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    Human rights are at threat from climate change, but can also provide solutions (UN Environment

    October 24, 2019

    Report on Environment 

    Key findings from the report to the United Nations General Assembly by David Boyd- the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. This report was developed with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme as part of our continued partnership with the Rapporteur’s office on advancing environmental rights.

    How climate change infringes on human rights

    Climate change is here, and it is impeding the fulfilment of our rights. The right to life is universally recognized as a fundamental human right, yet, every year, 150,000 premature deaths are being linked to the climate crisis—a number set to increase with rising temperatures.

    Climate-related deaths are caused by extreme weather events, heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, water-borne and vector-borne diseases, malnutrition and air pollution. The climate crisis threatens the right to water and sanitation, contributing to water crises like the one in Bolivia, where glaciers are receding, and water rationing has been required in major cities. At 2°C, 100 million more people are forecasted to face water insecurity.

    The climate emergency also violates the right to health, not only through premature deaths, but also through increased incidences of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, malnutrition, stunting, wasting, allergies, injuries and mental illness. For example, dengue fever is the most rapidly spreading vector-borne disease, with a thirtyfold increase in global incidence that is largely attributable to climate change. According to the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, the climate crisis is the biggest global health threat of the twenty-first century and could reverse five decades of progress in global health, particularly as it endangers the right to food.

    “Climate variability and extremes are among the key drivers behind the recent uptick in global hunger and one of the leading causes of severe food crises. The cumulative effect of changes in climate is undermining all dimensions of food security—food availability, access, utilization and stability,” says the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in its 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World.

    Entire communities, such as Vunidogoloa, Fiji, have been or are in the process of being relocated owing to rising sea levels, coastal erosion, storm surges, salinization and other climate impacts. It is estimated that by 2050, 150 million people or more could be displaced by the impacts of the climate crisis. Over a longer timeframe, entire states are at risk of becoming uninhabitable, including Kiribati, Maldives and Tuvalu. This displacement is threatening the right to a healthy environment.

    Using human rights approaches to inform climate change policies

    The right to a healthy environment is recognized in law by at least 155 Member States. The failure of states to take adequate steps to address climate change may constitute a violation of the right to a healthy environment, as several courts have recognized.

    As detailed in the Safe Climate report, governments have an obligation to take effective measures to mitigate climate change, enhance the adaptive capacity of vulnerable populations and prevent foreseeable loss of life. This includes preventing the potential violation of rights by third parties, especially businesses, as well as establishing, implementing and enforcing laws, policies and programmes to fulfil their citizens’ rights.

    Importantly, the Special Rapporteur calls on wealthy states to contribute their fair share towards the cost of mitigation and adaptation in low-income countries—as countries are not equally responsible—nor affected—by the climate crisis.

    Meanwhile, in his report he also identifies that, as a first step, corporations should comply with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as they pertain to human rights and climate change. Businesses should adopt human rights policies, conduct human rights due diligence, remedy human rights violations for which they are directly responsible, and work to influence other actors to respect human rights.

    Applying a rights-based approach clarifies the obligations of governments and businesses, catalyses ambitious action, highlights the plight of the poorest and most vulnerable, and empowers people to become involved in designing and implementing solutions.

    The human rights obligations related to climate change have been explored by various organizations, including international courts, governments and United Nations human rights bodies. These aforementioned experts, which include David Boyd, have reached two common conclusions: first, climate change and its impacts threaten a broad range of human rights, and second, as a result, states and private actors have extensive human rights obligations and responsibilities.

    (Source : UN environment)

    Link : https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/human-rights-are-threat-climate-change-can-also-provide-solutions

    Plastic alternatives could make marine pollution even worse, report finds

    September 27, 2019

    (CNN)Compostable alternatives to plastic could worsen marine pollution and have other serious environmental impacts, a report from a committee of UK MPs has warned.

