#UNHCR: #UNHumanRightsCommittee; #ClimateChange; #ICCPR
UNHCR, Jan 26 (Canadian-Media): UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes this week’s ruling of the UN Human Rights Committee in the case of Teitiota v. New Zealand, UNHCR news release said on Jan 24.
Kenya / Somali refugees / A mother and her two children follow a donkey cart packed with the family’s possessions relocate to Ifo extension from a self-settled area of Ifo camp in Dadaab, Kenya. The camp has seen an influx of close to 40,000 new refugees from Somalia since June, 2011. It is the largest refugee camp in the world. They are part of a recent exodus from Somalia due to continued civil war and the consequences of drought and famine./ UNHCR / B. Bannon / July 2011 Image credit: © UNHCR/Brendan Bannon
While the claim to protection by Mr. Teitiota was denied on grounds that he was not at imminent risk, the committee nonetheless determined that people who flee the effects of climate change and natural disasters should not be returned to their country of origin if essential human rights would be at risk on return.
This is a landmark decision with potentially far-reaching implications for the international protection of displaced people in the context of climate change and disasters. It also underscores the importance of countries taking action to prevent or mitigate against harms associated with climate change, which in future could otherwise force people to leave, triggering international obligations.
The following is a more detailed UNHCR assessment of this ruling:
UNHCR has consistently stressed that people fleeing adverse effects of climate change and the impact of sudden and slow-onset disasters may have valid claims for refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention or regional refugee frameworks. This includes but is not limited to situations where climate change and disasters are intertwined with conflict and violence. The Committee’s decision supports this interpretation of existing protection frameworks. It recognises that international refugee law is applicable in the context of climate change and disaster displacement.
Climate change and the impact of disasters resulting from natural hazards can have multiple effects on countries, communities, the well-being of individuals and their ability to enjoy and exercise their rights. This has consequences for the application of the 1951 Convention and regional refugee frameworks such as the OAU Convention and the Cartagena Declaration.
The Committee’s decision elaborates on the specific human rights which may be violated in the context of the adverse effects of climate change and the impact of disasters, including the right to life. The ruling notes that sudden-onset events and slow-onset processes can propel cross-border movement of individuals seeking protection from life-threatening risks.
UNHCR highlights the Committee’s finding that where such risks are imminent, it may be unlawful under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) for governments to send people back to countries where the effect of climate change exposes them to life-threatening risks (article 6) or where they are at real risk of facing cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (article 7 of ICCPR). The Covenant covers a broad range of civil and political rights that also apply to asylum-seekers and refugees. These include among others the right to life (article 6) and the right not be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (article 7).
The Committee importantly refers to the need for robust national and international efforts to avoid exposure of individuals to violations of their rights due to the effects of climate change. It warns that the risk of an entire country becoming submerged by rising sea levels is such an extreme risk, that before it is realized, conditions of life in such a country may become incompatible with the right to life with dignity. These references are also important alerts to States and the international community as a whole. They underscore the urgency of supporting prevention, risk mitigation, and adaptability measures in countries affected by climate change and of further enhancing cooperation of all to address what represents the most pressing challenge of our times. These actions are critical to avoid the need for individuals to feel forced to leave to avoid imminent harm, which could, as the Committee notes, trigger international obligations to protect.
#ClimateCrisis; #WEF; #ParisClimateAccord; #EmissionsOfCarbonDioxide
Davos (Switzerland), Jan 24 (Canadian Media): Greta Thunberg, Swedish climate activist along with about 10,000 protesters challenge political and business leaders of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss ski resort in Davos, Switzerland held between Jan 20 - Jan 23, to combat the climate crisis, media reports said.
A heated argument ensued between U.S. President Donald Trump and Thunberg earlier this week in the WEF Trump stated that US was committed to join the one trillion tree initiative to plant one trillion trees around the world launched by WEF and corporate leaders in Davos, Switzerland.
To this Thunberg had retorted that trees alone would not fix the climate crisis.
Thunberg, who has taken a year off school to advocate action on climate change, hit back on Twitter, saying it did not take a degree to know the world was not meeting its climate targets.
