International Climate Justice Tribunal - Harun ur Rashid
People’s World Conference on Climate Change : Proposal for establishing International Climate Justice Tribunal
It seems media has not given importance to the the People’s World Conference on Climate Change on 19-22 April in Bolivia as it should have deserved.
Bolivia’s small town, Cochabamba, is a far cry from Copenhagen. But it has been the latest gathering place in the ongoing effort to shape an effective global response to climate change.
The organisers of the conference argued the poor nations were left out of dealings at Copenhagen conference last December. “The only way to get negotiations back on track not just for Bolivia or other countries, but for all of life, biodiversity, our Mother Earth, is to put civil society back into the process,” said Pablo Solón, Bolivia’s Ambassador to the U.N.
NGOs, scientists, activists, indigenous leaders, and representatives of 60 to 70 national governments have participated in the event — in all, about reportedly 20,000 attendees from 110 countries.
It is not known whether any NGO or any representative from Bangladesh attended the conference.
Speakers included NASA climate scientist James Hansen; actor, director, and activist Danny Glover; journalist and activist Naomi Klein; Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva; Egidio Brunetto, a leader of Brazil’s Movement of Landless Rural Workers; Lumumba Di-Aping, who served as chief negotiator for the G-77 group of developing nations at Copenhagen.
Speakers from all walks of life talked about “climate justice” and “ecocide”--new words suggested at the conference.
The Conference was divided into 17 working sessions to discuss a number of issues. These included
- structural causes of climate change,
- rights of Mother Earth,
- a world referendum on climate change,
- climate refugees,
- environmental debt,
- the Kyoto Protocol, and
- transfer of technologies and action strategies.
On 22nd April, the conference agreed to call for the halving of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 at the next UN climate meeting in Mexico in December.
The hope is the Final Declaration and the conclusions of each and every one of those issues can influence the next UN Climate Conference in Mexico in December.
To address climate change on a global level, four suggestions were considered and they were as follows:
- An international court to prosecute transgressions against the environment The goal is to establish an International Climate Justice Tribunal or International Environmental Court within the U.N. framework, modeled on the International Court of Justice, that will seek to enforce nations’ commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
- International environmental lawyer Polly Higgins put forward a related proposal to include “ecocide” in the list of crimes against peace, so that cases could be tried at the International Criminal Court.
- Climate reparations or compensations from developed nations for developing nations While industrialised nations are historically responsible for causing climate change through their greenhouse-gas emissions, poorer nations are more likely to feel the effects and are less able to fund and undertake changes to adapt to climate change.
- The idea of reparations (some call it ‘historic debt’) was widely discussed in Copenhagen and endorsed by well-known figures like Naomi Klein as well as organizations like Jubilee South and Focus on the Global South.
- Development and transfer of clean technologyby industrialised nations to developing countries with the technology necessary to adapt to climate change and produce and use energy sustainably and efficiently.
- A Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth, comparable to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
.It is noted that this year, the UN General Assembly approved April 22 to be observed as the “International Mother Earth Day” every year.
“One of the most important implications is that it would enable legal systems to maintain vital ecological balances by balancing human rights against the rights of other members of the Earth community,” write Solón and environmental lawyer Cormac Cullinan.
The proposal of Brazilian theologian, Frei Betto, who stated this kind of meeting should be held every two years, was supported widely at the conference.
Venezuelan President Chávez reportedly said “We will travel there (Cancun in Mexico) to raise our voice, because we know that our voices are the voices of our peoples”
The agreements that emerged from this First World Conference of the Peoples on Climate Change will not be left in oblivion, according to the sponsors of the conference. They will be raised robustly at the Mexico UN Conference on Climate Change this December.
Bangladesh is one of the top vulnerable countries to climate change and the adverse impact on the country will be catastrophic because of convergence of climate change, poverty and large population.
Given the huge challenge ahead of Bangladesh, the suggestions of the People’s conference are very relevant for the country and Bangladesh government and NGOs may take note of the outcomes of this conference in presenting the country’s case at the UN Conference in Mexico in December.
By Barrister Harun ur Rashid:
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.