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Sustainable environment a universal right: UN Human Rights Council

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Sustainable environment a universal right: UN Human Rights Council

The resolution emphasises “the rights to life, liberty and security of human rights defenders working in environmental matters, referred to as environmental human rights defenders.”

Sustainable environment a universal right: UN Human Rights Council

Green Update

The United Nations Human Rights Council October 8, 2021, unanimously voted for recognising a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal right in Geneva, Switzerland. If recognised by all, the right would the first of its kind in more than 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. Inger Anderson, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), hailed the development in a statement. She also called on UN member states to consider a similar resolution at the General Assembly. The right to a clean environment was rooted in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, Anderson noted. It was greatly encouraging to see it formally recognised at the global level five decades later, she added. Over 13,000 civil society organisations and indigenous peoples’ groups, more than 90,000 children worldwide, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions and private sector stakeholders had campaigned relentlessly for the right, Anderson said. The resolution emphasises “the rights to life, liberty and security of human rights defenders working in environmental matters, referred to as environmental human rights defenders.” Environmental defenders across the globe are subject to constant physical attacks, detentions, arrests, legal action and smear campaigns. Some 200 environmental defenders have been murdered in 2020 alone. Anderson said the UNEP would deepen its commitment to protecting and promoting environmental human rights defenders in the coming months. She added that her organisation expected the resolution to embolden governments, legislators, courts and citizen groups in pursuing substantial elements of the Common Agenda for renewed solidarity. The Agenda was presented last month by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Anderson also called for these parties to pursue the 2020 Call to Action on Human Rights. “Let no one be left behind, as we forge a healthier planet with less conflict and more space for youth to be heard,” she said.

Public banks responsible for annual damages to nature: Report

The financial activities of public development banks (PDB) are responsible for annual damages to nature worth $800 billion (Rs 5900,000 crore), a recent report by has said. Also, the 450 PDBs across the world are exposed to a ‘dependency risk’ worth $4.6 trillion, due to their investments in nature-based services, the report by Finance for Biodiversity (F4B) said. This is an average 40 per cent of the assets of PDBs, which are financial institutions with a mandate to finance a public policy on behalf of the state. The Finance for Biodiversity Initiative was started in October 2019 by the MAVA Foundation based in Switzerland. Its aim is to better align global finance with nature conservation and restoration. The study also found that PDBs focussed on Asia and Africa had a higher dependency risk compared to Europe. Countries in these regions had a high dependence on nature, which was highly vulnerable as well. For instance, if fish stocks, wild pollinating bees as well as wild plants declined, fishing, farming and pharmaceuticals would suffer. Agriculture-focused PDBs such as the Agricultural Development Bank of China and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development  in India deployed their balance sheets solely on agriculture, the report said. It had resulted in a higher dependency risk for Asian PDB assets. Lending in Asia also put the largest amount of nature at risk, at $562 billion. It was partly due to the volume of assets held in Asia, F4B said. Another reason was less focused regulation in most Asian countries towards preserving biodiversity as well as reliance on more natural inputs per dollar of economic output. Africa was ranked after Asia. Nature at risk in Africa was estimated at $106 billion. Deforestation, particularly in tropical regions accounted for roughly half of nature at risk in Africa, central and South America. Agriculture was the largest driver of deforestation in all three regions. PDBs employed only a limited range of environmental safeguards, in the form of a checklist of harms they should avoid, the report noted. These banks should progress towards sustainable development goals both through their own lending and thus leading by example to achieve wider financial system change, it recommended.

Preventing forest loss on pvt land can aid elephant conservation: Paper

Elephants prefer areas close to forests, with high vegetation cover and low human population densities, a new research paper that used citizen science data, found. Preserving forest cover on private land can aid elephants to travel between habitats, in turn, helping to conserve their increasingly isolated populations, the paper  added. The aim of the study was to identify important connectivity areas for the endangered Asian elephant across a 21,000 sq km of Northeast India using empirical data and recently developed animal movement models. Connectivity is increasingly important for landscape-scale conservation programmes. But there are obstacles to developing reliable connectivity maps, including paucity of data on animal use of the non-habitat matrix. Connectivity is critical for the Asian elephant, India’s Natural Heritage Animal. They range widely, sometimes over the space of hundreds of kilometres, to meet their immense food and water requirements. This is particularly true in the fragmented landscapes of the tropics. The average size of protected areas in India, for instance, is less than 300 sq km. This is comparable to the average home range of a single elephant herd. Divya Vasudev, lead author of the paper, said: We are talking about a 20,000 sq km region. Across such a large area, identifying the areas that are most critical for connectivity can be very useful. Vasudev, a senior scientist and connectivity expert at Conservation Initiatives, a Northeast India-based non-profit, added that connectivity conservation was also important for other species. Identification of corridors for the Asian elephant can potentially aid the movement of other animals, such as tigers or hog deer, as well, she added. Complete knowledge about where elephants moved is not available, Vasudev said. Evidence-based demarcation of elephant corridors, or assessments of what limited their movement are also not always available. She noted: The study provides such an assessment, with scope to continuously refine our knowledge and maps, as the situation changes on-ground, or as we learn more about elephant movement, or even as we expand our area of interest (like expand to include other landscapes). Vasudev, Varun R Goswami and other scientists at Conservation Initiatives used reports of elephant use outside protected areas. These reports have been systematically collected from people who resided in these landscapes. The scientists incorporated these data into newly developed connectivity models, called Randomised Shortest Path (RSP) models. We asked villagers about elephant presence in their immediate neighbourhood over the past year and recorded this information. We also asked if they had faced human-elephant conflict, in the form of crop loss, or human injury or death, Vasudev said. The RSP models are an improvement on previous ones, she added. Earlier models had assumed that animals chose optimal movement paths based on complete knowledge of the landscape. Others took the line that animals had limited knowledge of their landscape and moved randomly. “This novel model balances these two extremes and is better able to mimic animal behaviour in a realistic manner,” Vasudev said. The research done by Vasudev and her colleagues have a number of firsts to it, according to her. It is the first time that RSP models — a very new advancement in the field of wildlife connectivity — has been applied in India. It is also the first time globally that citizen science data, that are relatively more feasible to collect, have been used with RSP connectivity models, Vasudev claimed. The findings provide data-based evidence for policies that encourage the preservation of wooded areas on private lands. It also strongly emphasises the need to conserve remaining forests and avoid further forest loss.

The report was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Diversity and Distributions.

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