"So, either you tell us how to achieve this mitigation or explain to future generations and those already affected by the climate emergency why we should abandon our climate commitments," Thunberg, said days after addressing a packed panel at the Davos summit, where she has been a star attraction.
When U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin told Greta Thunberg on Thursday she should study economics, Thunberg said did not need a degree to know the world was not meeting its climate targets.
"The youth needs to understand: climate is one issue that needs to be put in contexts with lots of other things, Mnuchin said."
Angela Merkel, German Chancellor at WEF said in defence of Thunberg in Davos that attaining the goals of the Paris climate accord, which the United States has quit, was vital.
"Time is pressing, so we - the older ones, I am 65 years old - must make sure that we take the impatience of young people positively and constructively," Merkel said in her speech.
#UN; #WorldEconomicForuminDavos; #ClimateChange; UNClimateChange
Davos (Switzerland), Jan 23 (Canadian-Media): The world is “doomed” in the face of climate change unless major industrial nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, UN News release said.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. Image credit: World Economic Forum/Boris Baldinger
The UN chief observed that while many smaller developing countries and the European Union have committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, “the big emitters” have yet to act.
If the big emitters do not rally around the principle of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, “we will be doomed because they represent a very important share”, the UN chief said.
“The G20 represents 80 per cent of the emissions that contribute to climate change.”
Government action Mr. Guterres said Governments can take steps to help move the world towards a greener future, such as cutting subsidies for fossil fuels.
“As a taxpayer, I can’t really accept the idea that my taxes are used to boost hurricanes, or to bleach coral, or to melt glaciers”, he stated.
For the Secretary-General, climate change is the defining issue of our time, representing an “existential threat” to the entire planet and threatening development.
Mr. Guterres said he is encouraged by private sector commitment to the environment, as evidenced by increasing numbers of financial institutions and asset managers making carbon neutrality a priority in their investments.
Hope for ‘transformational decisions’ Similarly, cities, voters and young people have been mobilizing for action.
“I am hopeful that it will be possible to mobilize both the private sector and public authorities in order to take transformational decisions in the way we produce our food, power our economy, move, support industry and plan our cities - the transformational changes that are necessary for us, to reach the objectives that the scientific community tells us it is absolutely essential to do”, he said.
#EnvironmentalProtection; #RemoveEnvironmentalProtection; #AmericanHealth;
Washington, Jan 23 (Canadian-Media): The decision to finalize a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and other water bodies by the Trump administration on Thursday would not only be beneficial to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers, but would also repeal President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, which had frustrated rural landowners, media reports said.
Donald Trump. Image credit: Facebook page
U.S. President Donald Trump aims to win a major policy achievement to bring to his political base while his impeachment trial continues.
“I terminated one of the most ridiculous regulations of all... the last administration’s disastrous Waters of the United States rule...a rule that basically took your property away from you,” told Trump to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in Texas on Sunday.
The new water rule will remove federal protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands, and hundreds of thousands of small waterways and would be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen, said Blan Holman, a lawyer specializing in federal water policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center and added,
“This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health” and added hos the Trump administration has dismissed or marginalized scientific evidence.
The Obama rule protected about 60 percent of the nation’s waterways and limited the discharge of pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and industrial chemicals into those waters.
Although federal protections of large bodies of water, as well as larger rivers and streams that flow into them and wetlands woube be retained by the rule will retain, but it removes protections for many other waters, including wetlands that are not adjacent to large bodies of water, some seasonal streams that only flow after rainstorms, and water that temporarily flows through underground passages.
Trump’s replacement rule, said legal experts would go further than replacing the 2015 Obama rule, would also eliminate protections to smaller headwaters that have been implemented for decades under the 1972 Clean Water Act.
“This is rolling back federal jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act further than it’s ever been before,” said Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School. “Waters that have been protected for almost 50 years will no longer be protected under the Clean Water Act.”
Millions of acres of pristine wetlands, which play key roles in filtering surface water and protecting against floods, would be exposed to chemicals and other pollutants.
