Why do we need the Escazú Agreement?

Increasing climate ambition during this COP25 is one of the most anticipated results. This ambition must be effectively brought to action; in addition to climate finance and mitigation commitments, we need social conditions that facilitate implementation and ensure that the people most affected by climate change benefit from climate responses. 

It is in this context that the ratification of the Escazú Agreement takes on a fundamental importance. This agreement arises from the need to have a binding framework in Latin America and the Caribbean that recognizes the human right to a healthy environment and protects the access rights that make possible its effective implementation: the right of access to information, right of access to public participation in decision-making processes, and the right of access to justice in environmental matters. 

The Agreement is also particularly important as it explicitly recognizes the importance of protecting environmental defenders. Latin America is the most dangerous region for activists and local and Indigenous leaders who defend the rights of their communities and their land. According to Global Witness, in 2018, 51% of the reported 164 murders of environmental defenders were carried out in this region alone.

This legal and institutional framework can help ensure that climate commitments, such as NDCs, are developed in a participatory and democratic manner. This helps promote social inclusiveness while guaranteeing the effective implementation of the measures contained therein.

Its importance is reinforced by the fact that many of the CDM projects implemented in the region have contributed to rights violations of local communities and of Indigenous Peoples. Projects such as wind parks in Oaxaca, Mexico, and dams in Central America or the Andes, have adversely impacted Indigenous communities that have been forced from their territories and have lost livelihoods. In extreme cases, they have even been the target of assassinations.

The Escazú Agreement has been signed by 21 nations and only ratified by 5 so far – with 2 additional countries announcing yesterday that they would seek to speed up the ratification process. Yet, ratification requires 11 countries for the Agreement to enter into force; so 6 more parties must complete the process to ensure that the protections afforded by the Agreement come into action. Why are countries waiting to ratify?  In light of climate emergency and the social, economic and environmental vulnerability prevailing in Latin America and the Caribbean, we cannot wait any longer for this. To protect people, we urge all signatories to accelerate the ratification of the Agreement, and we urge the Chilean Presidency to lead these regional efforts by initiating the ratification process of the Escazú Agreement as a matter of urgency.

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