Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 23, Number 7 --- 15 July 2021
Article submission: firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline next issue 10 August 2021
Secretariat Email: email@example.com Christine Muller General Secretary
Postal address: 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland
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From the Editor, Request for information for upcoming newsletters
This newsletter is an opportunity for IEF members to share their experiences, activities, and initiatives that are taking place at the community level on environment, climate change and sustainability. All members are welcome to contribute information about related activities, upcoming conferences, news from like-minded organizations, recommended websites, book reviews, etc. Please send information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please share the Leaves newsletter and IEF membership information with family, friends and associates, and encourage interested persons to consider becoming a member of the IEF.
The IEF warmly welcomes the following new members and associates:
Kiara Ehsani, Kenya
Justin Missaghieh-Poncet, France
by IEF Member Khela Baskett, IEF Webinar Coordinator
8th IEF Webinar Discussion: Carbon Footprint – Do Our Individual Actions Matter?
July 24th, 2021 10am PDT, 1pm EDT, 5pm GMT, 19:00 CEST, 10:30 IST
For our IEF webinar this month, we’re trying something new. Instead of a lecture followed by Q&A, we are going to have an informal discussion on a theme. We’ll be discussing the history and value of the concept of a personal carbon footprint, and comparing this to the value of initiatives taken collectively. We’ll be listening to a podcast episode from How to Save a Planet during the meeting and using the arguments presented as a launching pad for our discussion (feel free to listen ahead if you want):
Recordings of Past Webinars:
Sustainable and Just Economies
by Joachim Monkelbaan
for UN Research Institute for Social Development
28 May 2021
The UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on 6-16 July 2021 is charged with reviewing progress on the 2030 Agenda and it Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition to the formal sessions, there are a large number of side events on related topics.
One of the first side events on 6 July was on "From Science to Practice: Harnessing Research to Build Forward Better" organized by the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and other partners.
One of the first reports presented was by IEF member Dr. Joachim Monkelbaan on "Sustainable and Just Economies".
Scientific research can make a critical contribution to addressing global challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As part of an effort to improve processes of research uptake in policy making, this report synthesizes research submitted by Geneva-based institutions and their global networks to the project From Science to Practice: Research and Knowledge to Achieve the SDGs on the theme of sustainable and just economies.
The report considers how to build sustainable and just economies — economies that promote growth along with an equitable distribution of benefits to the whole population, and which preserve rather than profit off of the natural environment. It includes recent findings on how the Covid-19 pandemic is impacting and, in many cases, exacerbating the challenge of building fairer economies. The report then presents some pathways towards achieving the SDGs that link to and reflect discussions within the research community. Four examples are proposed from International Geneva, of possible spaces for action to maximize synergies in addressing the SDGs: the role of trade and technology; systems thinking; the circular economy; and strengthening the science-practice interface. The report concludes by highlighting the need for a holistic approach towards addressing the topic of sustainable and just economies under the SDGs, one that recognizes the complexity and interdependence of the global challenges to which the Goals are responding.
About the Author:
Joachim Monkelbaan is Representative for Sustainable and Just Economic Systems at the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) in Geneva.
The paper is available HERE
ISBN: 978 92 9085 122 6
Environmentally Sustainable Bahá'í Properties
The International Environment Forum is now making available a practical guide on Environmentally Sustainable Bahá'í Properties by Christine Muller, which includes spiritual reflections, scientific information and practical ideas on how to manage Bahá'í properties responsibly, including landscaping and the outdoors, buildings, and daily living practice. Bahá'í communities and institutions should be setting an example for how we can all contribute to the fundamental transition towards a just, environmentally-responsible and sustainable society in harmony with nature. The land and buildings that we own and manage can be part of this, and this guide will help. Please send successful examples and suggestions for improvements to email@example.com.
Haiti Leads Caribbean in Tree Planting Project
From Hugh Locke of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance
July 6, 2021
For a country that has had little to celebrate of late, today put a positive spotlight on Haiti for planting the most trees among all 22 countries taking part in a Caribbean-wide campaign.
At the Caribbean Tree Planting Week signature event co-hosted earlier today by the Clinton Global Initiative, tree-planting superhero Tanama—the creation of comic book artist Thony Loui—announced that members of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) planted 748,946 trees in Haiti since February of last year (click here to view the 2.5 minute animation).