The quality of the water in the Colorado River, which supplies water to 17 western states, could be harmed by the new rule, said Ean Thomas Tafoya, a Colorado-based clean water activist with the group GreenLatinos and added, ,
“We are a headwater state,” he said. “This rollback will affect almost every single stream that flows into the Colorado River.”
Tafoya said about many of those streams will not qualify for federal pollution protection and the toxics or poisons will get into the larger bodies of water.
The new Trump water rule ignores science by “failing to acknowledge watershed systems”, concluded the E.P.A.’s Scientific Advisory Board, a panel of 41 scientists responsible for evaluating the scientific integrity of the agency’s regulations.
#EastAfricaLocusts; #ThreatenFoodSecurity; #FAO; #UN
East Africa, Jan 20 (Canadian-Media): Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are dealing with desert locust swarms of “unprecedented size and destructive potential” that could spill over into more countries in East Africa, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned on Monday, UN reports said.
Locusts can devastate crops and pastures. Image credit: FAO/Giampiero Diana
Destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of crops, the outbreak is impacting the region’s food insecurity.
The UN agency urged for a collective campaign to deal with the crisis, concerned over the risk that the swarms spill over into more countries in East Africa, “if efforts to deal with the voracious pest are not scaled up across the region”.
Moreover, unusual climate conditions have favoured rapid locust reproduction.
The agency stressed that as favourable breeding conditions continue, the increase in locust swarms could last until June. And left unchecked, the numbers of crop-devouring insects could grow 500 fold by then.
Facing an unprecedented threat
Kenya has not faced a locust threat of this magnitude in 70 years, FAO warned.
The outbreak of desert locusts, considered the most dangerous locust species, has also affected parts of Somalia and Ethiopia, the likes of which have not been seen on this scale in 25 years.
South Sudan and Uganda are not currently affected, but are at risk, FAO added.
In a press release issued on Monday, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said the agency is activating fast-track mechanisms to support governments, warning that the situation is now of “international dimensions”.
"Authorities in the region have already jump-started control activities, but in view of the scale and urgency of the threat, additional financial backing from the international donor community is needed so they can access the tools and resources required to get the job done," Mr. Qu said.
Swarms potentially containing hundreds of millions of individual desert locusts can move 150 kilometres a day – devastating rural livelihoods. According to the UN agency, “given the scale of the current swarms, aerial control is the only effective means to reduce the locust numbers”.
FAO is assisting with forecasts, early warning and alerts on the timing, scale and location of invasions and breeding.
Mr. Qu also warned the response must include efforts to restore people’s livelihoods."Communities in Eastern Africa have already been impacted by extended droughts, which have eroded their capacities to grow food and make a living. We need to help them get back on their feet, once the locusts are gone," FAO’s Director General said.
The UN is seeking $70 million to urgently support both pest control and livelihood protection operations in the three most affected countries.
Key facts on Locusts
In addition, numerous desert locust swarms have been breeding in India, Iran and Pakistan since June 2019. And some have migrated to southern Iran where recent heavy rains have nurtured a breeding ground that could generate swarms in the spring.
Egypt, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen are also seeing substantial breeding activity that could see locust bands expand into swarms in the coming months, FAO added.
The agency concluded that it stands ready to leverage its expertise and facilitate a coordinated response.
#SnowInToronto; #TorontoCoveredWithSnow; #SnowfallWarningForToronto; #MessyRoads; #HighWinds; #DangerousDrivingConditions
Toronto, Jan 18 (Canadian-Media): Snowfall warning is in effect for Toronto accompanied with poor visibility, high winds with messay and dangerous driving conditions, media reports said.
Toronto covered with snow/Facebook
The messy roads caused several accidents and many vehicles got stuck in the snow.
"Make sure you slow down. The road conditions are changing," says Const. Caroline de Kloet, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service.
The city has at its disposal 200 salt trucks, 1,500 workers and 1,100 pieces of equipment at its disposal to deal with the snow, said city spokesperson Eric Holmes earlier Saturday morning and added that staff have been preparing for days to cope with what he called the "first snowstorm of the decade.".
