Press release

 

Newsletter on sustainability (March 2014): the environmental justice issue

 

Newsletter on sustainability (March 2014): the environmental justice issue

EDITORIAL: environmental justice UN NEWS: report OWG and NGO position paper on SDGs BRIEFING: legal perspectives on claims for ecological debt PAPER: between activism and science PROMISING PRACTICE: fairphone CONFERENCES: Access to justice – environmental justice - ecological debt ONLINE COURSE: ecological economics & environmental justice NANTES: a tale of clashing development paths INDIA: an environmental justice party in power? EEB working group: waste

EDITORIAL: environmental justice
Some say the EU is active on the environmental justice agenda. There is the Aarhus Convention (2001), Environmental Liability Directive or ELD (2010) and the Environmental Crimes Directive (2012). But while Aarhus is a great tool for access to information, participation and justice; and the ELD should in theory prevent and remedy environmental damage, most member states limited the scope of the latter. Due to room for interpretation, only a handful of cases exist. This administrative approach also doesn't deal with damage to property or personal injury. The Environmental Crimes Directive - for the first time in Europe - uses criminal law to combat environmental injustice, but it also has rather vague notions and lawyers only see it as a step towards a truly European environmental criminal law. Again, members can interpret it the way they want, assuring that at present, implementation remains close to zero. So while legal initiatives in the EU do exist - much work remains to be done. And while the EU could do more, there is plenty of room for the International Criminal Court to expand its scope and include environmental crimes as well.
But environmental justice also means more than providing access to information, prevent and remedy environmental damage and putting environmental criminals in jail. Environmental justice is about a fair share of resources for all those occupying planet earth, and a fair share in bearing the damage. It’s about capping the resource use of those that use more than their fair share, about quota and absolute decoupling, not relative, to GDP growth. It’s about making the much needed global connections from grabbing land and transferring dirty industries, to overconsumption and the dumping of waste, on a global scale. We’ve written on these issues before and will continue to do so – but this March we are reaching a milestone in our efforts to promote the environmental justice agenda. After three years of work by some 100 researchers, lawyers and activists from 18 countries in 4 continents, the EJOLT project is ready to launch the "Atlas of Environmental Justice": an interactive website with a map that links to a huge database of around 1000 ecological conflicts – searchable by country, company, commodity and more. On March 19th, EEB and UNEP Liaison Office to the EU institutions host an environmental justice event in Brussels, where we will launch the map, present some case studies and have a discussion on policy recommendations.

UN NEWS: report OWG and NGO position paper on SDGs
The co-chairs Csaba Korösi and Macharia Kamau of the Open Working Group needed 29 days over 8 meetings to dialogue with member states and civil society organizations in an intense and interesting stock taking period for defining the framework for the future Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This information is just now summarized and released in a Focus Area Document. This document is not yet the zero draft of the proposed Framework of SDG and targets. That document is to be expected and discussed at the next General Assembly. But this report gives us an overview of the areas the goals has to work on. They identified 19 areas, which you can find at the UN web site.
Still a lot of work needs to be done as some interesting hot topics are mentioned, but at the same time quite a lot of unwanted BAU-ideas. The overview is quite complete and gives enough angles to base further work on. Good news is that more emphasis goes to bridge the inequality gaps between rich and poor but unfortunately too much believe in the fact that overall economic growth and industrialization is the only answer for that. Economic growth in poor countries is absolutely necessary, but infinite growth everywhere will cause huge environmental, and therefore, social conflicts. The concept of planetary boundaries is not considered seriously yet. You can read the NGO Major Group position paper here.

BRIEFING: legal perspectives on claims for ecological debt
A yearly policy coherence checks of EU policies affecting global sustainability, a revision of the Common Agricultural Policy to strengthen food sovereignty and the establishment of an International court on environmental crimes. These are just three of the many recommendations made by the policy team in EJOLT, based on the recently published report on international law and ecological debt. Bottom-up concepts, like Ecological – and Climate Debt are means to illustrate and operationalize the so far grossly ignored obligations as defined in the universality of human rights, and emphasise the importance of collective rights. The full 4 page briefing with all recommendations is here.
PAPER: between activism and science
“The world of EJOs (Environmental Justice Organisations) has come to exist because of the many conflicts caused by the increase of social metabolism and global inequalities of power and income. These have resulted in injustices in access to natural resources and in the burdens of pollution. EJOs were not born from reading books but have produced their own books (and documentaries) as byproducts of their activism. The EJ movements respond to and express the conflicts that arise from the clash between economic growth and the environment as a source of livelihoods and as a site of cultural values.”
With that, 18 authors – most of them collaborators in EJOLT- conclude a peer reviewed paper on the nexus between science and activism. The paper was written by Joan Martinez-Alier, Isabelle Anguelovski, Patrick Bond, Daniela Del Bene, Federico Demaria, Julien-Francois Gerber, Lucie Greyl, Willi Haas, Hali Healy, Victoria Marín-Burgos, Godwin Ojo, Marcelo Firpo Porto, Leida Rijnhout, Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos, Joachim Spangenberg, Leah Temper, Rikard Warlenius and Ivonne Yánez and has been published in the Journal of Political Ecology, vol 21: 19-60. The full paper can be accessed for free from here.

