Protecting the vulnerable from the effects of climate change

The impact of climate change on developing countries demands a coordinated European response, explains Monica Silvana.
Mónica Silvana González | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Mónica Silvana González

Mónica Silvana González (ES, S&D) is a member of the European Parliament's Development Committee

29 Oct 2020

The European Parliament’s November 2019 Resolution on the climate and environmental emergency was a milestone in the campaign to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change, and includes in its text the need for the European Commission “to address the inconsistencies of current Union policies on the climate and environment emergency”.

Tackling climate change requires recognising these contradictions from the outset and working together at the European level to overcome them. This is the will of the European Parliament, which, through its Development Committee has proposed preparing an Own-initiative procedure entitled "The impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations in developing countries". Its objectives include addressing this problem and the capacity that the EU must have when it comes to coordinating and showing greater global solidarity over climate emergency.

“Tackling climate change requires recognising these contradictions from the outset and working together at the European institutions to overcome them”

Allocating adequate funds from the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) is particularly important. This new tool groups most of the existing external development cooperation instruments and develops actions to strengthen resilience, linking both humanitarian and development action.

Humanitarian crises - increasing due to the incidence of climate change and other disasters - require a broader debate within the Union. This should include how the Humanitarian Aid Instrument is going to help provide aid from Europe in order to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and dignity of affected populations.

This report must allow an honest debate and seek solutions from the point of view of climate justice. It should guarantee an equitable distribution of the burdens of climate change and its effects, where vulnerability, inequality, poverty and the human displacement it causes undermine the social, economic and political structures of many countries and communities.

The EU has much to say when it comes to proposing broad-spectrum responses and protection mechanisms for these people and communities, considering human mobility in the context of climate change and disasters. In addition, there are already a number of international initiatives where the Union could reinforce its discourse and actions on this field. International instruments such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration or the international action, work and reports of actors such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), exemplify part of the knowledge required to provide evidence-based solutions.

“Climate change knows no borders and recognises no flags; we know that it will affect all people regardless of their origin”

There should also be special mention for the recent work carried out by the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD), a global initiative, which aims to better protect people displaced across borders in the context of disasters and climate change. It is important to encourage countries to join these kinds of initiatives, particularly given the lack of a legal framework and broad protection practices in terms of human rights.

However, the recent decision of the UN Human Rights Committee on the case of the citizen of Kiribati, Ioane Teitiota, in his complaint to the Government of New Zealand, allows a glimpse of new forms of protection. Based on this decision, governments must take into account the human rights violations and the risk to life caused by the climate crisis when examining cases of deportation of asylum seekers, resulting in "triggering the non-refoulement obligations of sending States".

The EU must address this issue effectively, participating and acting as a reference in establishing a framework of legal protection at the international level for people affected who may be forced to move by climate change and disasters.

Finally, there should be specific mention of the European Green Deal as a new growth strategy for the EU, one that reflects the need to move towards an ecological transition and face the climate emergency at a global level. This own-initiative report aims to incorporate its external dimension, as we understand that it is essential to achieve coherence between the Green Deal and the External Action of the Union. Likewise, we need to deepen this debate at a UN level, considering some of the political, financial or legal responses expressed in this report.

Climate change knows no borders and recognises no flags; we know that it will affect all people regardless of their origin. The mission that the EU Institutions must fulfil is inspired by one of its founding fathers, Jean Monnet, who said “We are not forming coalitions between States, but a union among people”. Therefore, the mission of our generation is to be able to unite to face the greatest threat in the history of humankind: to protect life from extinction. We can do it with solidarity and responsibility.

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