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More environmental laws, less protection

A new report by the UN reveals that since 1972 more than 1100 environmental agreements and laws have been created in the world. However, the execution of most of these norms has been blocked mainly by the lack of political will. In addition, in the 21st century, attacks on environmental defenders have multiplied, affecting the fight against climate change.

By José Díaz

Servindi, January 25th, 2019.- Although agreements and environmental laws have multiplied worldwide in recent decades, a recent report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) reveals that this does not necessarily mean a favorable perspective. In fact, the poor implementation of these standards has become a threat to the struggle against climate change.

According to the report, since 1972, more than 1100 environmental agreements and laws have been signed around the world, as well as several agencies have been created to fight against climate change and the preservation of species. However, problems such as lack of access to information, corruption and low participation of civil society have impeded the success of these institutions and laws.

"Unless the environmental rule of law is strengthened, even seemingly rigorous rules are destined to fail and the fundamental human right to a healthy environment will go unfulfilled," warned the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment, David Boyd.

The report points out, as a positive aspect, the progress in 88 countries where in the last 45 years the right to a healthy environment has been recognized in their constitutions. However, the lack of coordination among government entities has made the situation difficult.

Environmental courts and defenders in danger

The UNEP report, which collects data from the last 50 years, reveals that there are up to 350 environmental courts in 50 countries while 60 other countries have laws focused on environmental issues. In spite of that, between 2002 and 2013, the struggle against climate change has become a danger, since 908 environmental defenders were murdered in that period, while 197 were murdered in the world in 2017.

"The criminalization and increasing attacks on environment defenders are clear violations of environmental rule of law and an affront to the rights, roles, and contributions of indigenous peoples and civil society in protecting our environment.  This report captures the prevailing lack of accountability, strong environmental governance and respect for human rights for the sustainability of our environment," said the environmental activist and advocate from the Philippines, Joan Carling.

The recommendations offered by the UN in the report focus on the empowerment of environmental institutions and political will. In relation to outdated environmental laws, UNEP suggests that pilot plans should be established to accelerate the implementation of these standards. Although this recommendation seems quite linked to the political will of the respective national authorities.

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