Climate Justice Working Group: The OSCE Should Take More Robust Action to Address Climate Crisis

On October 13, 2021, The Climate Justice Working Group of the Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP) delivered a statement on the climate crisis at the annual conference of the Platform on Human Dimension of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Warsaw, Poland.

The statement underlines the urgency of action to address the current climate crisis. It recognizes the steps OSCE has taken to address the issue and encourages more robust action including clearly stating the commitments to protect environmental defenders.

The statement was delivered by Crude Accountability Director Kate Watters on behalf of the Climate Justice Working Group.

The statement can be found below.

Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to speak before this group.

The Climate Justice Working Group of the CSP was created in September 2019—the last time that this group met prior to the pandemic. We believed that it was high time—past time, really—to directly address the urgency of the climate crisis within the context of the human dimension, and to acknowledge not only the critical environmental impacts of climate change, but also the human rights issues directly and indirectly connected to the ravages of the climate crisis. The past two years have only deepened our concern, and finally, it appears, the entire world recognizes the urgency of the issues before us. This is thanks, in huge part, to the commitment of outspoken youth like Greta Thunberg, Jerome Foster, Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, Autumn Peltier, Maxada Marak, Quannah Chasinghorse, and many others around the OSCE region and the world.

Today we want to discuss areas of intersection between climate justice and the human dimension. We are eager to engage more directly with the OSCE on these issues, and we hope to initiate more direct involvement between our institutions.

We acknowledge the good work the OSCE has done in the areas of environment, climate, and human rights through both policy and action. The OSCE has emphasized the importance of environmental protection and sustainable development since its founding and has continuously taken steps to further outline its environmental commitments. In 2016, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development outlined the significance of climate change and the need to combat both the process and its impacts. This document represents a significant step in aligning the OSCE’s environmental commitments with those of other international bodies, such as the UN and the Council of Europe. 

We note the prioritization of climate in August 2021 by OSCEPA Secretary General Montella, when he stated, “As a priority for all of humanity, climate change is also high on the agenda of the Parliamentary Assembly….We will continue to build engagement among parliamentarians and provide a forum for exchange of best practices on this critical front.” Additionally, the chair of the OSCE PA’s General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology, and Environment Pere Joan Pons said in September, “We need to step up our efforts to address the climate crisis more effectively and collaboratively….As parliamentarians, we should prompt our governments to be more ambitious in setting their emissions reduction targets and in duly implementing long-term adaptation and financing strategies. After all, it’s now or never!”

Sadly, Mr. Pons is correct. We need to act with urgency to address the crisis. The Climate Justice Working Group would like to encourage more robust action in three areas related to democracy, human rights, and climate justice:

  1. The importance of protecting environmental defenders must be clearly stated within OSCE commitments. If environmental and climate activists are to continue their important work, they must be protected by the institutions that claim to value and support their contributions. Environmental defenders are increasingly under attack—Global Witness reported that 227 defenders were killed in 2020, more than in any previous year—and yet there is no OSCE policy that clearly defines and protects the role of environmental defenders. Environmental defenders are at risk throughout the OSCE region and are targeted by corporations and the authorities for their environmental and climate work.

Just as the United Nations appointed a special rapporteur for human rights and the environment in 2015, the OSCE should similarly prioritize the issue. In the face of violent attacks and repression, environmental defenders require more support and protection than ever before.  

  1. We encourage the OSCE to take additional steps to better align its environmental commitments with those of other international bodies, including but not limited to adopting Paris-equivalent environmental standards. All OSCE member states have ratified the Paris agreement and incorporating Paris equivalent standards and goals would further solidify and define the institution’s environmental and climate commitments. Just as the Council of Europe is discussing the need for more participatory democracy to combat climate change and the need for enhanced action to ensure the right to a healthy environment, we encourage the OSCE to consider similar steps. Moral leadership is key in this time of crisis and the OSCE has the authority to provide it.
  2. We encourage the OSCE to consider the cross cutting and intersectional nature of the climate crisis in its commitments. Security, gender issues, minority rights, migration, access to housing, the rights of youth, and so many other basic human rights and concerns are inextricably linked to the impacts of climate change. Recognizing and incorporating this reality into current and future discussion is critical if we are to actually impact the climate crisis in the OSCE region in a positive way. 

We look forward to working with you on climate and are eager to cooperate with other working groups in the CSP as well as with partners in the OSCE to ensure a safe and just future for all of us. The OSCE—and the CSP—have the opportunity to be part of the climate solution. Let’s embrace the challenge together.

Thank you.