The SFA's number represented close to half of the total 1.5 million trees planted throughout the Caribbean from February 2020 to June 2021. This was quite remarkable since the Trees that Feed Foundation also planted trees in Haiti.
The SFA was invited last year to take part in the project by Jamaica-based Prof. Rosalea Hamilton, Chair of the Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance. “The members of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance have made Haiti the regional leader in tree planting in the Caribbean,” said Hamilton, “and their contribution was not just in planting many trees but also in their contribution to a sustainable form of tree planting using tree currency that empowers farmers and transforms lives.”
Check out more daily events of Caribbean Tree Planting Week: A Cultural Celebration that took place each day until Sunday, July 11th.
Well-being in Vanuatu
Vanuatu National Statistics Office issues new report
One of the most enlightened countries in the world, Vanuatu in the South Pacific, has just published a new report Well-being In Vanuatu, a significant government attempt to redefine well-being, particularly in a Melanesian context. The report is the work of several years of planning, fieldwork, data processing and analysis by the Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) following the 2016 Mini Census. It attempts to look at well-being more holistically, framing it around topics of happiness, access, knowledge, health, and social resilience.
This important initiative of Vanuatu to establish and mainstream indicators of well-being that incorporate Melanesian values into the policy arena deserves to be known more widely. Some of the indicators developed in the pilot study from 2010-2012 have become key monitoring and evaluation indicators for the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP), securing their collection through 2030.
The report was launched on 7 July 2021, creating opportunities for communicating information effectively back to the rightful owners - the people of Vanuatu, requiring creative outreach approaches in the near future. Additional information, technical documentation, analysis and resources from the 2019-2020 NSDP Baseline Survey can be found on the VNSO website at: https://vnso.gov.vu/index.php/en/nsdp-baseline-survey.
The VNSO is establishing methods and standards for well-being data collection in Vanuatu. It has now created a position of statistician responsible for the culture and justice sectors in its Social and Environment Statistics Unit. It is also supporting the good work of the Vanuatu Indigenous Land Defense Desk (VILDD) and its Well-being Officer, whose outreach keeps dialogue on emerging issues in Vanuatu communities focused and rooted in cultural values. The VNSO is working to support the data management needs of the culture sector in particular, towards a cultural information management system that meets the needs of those that are tasked with preserving and promoting cultural diversity and the arts, as well as those with functions that require reporting against national and even international goals.
Many indicators that are now prominent in the Vanuatu development framework are relatable across the Pacific and may be relevant in other countries with strong traditions and indigenous cultures. If the work Vanuatu is doing can help influence other countries to be more concerned with the well-being of their people rather than focused on endless GDP growth, that is the future we want to see, with balanced and well-being centered governance and development.
You can download the full report at: https://vnso.gov.vu/images/Pictures/NSDP_Baseline/Analysis/Wellbeing_Re….
Based on a message from Mr. Jamie Tanguay, author of the report and Project Coordinator for Melanesian Well-being Indicators, Vanuatu National Statistics Office. See also "Reweaving the Ecological Mat".
Letter to G20 Finance Ministers on Taxation
from World Council of Churches and other Christian organizations
5 July 2021
The World Council of Churches, together with several other protestant church organizations representing half a billion Christians, have issued a letter on 5 July to the G20 Finance Ministers International Taxation Symposium on 9 July in Venice, Italy, calling for a more just global system of taxation. Excerpts from the letter follow. The full letter can be seen at https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/wcc/wcrc/cwm/lwf/wmc-lett….
"More than a year since the World Health Organisation declared it a pandemic, COVID-19 is still raging, particularly in the developing world where hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and tens of millions more forced into destitution. The current situation continues to require strong social protection measures in all countries to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are able to weather the crisis’ unprecedented health and economic consequences.
"The pandemic has revealed once again the importance of people’s access to essential health care and basic income security throughout their lives. To date rich countries have spent 35.6 percent of their GDPs on responding to the health emergency and supporting employment and businesses. In contrast, low-income countries were only able to expend a meagre 6 percent of their GDPs on fighting the pandemic and are even now struggling to meet the demands of protecting their citizens. In particular, resources to initiate and accelerate life-saving vaccination programmes are sorely lacking.