"We anticipate right now, based on current forecasts — obviously, the weather always changes — we'll get to around eight centimetres and the snow will stop between 7 and 9 tonight. That is when you will start to see plows on the neighbourhood streets," Holmes said.
The snow will taper off to showers or wet flurries by late Saturday afternoon or early evening, Environment Canada said.
The accumulating snow could make travel difficult, with visibility reduced suddenly at times.
"Persons in or near this area should be on the lookout for adverse weather conditions and take necessary safety precautions," Environment Canada said in the warning.
#StunningBlizard; #EasternNewfoundland; #RecordBreakingBlizard; #RecordBreakingSnowfall; #StateOfEmergency
Newfoundland, Jan 18 (Canadian-Media): Smashing blizzard continued to grip much of eastern Newfoundland Saturday morning with record breaking snowfall of 69 centimetres that fell by late Friday beating a record for a one-day snowfall that had fallen since April 5, 1999, when 68.4 fell, media reports said.
Blizzard in Newfoundland. Image credit: Facebook
About 16,000 Newfoundland Power customers were without power through the night.
There was power outages in pockets from St. John's to Grand Falls-Windsor, including all of Bell Island, large swaths of the capital city and neighbouring towns
There was a little relief from the subsiding of the high winds that had racked the island.
A state of emergency in St. John's and in numerous other municipalities remains in effect meaning that businesses must close, and vehicles must stay off roads and residents were to remain inside and off the roads.
With the blizzard bringing 76.2 centimetres of snow to St. John's International Airport, all flights All flights in and out of St. John's International Airport are cancelled
Northeast coast of Newfoundland, which covers scores of coastal communities was also under the storm surge warning
Strong waves reached the third floor of John Norman, the mayor of Bonavista's home around 11 p.m.
"I assumed being one of those residents being close to the water I'd hear something ... but to hear it go over your roof and rain down over your roof, it's quite something," he said.
"It seemed like a hurricane, with snow."
Norman said residents must stay inside, despite the snow tapering off.
"There is no way for us to rescue someone if they go out … There is just no way to launch a search party right now."
"We're getting roofs blowing off houses, people trapped in their cars — an assortment of everything, I'll say...The salt is gathering on the poles, and sparking up some fires on the poles," said Dean Foley, platoon chief for the St. John's Regional Fire Department.
More than 100 requests for help were received as of Friday evening by snowplows with the Department of Transportation and Works.
"Severe weather conditions and impassable roads currently preventing our crews from safely accessing storm-related outage areas," a Newfoundland Power advisory said Saturday morning
Residents in the historic neighbourhood of the Battery in St. John's had been asked by the firefighters Friday around 8 p.m to evacuate after an avalanche of snow smashed into a home, sending heavy snow through the building.
With the the storm continuing, a family in a rural area in Conception Bay is searching for their missing son. Josh Wall, 26, left his Roaches Line home to walk to a friend's house at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, and has not been heard from since.
He later told his parents he was going to visit a friend in Marysvale, and decided to leave on foot around 12:30 p.m. after he couldn't get a taxi.
#StateOfEmergency; #StJohn&NeighboringMunicipalities; #StrongWinds; #PoorVisibility; #ManySchoolsShutDown, #MassiveStormInEastNewfoundland; #FlightsCancelled
Newfoundland, Jan 17 (Canadian-Media): A state of emergency was declared on Friday at 11 a.m.in the city of St. John's and neighbouring municipalities -- including Paradise, Torbay, Portugal Cove-St. Philips and Mount Pearl -- as the eastern part of Newfoundland was hit by a massive storm system followed by power failure, media reports said.
A powerful storm in St John's/ Facebook
The powerful storm forced the Newfoundland and Labrador government to pull its plows from regional highways.
Transportation Minister Steve Crocker said the main issue was visibility and added,
"It's no longer safe. You can just imagine, the size of the equipment that our operators are operating, and they're out there and they don't know where a road ends or where a road begins in a lot of cases."
Last declaration of a state of emergency in St. John was in 1984 when an ice storm struck the region.