PROMISING PRACTICE: fairphone
The rise of the mobile phone has been fast, global and life-changing. This consumer product has made it from owned by a minority in New York or Finland some 25 years ago, to a common consumer item in remote Nepali villages and the Serengeti. It looks small, but with 6 billion+ users that on average buy a new one every 11 to 18 months – the extra strain on global resources is huge. It often involves digging in a war-zone in Africa, shipping to China, low-wage production, shipping again and dumping waste.
Now imagine a phone made from conflict free tin and tantalum, made by workers that get fair wages, with some profit going to sustainable E-waste projects. A phone that’s easy to fix with a manual on how to do it yourself. With batteries that are easily replaced, minimal packaging, no proprietary charger or unnecessary accessories and an indicator for energy consumption. The casing (30 per cent of overall weight) is made of polycarbonate from recycled plastic, reducing carbon consumption and emissions.
This fairphone exists. An activist that wanted to ‘be the change you want to see in this world’ and the company he founded delivered 25.000 pieces. The initial success was build on crowdfunding. The hope is not in taking over a share of the global market – but convincing the big players to turn their phones into fair phones. It certainly helps when you can show them that it’s possible. A promising practice, as long as people with 11 to 18 months 'old' phones don't throw them just to buy the fairphone.

CONFERENCES
On March 13, a panel of international legal and industry experts discuss in London the fraught world of environmental justice, human rights, minerals and mining. The UAB-ICTA team will also present the EJOLT Atlas of Environmental Justice.
On March 19, the EEB and UNEP organize an event on mapping environmental justice in Brussels. Attendants can expect case studies on shipbreaking and landgrabbing, a presentation of the Atlas of Environmental Justice and a panel debate.
On March 27 & 28, researchers, lawyers and activists gather in Lund for a two-day workshop on ecologically unequal exchange (EUE) and ecological debt (ED).

ONLINE COURSE: ecological economics & environmental justice
EJOLT, in collaboration with Fundación Neotrópica, a Costa Rican NGO, and UCI ( Universidad para la Cooperación Internacional) is running an online course “Ecological Economics and Environmental Justice”, taught through civil society organisation (CSO) case studies. It will run from April 1st 2014. This in an interactive course taught in English over sixteen weeks. It features lectures based on CSO and EJO case studies across a broad range of topics, taught by well known ecological economists / political ecologists including Joan Martinez Alier, Bernardo Aguilar, Beatriz Rodriguez-Labajos and Hali Healy. It has been designed for activists interested in understanding and applying the tools of ecological economics to their work, and for researchers of the sustainability sciences interested in the real world application of the concepts and methods of ecological economics and political ecology. More information is here. Subscription closes on March 24.

NANTES: a tale of clashing development paths
When the French government decided to replace the current airport of Nantes with the bigger 4 million passengers Notre Dame Des Landes Airport, on a new location, riots erupted in Nantes. Over 20.000 people and 400 tractors held a peaceful demonstration, but a radical group of around 1000 broke away to fight with riot police. The resistance to the new airport dates way back, to 1972, when the project was first proposed as part of an urban/infrastructure development area named Zone d'aménagement différé (ZAD). Opposition stood up against the mega project and took over its name as ZAD-“zone a défendre”. The site is occupied since more than six years – forming what is probably Europe’s largest squat. Residents of the ZAD built their own houses, use collective spaces for baking bread, a pharmacy, sewing, internet and bicycle repair. They want to show that change is possible, change that respects social and environmental limits. More on this clash of development path is here.

INDIA: an environmental justice party in power?
A new force is shaking things up in Indian politics. In December, the new Aam Aadmi Party (the ”Common Man Party”) contested the Delhi legislative assembly election and won 28 of the 70 seats. This led to the formation of an AAP-led minority government with conditional support from the Indian National Congress. The AAP manifesto addresses many issues of social and environmental justice, such as access to water, affordable electricity, health and education. The global environmental justice movement is closely watching these developments in India. Recently, the world-famous woman environmentalist Medha Patkar (who won the Goldman prize and the Right Livelihood award) also joined the party.

EEB working group: waste
Every month we introduce the work of one of EEBs 16 working groups – starting with waste. In the context of the coming review of the EU Waste legislation, the EEB Waste Working Group (WWG) has enforced its capacity. The main event this year, on top of the two yearly meetings, is Green Week. Waste policies are a major contributor to the Resource Efficiency Strategy, so the WWG also intervenes wherever the Waste/Resource Efficiency issue is mentioned. For the EEB, the absolute priority is to prevent waste generation and reduce toxicity. On a global level, we produce about 4 billion tons of waste/year. The EEB Waste Working Group works closely with the Zero Waste Europe Platform which is dedicated to constant reduction of waste and promoting waste management and community lifestyles supporting material loop systems. The WWGs role is to trigger and monitor the development of waste legislation, to advocate for ambition, to incentivize sustainable practices and ensure a proper implementation. This can only be done through the active involvement of WWG members, utilizing their support during the development of new legislation and feedback during transposition and implementation stages. More information on EEBs work in this regard is here.

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