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Despite some gains, climate negotiations failed to fully recognize the role of environmental and human rights defenders in fighting the climate crisis. 

November 21, 2022, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt–Following the conclusion of COP27, EarthRights International today criticized the negotiations’ overall failure to provide an open forum for exchanging ideas, encouraging civic engagement, and prioritizing human rights. 

EarthRights Climate Change Policy Advisor Natalia Gomez released the following statement: 

“COP27 was an opportunity for representatives of Indigenous and frontline communities to bring their concerns about the climate crisis to the world stage and for negotiators to finally marry human rights and climate commitments. Instead, the negotiations were marred by the Egyptian state’s crackdown on free speech and assembly. 

“Prior to COP, Egypt’s most well-known dissident, Alaa Abd El Fattah, was imprisoned on exaggerated charges related to his human rights advocacy. Throughout the conference, we and other advocates denounced the high costs of attending COP, closed negotiation rooms, and the presence of plain-clothed police officers documenting the proceedings. These restrictions on civic space undermined the overall efficacy of this year’s negotiations. 

“Leading up to COP27, EarthRights and partners urged the Biden administration and others to increase protections for environmental and human rights defenders. From food insecurity, extreme weather, deforestation, forced dislocation, and pollution to harassment and criminalization for speaking out against these impacts, climate change is the greatest threat facing people and the planet. The risks imposed by the climate crisis require swift and decisive action that centers human rights in climate policies. 

“In a breakthrough development on Saturday, negotiators finally agreed to establish a fund for responding to Loss and Damage. Climate change has imposed substantial damage and irreversible losses on communities worldwide. If effectively operationalized, this new Loss and Damage fund will constitute a true win for the Global South and Indigenous and frontline communities. 

“It is unconscionable, however, that the U.S. opposed the proposal to establish a facility to fund Loss and Damage until the 11th hour of the conference. On Friday, the Climate Action Network named the U.S. a ‘colossal fossil of COP27’ for its inaction in this area.

 “We saw some positive developments in negotiators’ decisions to adopt human rights language in the Action for Climate Empowerment action plan (ACE). After Parties failed to protect human rights in the ACE work program adopted at Glasgow’s COP26, civil society mobilized to pressure for the inclusion of human rights protections in the final ACE plan. At COP27, countries adopted a four-year action plan that includes language about Indigenous peoples and uses a human rights approach to implementation. 

“Despite these minor victories for Indigenous and frontline communities, COP27 failed these stakeholders in at least one significant regard. During COP27, negotiators developed the second Global Stocktake dialogue. In this key process to assess the future of the Paris Agreement, we saw very little advancement in integrating the human rights impacts of climate change into the dialogues. Moreover, only one of the experts invited to the GST specifically addressed these concerns. 

“As we anticipate future climate negotiations, including COP28 in Dubai next year, EarthRights calls on the UNFCC Secretariat and negotiators to: 

  • Ensure that the outcomes of the Global Stocktake to be adopted at COP28 includes specific guidance on how Parties can increase their ambition to fulfill their human rights obligations when advancing climate action.
  •  Consider the human rights records of potential host countries when planning future COPs and commit to only holding them in countries where participants can exercise their rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly. This should include developing a protocol to require countries wishing to host COPs to guarantee these rights for participants. 

“Nations that restrict civic participation should not get to use urgent climate negotiations as public relations opportunities. Ultimately, climate negotiations will be ineffective until they  prioritize civil society concerns, which COP27 failed to achieve fully.” 

Kate Fried, EarthRights International
(202) 257.0057