental defenders we include individuals who do not necessarily identify themselves as environmental justice activists, but who through their actions are defending environmental justice or defending people affected by environmental injustices, whether at community, national, regional or international level.

Why is this happening?

Defenders have often been targeted for their resistance to policies or regulations that move power away from the local level and concentrate control over land and resources in the hands of elites and transnational groups. TNCs investment expansion, combined with weak state-level human rights institutions have led to an increase in land grabbing, resource appropriation and attempts to privatize community managed assets. Activists and journalists responding to these issues have suffered unlawful detention, threats, harassment and break-ins. Murders and disappearances are also alarmingly common. The Global Witness report A Hidden Crisis says that there was one death per week on average in the decade to 2012 . The perpetrators of these abuses regularly operate on behalf of national governments or transnational companies. Private and public security forces are increasingly involved in harassing or harming activists, and increasingly heavily armed.

Information on these abuses is too sparse to say whether or not this trend is worsening. The Global Witness report A Hidden Crisis says that there was one death per week on average in the decade to 2012 . Reporting mechanisms have become more sophisticated and rights awareness has grown in much of the world, but understanding what is happening is still problematic. The scale of this issue is largely invisible as global monitoring remains very difficult: the relatively small numbers of incidents reported in Africa and Central Asia, for instance, is telling. Local, municipal, regional and even national governments have rewritten laws to give legitimacy to their heinous rights violations, providing legal cover for rights abuses.

Friends of the Earth member groups are continuing their work on this issue. Please check back regularly to see how you can spread the word and offer support.

Friends of the Earth Groups and Human Rights


Further Reading