December 4, 2023, Washington, D.C.–As governments, climate policy experts, and activists gather in Dubai for the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), EarthRights International called on the Biden administration to prioritize the needs of environmental and human rights defenders at international climate negotiations.
EarthRights International Climate Change Policy Advisor Natalia Gomez released the following statement:
“Stakeholders in Dubai at CO28 must be mindful of the very real consequences of the climate crisis that disproportionately affect Indigenous, ethnic, and other minority communities and remember their international human rights obligations to protect them. The best place to start would be with the Global Stocktake, a top priority at COP this year, which will assess whether the world is on track to meet its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.
“From the Amazon region to Southeast Asia, central Africa, the United States, and beyond, communities worldwide are threatened by climate change and the extractive activities that fuel the climate crisis. In Peru and the Democratic Republic of Congo, communities face public health and environmental threats from mining critical (“rare earth”) minerals including lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, tin, and aluminum driven by demand for renewable technologies. Unless developed through a human rights lens, policies regarding critical minerals mining are poised to repeat many of the same mistakes as those that govern fossil fuel production.
“In Thailand, imports of costly liquefied natural gas are driving up energy prices while the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and coal projects hinder communities’ rights to a safe and healthy environment by polluting essential resources and overshadowing the development of safer, more sustainable options. The Gulf LNG facility in Rayong, for instance, announced last year that it would increase imports by 5.54 million tonnes.
“Worldwide, reckless extractive development is triggering profound and irreversible losses and damages, displacing communities, impeding gender equality progress, undermining livelihoods, and causing loss of life and lands. This can be seen first-hand in the U.S., where Indigenous communities in Lousiana and Alaska facing the loss of their ancestral homelands appealed to the International Commission on Human Rights to address the U.S. government’s failure to allocate funds, technical assistance, and other resources to support their communities’ adaptation efforts to a changing climate. Earlier this year, the Special Rapporteur for Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights affirmed the communities’ concerns.
“EarthRights calls on negotiators at COP28 to ensure that the Global Stocktake considers the impacts of climate change on the human rights of Indigenous and frontline communities. We ask that it delivers an outcome that respects, protects, and fulfills human rights obligations and adopts intersectional approaches in the planning, design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of all commitments and policies related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The United States can serve as a climate leader by using its negotiating influence to lean on other countries to raise their climate action ambitions under a human rights approach.
“In 2025, Brazil, a country in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, ravaged by deforestation, and where attacks against defenders are all too common, will host COP30. All eyes will rightly be on Brazil’s environmental and human rights records, but we cannot afford to wait two more years to prioritize human rights in climate policies. This year’s COP must advance an agenda that guarantees the participation of environmental defenders, develops provisions to enhance protections for defenders, and provides means to document, report, and investigate threats against defenders. Ultimately, we need climate policies that advance human rights and ensure a just transition from fossil fuels.”
Kate Fried, EarthRights International