    The world has a plastic problem — millions of tons of plastic enter the oceans every year, polluting our seas, littering our beaches and endangering wildlife.
    In an attempt to curb the devastation wreaked on the oceans and on the environment, many businesses and consumers are turning to alternatives to plastic — like biodegradable or compostable packaging.
    But instead of alleviating the problem of pollution, replacing plastic with other materials can still have a disastrous environmental impact, a report released by the UK Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee warned.
    In fact, such alternatives could even increase pollution by making people complacent about their use and disposal, the report released on Thursday suggested. It cited the environmental group Green Alliance, which had raised concerns about evidence that “people are more likely to discard material described as ‘biodegradable’ in the environment, which would make pollution on land and at sea even worse.”
    The report found that consumers were confused about how to dispose of compostable packaging, which could result in contamination of recycling, as well as littering.
    The committee said that materials were being used as substitutes for plastic “without proper consideration of wider environmental consequences, such as higher carbon emissions.”
    In evidence included in the report, Juliet Phillips, ocean campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency stated that “if a biodegradable cup gets into the sea, it could pose just as much of a problem to marine life as a conventional plastic cup.”
    The committee recommended that the UK Government should conduct a review of reusable and refillable packaging systems, and said that the UK government was not putting enough emphasis on reducing plastic food and drink packaging in the first place.
    “We all know that plastic pollution of our rivers and seas is a huge problem. However, replacing plastic with other materials isn’t always the best solution, as all materials have an environmental impact,” said MP Neil Parish, the committee chair.
    “My committee is also concerned that compostable plastics have been introduced without the right infrastructure or consumer understanding about how to dispose of them. Fundamentally, substitution is not the answer, and we need to look at ways to cut down on single use packaging,” he added.
    “All food and drink packaging, whether plastic or another material, has an environmental impact,” the committee found.

    By Amy Woodyatt, CNN

    Updated 1616 GMT (0016 HKT) September 12, 2019

    At least 23 killed and dozens injured as fire consumes Punjab fireworks factory in India

    September 9, 2019

    At least 23 people were killed and dozens injured, some of them seriously, when a powerful blast took place inside a three-storey firecracker factory in Batala town of Punjab on September 4.

    According to eyewitnesses, the blast took place around 3:30 and people came out of their homes when they heard a loud noise.

    The blast was so powerful that it also damaged four nearby buildings which include a Gurudwara, a computer centre and a car garage.

    Located on the Samadh road, the illegal factory was being run in a residential area.The explosion was heard kilometers away, local residents said.

    Some factory workers are still believed to be trapped inside the building rubble. “The immediate priority before the district administration was to rescue the people and to provide medical aid to the people who have been injured” Deputy Commissioner, Gurdaspur Vipul Ujjawal said.

    The factory was also in news in 2017 when one person was killed in a blast. Some local residents claimed that several complaints have been filed with the district administration in the past, asking that the factory be closed down.

    Source : India Today

    Link : https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/was-threatened-with-rape-amity-student-releases-video-alleges-she-was-sexually-harassed-by-injured-student-1596317-2019-09-06

    MPs raise issue of coverage for workers with mental illnesses (Singapore)

    September 5, 2019

    Mental health issues arising from the workplace should be included in the list of occupational diseases covered under the Work Injury Compensation Act, said labour MP Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC).

    He suggested that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) consider expanding the list, which would provide an avenue for employees to claim compensation for such issues, or at least initiate more studies on the effect of workplace mental health issues.

    “Mental health issues arising from work are a real and an ever-present danger at the workplace,” he said yesterday.

    “We can (quibble) about how to label such mental health issues – whether it is an occupational phenomenon or a work-related disease. What is clear, however, is that we need to protect our workers who may be suffering in silence.”

    He was among several MPs who raised the issue of coverage for mental illnesses during the debate on the Work Injury Compensation Bill.

    Nominated MP Anthea Ong suggested providing migrant workers with easy access to counselling services, and a case management rehabilitation programme to help prepare injured workers to return to work in a sustainable manner.

    Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said mental illnesses are covered under the Work Injury Compensation Act as long as they are linked to a work accident.

    He added that in the past five years, three cases of psychological injury arising from work-related accidents were compensated under the Act. All were related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    A total of 13 MPs spoke in support of the Bill, though they raised concerns as well.

    Nominated MP Douglas Foo and Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC) said some provisions like having standardised insurance terms set by MOM will probably lead to higher costs for businesses.

    Mr Foo, who is president of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation and chairman of Sakae Holdings, said standardised insurance coverage, the taking over of all claims processing by insurers and the higher compensation limits may increase insurance premiums.

    “Employers will need to factor this increase into their total business cost. This is especially important in the context of today’s challenging business climate,” he said.

    Mr Zaqy said the work injury compensation insurance market is competitive with 31 insurers operating, so it will be difficult for any insurer to unilaterally raise premiums.

    Average premiums paid per employee insured declined 12 per cent from 2015 to last year despite compensation limits being raised by 20 per cent in January 2016, he said.

    The vast majority of companies already insure all their employees even though they do not need to do so, and only around 25,000 to 30,000 more employees will need to be covered, so companies would not face significantly higher premium costs as a result of the expanded coverage, he added.

    MPs also raised the issue of coverage for self-employed people, and called for more efforts in educating workers – especially low-wage foreign workers – about their rights to compensation.

    (By Joanna Seow)

    Source : https://www.straitstimes.com/politics/mps-raise-issue-of-coverage-for-workers-with-mental-illnesses

    13 feared killed, 58 other injured in explosion at chemical factory in Maharashtra, India

    September 1, 2019
    At least 13 people were killed and 58 others injured in chain explosions of nitrogen gas cylinders at a chemical factory in Maharashtra’s Dhule district today morning, the police said.

    A leaking chemical from a barrel triggered fire which led to serial explosions in the factory at about 9:45 am.

    At least 100 workers were present in the factory at the time of the incident, he added.

    The deafening sound of explosions caused panic in the vicinity prompting many people to rush out of their houses.

    Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has expressed grief over the loss of lives in the explosion and announced Rs. 5 lakh compensation to the families of those killed.

    The factory, Rumit Chemsynth Pvt Ltd, manufactures a chemical used for making medicines.

    Police initially suspected the boiler of the company had exploded, but have found it to be intact.

    The injured have been admitted at the Dhule civil hospital and Shirpur Cottage Hospital.

    At least 13 people were killed and 58 others injured in chain explosions of nitrogen gas cylinders at a chemical factory in Maharashtra’s Dhule district today morning, the police said.

    A leaking chemical from a barrel triggered fire which led to serial explosions in the factory at about 9:45 am, a senior police officer told news agency PTI.

    At least 100 workers were present in the factory at the time of the incident, he added.

    The officer said the rescue operation at the spot is still going on while the blaze has been brought under control.

    Teams of fire brigade, police, State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) are conducting the relief and rescue operations.

    The deafening sound of explosions caused panic in the vicinity prompting many people to rush out of their houses.

    Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has expressed grief over the loss of lives in the explosion and announced Rs. 5 lakh compensation to the families of those killed.

    The factory, Rumit Chemsynth Pvt Ltd, manufactures a chemical used for making medicines.

    The officer said that presence of a number of nitrogen gas cylinders and barrels containing chemicals in the factory increased the severity of the blasts.

    Police initially suspected the boiler of the company had exploded, but have found it to be intact.

    The injured have been admitted at the Dhule civil hospital and Shirpur Cottage Hospital.

    A contingent of Riot Control Police has been deployed at the spot along with local police personnel.

    Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Devendra Fadnavis and took stock of the situation.

    “Anguished to learn about the loss of lives due to explosion at a chemical factory in Maharashtra. Have spoken to Devendra Fadnavis and the state govt is doing everything possible to assist people in need. My condolences with the bereaved families. May injured recover soon,” he tweeted.

    Source : NDTV
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