"As the most sustainable source of revenue, tax systems have a pivotal role to play in bolstering social sector initiatives and financing the recovery from the crisis. No doubt the impact of the crisis on many countries’ fiscal health will be significant and long-lasting but robust and transparent tax systems offer a pathway out of deficit and debt to a more equitable and sustainable future.
"We acknowledge recent efforts by the international community at tax reform, not least the G7 proposal for a 15% global corporate minimum tax. Despite its characterisation of historical significance, the proposal is underwhelming. It is much lower than the 25% rate called for by the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) and is unfair for poor countries that do not house headquarters of multinational corporations (MNCs). Much more must be done.
"The endemic injustices of global poverty, racial inequity, health inequality and climate change are rooted in the legacies of colonial exploitation and resource extraction, and call for systemic change. Our organisations view the system-wide overhaul of the tax architecture as an indispensable element in resourcing reparation and restoration.
"The pandemic shows us people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake, at a time when the life of the earth is also under threat. Not only is tax justice at the heart of any recovery plan, it is crucial for mitigating widening inequality and stepping up to the challenges posed by a rapidly warming climate.
"We therefore reiterate the following calls as part of the ecumenical Zacchaeus Tax campaign:
• Enactment of progressive wealth taxes at global and national levels to curb the growing concentration of wealth hand-in-hand with increased public spending to stamp out poverty.
• A stop to tax evasion and avoidance by MNCs and affluent individuals. Developing unitary methods of corporate taxation to ensure that MNCs pay taxes where economic activities occur, closing tax havens, publishing country-by-country reports of profits and establishing a United Nations commission for tax cooperation can build a fairer and more transparent system of corporate taxation.
• Progressive carbon and pollution taxes at different levels to restrain harmful emissions and raise revenues for investment in renewable energy as well as for meeting the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation and reparations for climate-related loss and damage in income-poor and vulnerable countries.
• Implementation of a financial transaction tax on trade in equities, bonds, currencies and derivatives to curb harmful speculative activities. Proceeds would be allocated towards global public goods and the protection of our ecosystems, as well as towards reparations for slavery and other historical injustices.
"Moreover, we call for a COVID-19 windfall tax or excess profit tax on the super-wealthy, equity and hedge funds, and multinational, e-commerce, and digital corporations that are realising even greater returns during pandemic times. Those that are benefitting from the crisis ought to shoulder the bulk of the financial burden to pay for the recovery."
Natural Solutions for People, Climate & Nature
Wednesday, 30 June 2021
This event during London Climate Action Week 2021 explored solutions to the triple crisis of development, climate change and biodiversity loss that could have positive benefits for people, climate and nature. The panel brought together experts working at this interface, and they shared their understanding of ways of garnering these co-benefits politically and in the real world.
The speakers included: Professor Sir Bob Watson, former chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES); professor Nathalie Seddon, University of Oxford; Camila Zepeda Lizama, Mexican government, and Simon Sharpe, UK government.
The event was organised by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Christian Aid, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and WWF-UK.
You can watch this excellent webinar here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqe6Go-JimQ
Environmental News in Brief
Sixty Minutes with Ecological Economists Hazel Henderson and Kate Raworth
This excellent webinar was organized by the Security and Sustainability Forum and took place on June 28, 2021 https://vimeo.com/568596464
“Modern, industrialized economics strive for endless growth. The social policies they promote, by their nature, lay waste to natural systems and exploit vulnerable populations. The result is global crises and disruptions, such as the 2008 financial meltdown, climate breakdown, and extreme wealth concentration and global inequality. Renegade economist Kate Raworth brings a counter vision of human prosperity based on making economics fit 21st-century realities. Laid out in her book, Doughnut Economics, Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, Kate is building on the insights of Hazel Henderson, host of this SSF webinar series and President of Ethical Markets. Hazel has been critiquing the limitations of economics and its statistics in steering complex industrial societies for 60 years.”
Sustainable Development Report 2021: The Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Report 2021 presents the SDG Index and Dashboards for all UN member states, outlines the short-term impacts of COVID-19 on the SDGs, and describes how the SDGs can frame the recovery. It was prepared by teams of independent experts at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Bertelsmann Stiftung.
