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children walk through oil-covered mangrove

Children wade through a mangrove swamp covered with crude oil on their way home from fishing October 14, 2004 in Goi, Nigeria. (Photo: Jacob Silberberg/Getty Images)

Amnesty Says Paltry G7 Climate Plans 'A Devastating, Mass-Scale Assault on Human Rights'

"These are not administrative failures, they are a devastating, mass-scale assault on human rights."

Ahead of this week's G7 summit, Amnesty International decried the inadequacy of wealthy nations' climate action plans as a colossal human rights failure and delivered a blueprint for policymakers to urgently change course to avert "impending catastrophe" and uphold their international obligations.

"The unambitious climate plans submitted by G7 members represent a violation of the human rights of billions of people. These are not administrative failures, they are a devastating, mass-scale assault on human rights," said Chiara Liguori, Amnesty International's Human Rights and Environment policy advisor, in a statement Sunday.

"[G7] governments must commit to unconditionally phasing out all fossil fuels, as close to 2030 as is technically feasible." —Chiara Liguori, Amnesty International

Liguori's stern assessment came alongside the release of Stop Burning Our Rights (pdf), a new policy brief  from the organization that calls the climate emergency "a human rights crisis of unprecedented proportions" and "manifestation of deep-rooted injustices."

Looking through lens of government's human rights obligations, the paper says that wealthier nations—who disproportionately fueled the climate crisis—must be at the forefront of climate action to reach net zero emission. Criticizing targets of net zero by 2050 as "too little, too late," the policy brief further calls on wealthy nations to take greater action to finance developing countries' climate target, through grants, not loans, and fund remedies for climate harms that have already happened.

The devastating impacts from climate crisis-fueled extreme weather events are already clear, and global governments committed to a goal of keeping global warming within 1.5° compared to pre-industrial levels, Amnesty says. Carbon emissions from fossil fuels rose 1% annually between 2010 and 2018, the report adds, and, while the coronavirus pandemic triggered a downward blip in emissions, the IEA projected a rise of 4.8% in 2021. What's more, some governments gave pandemic money given with no strings attached to fossil fuel companies.

And yet many governments, though their climate plans, are putting human rights including the rights to life, water, food, housing, health, a healthy environment, and self-determination at huge risk, the publication says.

"While a slew of new 2030 and carbon-neutrality targets have recently been announced, most countries—especially wealthier states that are members of the G20—are currently failing to adopt sufficiently ambitious and human rights-consistent climate plans that would contribute to avoiding the worst human rights impacts of climate change," the paper states.

Failure to take necessary steps to rein in the global crisis and mitigate its harms amounts to "a human rights violation" and should be condemned as with other human rights violations, according to the group.

Such violations, the report argues, "condemn millions of people to premature death, hunger, diseases, displacement, not just in the future but also at present. They contribute to conflicts and to the unfolding cycle of human rights violations. They perpetuate and accelerate current inequalities and discrimination against those who are already being oppressed by systemic injustices. Failure to adequately tackle the climate crisis is a form of discrimination."

The paper lays out a number of recommendations to keep warming below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and support human rights obligations. They include that governments revise their national climate plans; immediately stop to fossil fuel expansion; overhaul food systems such that "unsustainable and exploitative" systems are left behind in favor of ones that promote human rights and sustainable systems; enact policies to end deforestation by 2030; end subsidies of fossil fuels as well as those for forest biomass and crop-based biofuels; and implement climate action-centered Covid-19 recovery plans.

Wealthy nations must also commit to stopping fossil fuel expansion in other countries, lest they simply shift where the polluting extraction and refining operations occur.

Simply put, "States that are failing to phase out fossil fuels in a timeline aligned with the 1.5°C imperative and with their respective capabilities are violating human rights." The paper adds that corporations and their financial backers that fail to shift from fossil fuel operations must be held accountable for their human rights abuses.

The demands were delivered a day before NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego announced that the monthly average of CO2 levels in May hit 419 parts per million, the highest level since measurements began over six decades ago. The paper also came just ahead of the G7 Leaders' Summit, which begins Friday in the U.K. and where, according to Amnesty's Liguori, leaders must commit to urgent climate action.

"The G7 and other wealthy industrialized countries have historically emitted the most carbon and bear the greatest responsibility for the current climate crisis. They also have the most resources to tackle it," she said, "but their strategies to date have been woefully inadequate, and their support for other countries has been stingy."

"At the G7 Leaders' Summit, governments must commit to unconditionally phasing out all fossil fuels, as close to 2030 as is technically feasible. They must put in place tough regulations requiring businesses to shift to renewable energy, and stop using our taxes to subsidize the deadly fossil fuel industry," she said.

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