Environment Canada has a blizzard warning in effect for much of eastern Newfoundland, as well as the Bay of Exploits and the Bonavista Peninsula on the north coast.
"This is gonna be a bad storm," says Mike Vandenberg, meteorologist at the Environment Canada weather office in Gander, N.L.
"Visibility is expected to stay pretty bad with a lot of snow blowing around for the next 36 hours or so."
Schools, metrobus' public transit service and most flights at St. John's International Airport have been cancelled.
It could take a couple of days for St. John's to fully dig out, Vandenberg said.
The conditions of blizzard are expected to persist into Saturday afternoon.
A public advisory, citing the possibility of poor to near zero visibility, and warning of possible coastal flooding and elevated water levels has been issued by the province.
#EnvironmentalEffects; #SandCrabs'ExposureToMicrofibres; #increasedMortality; #DecreasecReproductiveSuccess; #MicroPlasticFibres
Oregon (U.S.), Jan 17 (Canadian-Media): Sand crabs, a key species in beach ecosystems were found to have increased mortality rates and decreased reproductive success when exposed to plastic microfibers, according to a new Portland State University (PSU) study, media reports said.
A Pacific mole crab, or a sandcrab, in an aquarium. You can see the feeding appendages are out feeling for food in the water. PSU researcher Dorothy Horn examined the effects of exposure to microfibers on adult mortality, reproductive output and embryonic development of the sand crab. Credit: Dorothy Horn
Sand crabs eat by filtering small particles from the water. The effects of exposure to microfibers on adult mortality, reproductive output and embryonic development of the sand crabs were examined by Dorothy Horn, a Ph.D. candidate in PSU's Earth, Environment and Society program as sand crabs are considered indicator species because their health reflects the health of the ecosystem.
"When pollutants affect sand crabs, it's also affecting most organisms around it in that ecosystem," Horn said. "We don't eat them, but they're a bright blinking light for 'There's a problem in this area.'"
The study found that with an increasing number of microplastic fibers internalized, crab mortality increased, and the number of days that a crab held viable eggs decreased. Exposure to microplastics also caused variability in a crab's embryonic development rates.
A Pacific mole crab, or sand crab, in an aquarium jar with PSU researcher Dorothy Horn in the background. Horn examined the effects of exposure to microfibers on adult mortality, reproductive output and embryonic development of the sand crab. Credit: Dorothy Horn
Sand crabs, said Horn are prey for shorebirds, nearshore fish and some marine mammals, and their increased mortality and decreased reproductive performance following exposure to microplastics could have potential effects on species higher up on the food chain.
"We've proved it's causing them harm, and it can have harmful effects on these other organisms," Horn said.
#UN; #WMO; #WHO; #ClimateChange; #2019SecondHottestYearOnRecord
New York, Jan 16 (Canadian-Media): Last year was the second warmest year on record, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed on Wednesday, media reports said.
2019 was the second warmest year on record after 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Image credit: WMO/Jordi Anon
“The average global temperature has risen by about 1.1°C since the pre-industrial era and ocean heat content is at a record level,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
“On the current path of carbon dioxide emissions, we are heading towards a temperature increase of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by the end of century.”
WMO analysis showed the annual global temperature in 2019 was 1.1°C warmer than in the period from 1850-1900, or the pre-industrial era.
Only 2016 was hotter, due to a very strong El Niño which causes warming, combined with long-term climate change.
Furthermore, average temperatures for the past five years and 10 years, respectively, were the highest on record.
Since the 1980s, each decade has been warmer than the previous one: a trend the UN agency expects will continue due to the record level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
WMO added that 2019 and the past decade also were characterized by retreating ice, record sea levels, increasing ocean heat and acidification, and extreme weather, all of which have “major impacts” on human health and the natural environment.
Meanwhile, the New Year began where 2019 left off, according to Mr. Taalas.
“Australia had its hottest, driest year on record in 2019, setting the scene for the massive bushfires which were so devastating to people and property, wildlife, ecosystems and the environment,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we expect to see much extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fuelled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”