To download the report, go here: https://sdgindex.org/reports/sustainable-development-report-2021/
To read the press release, go here: https://sdgindex.org/news/press-release-sustainable-development-report-…
Beyond Planting Trees: Let Communities Lead Restoration
by By Tiina Vähänen, Deputy Director, Forestry Division, and Moctar Sacande, Senior Forestry Officer, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN IISD, 16 June 2021
This report is highly interesting to IEF readers as it highlights the importance of holistic action which considers not only climate change mitigation, but also adresses biodiversity, and, most importantly food security, livelihoods, and the wellbeing of people. Here are three short excerpts from the article:
“Restoring degraded land and slowing the pace of desertification is vital for the achievement of the SDGs, including those on hunger, poverty, biodiversity, and climate action, as well as for contributing to the UNCCD goals on land degradation neutrality, and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
“Restoration must go beyond increasing biomass and improve ecology, lives, and livelihoods simultaneously. Approaches should increase climate resilience and prioritize income generation through green jobs and addressing food insecurity and malnutrition. …
“Merging traditional and scientific knowledge can turn the tide to bring ecological and societal benefits at scale. We have seen the results. It is no easy task – but FAO’s success in supporting the Great Green Wall initiative offers a simple starting point: restoration and halting desertification must put people first.”
To read the whole article, go here.
PPE Waste in the Ocean: Standardized Approach Urgently Needed
by Rukiya Abdulle, IISD 16 June 2021
“With over 5 trillion plastic pieces making a home of the ocean, this form of waste has been categorized as a planetary boundary threat, according to a 2020 article in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. According to the authors, the threat posed by plastic waste is consequential due to its irreversible chemistry, along with persistent qualities that risk harming ecological populations and broad ecosystem functions. The extensive use of single-use personal protection equipment (PPE), which contains plastic, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has made significant contributions to plastic waste and environmental harm; an estimated 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves are used globally each month, the article reports.”
To read the whole story, go here.
States have these 13 duties when it comes to biodiversity and human rights
UN Environment Programme, 5 July, 2021
Unprecedented biodiversity loss, pollution, climate change and the rise of zoonotic diseases have showcased the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature. The human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, as well as other human rights, can only be realized where biodiversity thrives and ecosystems are healthy.
State obligations at the intersection of human rights and biodiversity come from international human rights laws, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). According to these commitments and the responsibilities they encompass, states are obliged to do 13 key things.
1. Address biodiversity and habitat loss and prevent their negative impacts on human rights.
Because of their negative impact on human rights, states must take urgent action to address biodiversity loss, habitat loss and species extinction. This includes ending deforestation; protecting and conserving lands and oceans; moving to sustainable patterns of production and consumption; combatting climate change and pollution; preventing the introduction of invasive alien species; and protecting land tenure and resource use of indigenous peoples, local communities, women and girls.
2. Guarantee equality and non-discrimination.
Because it affects some more acutely than others, biodiversity loss can widen inequalities that already exist between individuals, groups and even generations – with future generations inheriting the irreversible results of environmental degradation. Actions to address biodiversity and habitat loss must therefore consider age, gender and vulnerabilities – such as poverty, disability or marginalization – and not exacerbate existing disparities.
3. Protect the rights of indigenous peoples.
Because of their close relationship to nature, indigenous peoples are both heavily affected by biodiversity loss and among those best-positioned to prevent it. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) affirms the right of indigenous peoples to conserve and protect their lands, territories and resources. This means that conservation actions with potential impact on human rights should be taken in consultation with indigenous peoples and with their free, prior and informed consent, and should support their participation in the management and ownership of corresponding efforts.
4. Protect environmental human rights defenders.
Those who take action to protect biodiversity, wildlife, habitats and the human rights and livelihoods that are dependent on a connection to nature have been subject to threats, violence, criminalization and retaliation, with particular impacts on women and girls and indigenous defenders. Instruments including the ICCPR and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders require states to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of environmental human rights defenders to participation, access to information, freedom of expression, assembly and association. States are also obliged to take action against threats to lives or wellbeing of environmental defenders; provide access to justice and effective remedy when their rights are violated; and conduct timely investigations, prosecuting those responsible for violence and intimidation.
