Rights-Holders & Duty-Bearers

Enhanced participation towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement should ensure representatives to the UNFCCC represent public interest and not private shareholders. The WGC believes that UN processes and agencies must maintain both a coherent understanding and enforcement of the concepts of duty bearers and rights holders. To avoid confusion the term “stakeholder” should be avoided as it implicitly suggests that all non-state actors are homogenous and have equal interest and obligations in ameliorating the impacts of climate change. The reality is that it includes a wide range of groups, ranging from civil society organizations representing individuals who are rights holders but also corporations and other actors representing private economic interests, which may be conflicting with the ultimate goal of the Convention. In that regard, the Women and Gender Constituency would like to raise its concern about the trend in multilateral processes, to concentrate efforts towards private sector ‘solutions’, through attendance and presence within UN negotiations that are responsible for addressing and regulating, inter alia, global problems created by private interests. States are the primary duty bearers and have a duty to regulate corporations and other actors that cause human rights violations, deplete our natural resources or contribute to climate change. In the climate arena, various corporations have irreconcilable contradicting interests: the UNFCCC aims to stabilize GHG concentrations, whereas fossil fuel companies have strong interest in retaining fossil fuel infrastructure in which they have invested and yield large profits. This is a clear conflict of interest that has led to practices currently under legal investigation in certain countries.

For example, in the United States, the website #ExxonKnew, highlights “recent reports that have shown Exxon knew about the threat of climate change decades ago. Yet over the course of nearly forty years, the company has contributed millions of dollars to think tanks and politicians that have done their best to spread doubt and misinformation — first on the existence of climate change, then the extent of the problem, and now its cause”, which has been the cause for investigation.

Scientific studies have found that only 90 oil, coal and gas companies are responsible for almost two thirds of the GHG released since the beginning of the industrial age Promoting the involvement of the private sector without first ensuring its accountability for past emissions and regulating its future actions obscures the complicity of the private sector, particularly large trans-national corporations, in promoting unsustainable and carbon-intensive models of development. Regulation that ensures accountability and transparency of non-state actors, particularly trans-national corporations and public-private partnerships, is critical for achieving sustainable development and solve the climate crisis. We would like to emphasize the necessity of including GHG emissions regulations in the scope of any legally binding instrument concerning the human rights impacts of transnational corporate activity, in particular through the intergovernmental working group mandated by the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 26/9 to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

The UNFCCC should consider the work of the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) when faced with the challenge of producing the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Following an internal review on the conflicts of interest posed by the Tobacco Industry the agency concluded that the presence of the Tobacco Industry in regulatory and intergovernmental processes was indeed a conflict of interest and consequently the convention includes a particular provision that obligates States to protect decision-making processes relating to tobacco “from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry”.

This conflict-of-interest principle should be discussed in the upcoming workshop towards adoption in the context of the climate decision-making processes, where fossil fuel energy sector should be prohibited to take part in climate related decision-making processes.

Enhancement of rights-holders engagement with climate-related decision-making processes

Not-for-profit / civil society organizations include women’s groups, indigenous peoples groups, youth organizations, farmers’ alliances as well as workers representatives. Given Parties obligations to uphold human rights, including through regulating corporations and other actors that cause human rights violations, these ‘rights-based’ Constituencies representing people should be clearly recognized to ensure equitable participation and preservation of rights.

This includes:

Provide funding for effective participation. Funding should be provided for a minimum number of representatives per rights-based constituency to attend and participate in the negotiations. In this process, it should also be taken into account that some CSOs and constituencies have less financial and human resources than others i.e. youth, indigenous peoples, women and gender especially as there are an increasing number of meetings in different parts of the world. Similar, each accredited entity should be allowed additional registration slots in order to ensure equal and balanced representation.

Ensure equal participation in all meetings, with no imbalanced representation. For example, Committee meetings, such as on Technology and Adaptation, occur outside the regular UNFCCC meetings. The Women and Gender Constituency is only given one or two seats (due to lack of resources to regularly attend the meetings) for these outside meetings, while other Constituencies, are allocated upwards of 11 seats, which they presumably can fill. This results in a significant overrepresentation and influence that needs to be carefully reviewed. In this regard, it is also important to note the overall increased representation and influence of business actors across the board.

Apart from the need to analyze the current structure and language for non-Party engagement within the UNFCCC, we also recommends the following concrete, short and long-term suggestions:

Increase timing for intervention slots. Observers should be allotted the same time to give their interventions as Parties. There should be a more flexible approach where each constituency has the possibly to intervene at every session, and on particular agenda items, or at least a certain minimum number of constituencies on a rotating basis. This would make participation and technical inputs much more effective and useful.

Terminate closed meetings. CSOs should be allowed to attend all meetings including high level segments and should be given access to informal groups as well. Providing access to informal groups ensures perspectives in agenda setting and can be done so by allowing a certain minimum number of representatives of each constituency.

Alternative modes of communication. Establish lines of communication between Parties and Observers through an online system that allows for meaningful engagement. Similarly, submissions from Parties and Observers should be published on the same online system in order to ensure coherence and allow for reference between Party submissions and non-Party submissions. There could also be an online consultation system on every agenda item which provides a limited amount of space for input from Parties and Observers.

Side Events. The workshop would benefit from a discussion of innovative approaches to planning side events, a holistic view, from both Parties and Observers, to ensure they are more impactful and effective. Side events are important to all in terms of showcasing new methodologies, approaches and research on climate action. However, a superfluous amount of concurrently occurring events, particularly at COPs, drains the capacity of small delegations, both Parties and Observers. The answer is not necessarily in less opportunity for events, but in more useful formats. For example, the Women and Gender Constituency hosted a ‘Gender-Just Climate Solutions’ side event and week-long exhibition during COP22. Both were well received and successful, however, having the opportunity to deliver one presentation in a Technical Expert Meeting to all Parties could prove a more effective way for input into the process. This is why the Constituency has pushed for the inclusion of such presentations in decisions like the Lima Work Programme on Gender. Similarly, as Parties design the Indigenous Knowledge Platform, ensuring this becomes a technical input into the actual process and not an event on the sidelines will be important.

Showcase climate solutions by rights holder groups. Traditionally, private sector examples of climate solutions have been given precedent within the UNFCCC, without establishing criteria that would ensure the ‘solutions’ meet all the objectives of the Agreement and exclude false or harmful solutions. These events have provided greenwashing opportunities for fossil fuel corporations and diverted governments’ resolutions to radically transform our energy system. As one of the many examples, the French energy company Engie is listed in 10 projects under the Non State Actor zone for Climate Action (NAZCA): Engie currently exploits the most polluting coal mine in the world (Australia) and has recently decided to increase its investments in coal, the most polluting fossil fuel energy.  To counter this alarming trend, the Women and Gender Constituency has prioritized showcasing criteria and examples for ‘real’ gender-just climate solutions since COP21. This initiative has been successful in highlighting the ongoing work of women in addressing climate change – From technical, non-technical and transformational solutions, these initiatives provide valuable examples especially in terms of climate action and implementation. However, this cannot be a standalone initiative. Similar types of solutions and platforms should be encouraged from other rights holder based groups including indigenous peoples and labor movements and could be an important innovation for the COP. Lastly, showcasing just solutions by rights holder groups could further catalyze action on national commitments by engaging Parties .