5. Ensure equity in actions to address biodiversity loss and in the use of the benefits of biodiversity.
Actions must take into account the needs of children, youth and future generations – who have played little or no part in driving biodiversity and habitat loss but have no choice but to live with its consequences. The CBD and the Nagoya Protocol emphasize that the benefits of biodiversity should be shared in a way that is equitable, transparent, and accountable. That takes into account the equal rights and differing needs of indigenous peoples, local communities and all persons, regardless of their gender.
6. Ensure meaningful and informed participation, including inland and resource governance.
The right to free, active, meaningful and informed participation in public affairs is guaranteed by the ICCPR, the UN Declaration on the Right to Development and other international instruments, multilateral environmental agreements, and national laws and policies. This means that states should provide public information about biodiversity in an accessible language and format; provide for and facilitate public participation, bearing in mind the barriers faced by indigenous peoples, local communities, children, persons with disabilities and those in marginalized situations; and carry out all related policy-making in a manner that is transparent and accountable.
7. Ensure accountability and effective remedy for human rights harms caused by biodiversity and habitat loss.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights articulate states’ obligations to guarantee access to justice and effective remedies when human rights violations or abuses occur, including those by business enterprises. Regional agreements including the Aarhus Convention and the Escazú Agreement specifically address access to justice in environmental matters. As well, nation-level accountability mechanisms should ensure access to justice and remedy for biodiversity loss and associated harm to human rights. Globally, environment-related human rights harms should be included in UN Treaty Body reviews, the Universal Periodic Review process, the work of Special Procedures and rights-based reviews of state compliance with the CBD and related agreements.
8. Protect against business-related human rights harms from biodiversity loss.
As reflected in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, all business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights. This includes avoiding their infringement through biodiversity loss and facilitating remediation of any harms caused or contributed to in this way. Under international law, states are obligated to protect against human rights abuses by businesses and should require assessment of all social, environmental and human rights impacts of proposed projects that may affect biodiversity. When human rights abuses do occur – including those resulting from biodiversity and habitat loss – states must hold businesses accountable and ensure that those affected have access to effective remedy.
9. Ensure regional and international cooperation.
Effective protection of biodiversity requires international cooperation and solidarity. Instruments including the UN Charter, the ICESCR, the ICCPR and the UNDRIP require states to cooperate on the realization of all human rights, addressing gaps in protection and trans-border and extraterritorial harms. In addition, the ability of developing countries to implement their biodiversity commitments depends on sharing of resources and technology transfers from developed countries. States should therefore establish and strengthen mechanisms and resources for addressing transboundary causes and impacts of biodiversity and habitat loss.
10. Effectively mobilize adequate resources to prevent human rights harms caused by biodiversity loss.
The ICESCR requires states to devote maximum available resources to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights. This includes the protection of biodiversity, because biodiversity is necessary to ensuring healthy ecosystems, and healthy ecosystems are necessary to ensuring the rights to life, health and livelihoods of billions of people around the world. States are obliged to act both individually and collectively, making international cooperation and financial assistance imperative.
11. Guarantee that everyone enjoys the benefits of science and its applications.
Under the ICESCR, everyone has the right to enjoy the benefits of science and its applications. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change affirms the value of traditional knowledge systems and holistic approaches. The CBD commits states to respect and maintain the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities toward the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. In particular, states should support the use of traditional knowledge with consent of the indigenous peoples concerned, ensuring that any economic benefits are equitably shared; and support the transfer of methods and technology for an effective international response to biodiversity loss.
12. Ensure education with respect for nature.
The ICCPR guarantees the right of everyone to information and the Convention on the Rights of the Child calls for education to foster respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the natural environment. Understanding human rights and the environment is essential to ensuring human dignity, wellbeing and survival; and requires the informed participation of all people. States must therefore ensure the right of all people to education – with respect for nature at its core – and to the information necessary to protect it.
13. Respect and protect nature for all its values.
Living in harmony with nature by 2050 requires the total transformation of humanity’s relationship with nature. The diverse values of nature and the relationship between biological and human cultural and linguistic diversity must be better understood and duly reflected in policy. A thriving natural environment along with human diversity is not only the best long-term recipe for resilience and human survival. It is a prerequisite to living with dignity and the full realization of human rights.
15 August 2021