The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), after five decades of the consensus-making process, declared in New York on July 28 that everyone on the planet has the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
The resolution, seen by environment campaigners as a historic move in countering the alarming increase in natural disasters over the last few years, further broadened the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Earlier in 2010, the UNGA adopted a resolution declaring the universal human right to sanitation and clean water, which has prompted countries around the globe to add drinking water protection to their constitutions.
The adoption of the resolution will herald a more vigorous wave of environmentally friendly legislation and regulations, and force international organizations and business enterprises to scale up efforts to ensure a healthy environment for all.This will particularly affect and put more pressure against palm oil as one of the most environmentally sensitive industries.
Even though the resolution is not legally binding for the 193 UN member countries, it lays out the governments’ commitments and catalyst for action and empowers people to challenge and hold governments accountable for their environmental management.
The declaration will spark constitutional changes and stronger environmental laws, with positive implications for air quality, safe and sufficient water, healthy soil, sustainably produced food, green energy, climate change, biodiversity and the regulation of toxic substances.
There are four kinds of impacts the UN resolution will have on Indonesia, notorious for being one of the largest carbon emitters in the world.
First of all, the resolution has created a new norm for global partnerships and multilateral cooperation in achieving healthy and sustainable environmental management. In the absence of adequate national laws, the resolution provides a clear framework to push the government to align with this global agenda.
Many national regulations have been seen by international green campaigners as inadequate to protect the environment. Consumers, market and civil society groups demand more prudent and credible regulations with more stringent parameters and conditions. The resolution also serves as a framework for international cooperation in advancing a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
The UN move is important because in grappling with the triple environmental crisis we are facing—rapid climate change, the loss of biodiversity and pervasive toxic pollution that is killing 9 million people every year—we need transformative changes in society, we need to quickly shift to renewable energy.
The declaration calls for a shift to a circular economy, and we need to detoxify society, and the right to a healthy environment is one of the most powerful tools we have to hold governments accountable.In our case, palm oil is the showcase of a good commodity supportive to sustainable development.
Second, the declaration would provide civil society groups and environmental campaigners more ammunition to challenge ecologically destructive policies and projects and sue governments for ecological damages. It also provides a platform for green organizations to revive anti-palm oil campaign attacks.
The resolution comes at a time when the world is grappling with what environmentalists call a triple climate crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. The resolution comes at a time when the current and future impacts of climate change are increasingly felt worldwide with wildfires growing in size and ferocity, destroying ecosystems, homes and livelihoods
At the national level, declaring a healthy environment a universal human right would allow people to challenge environmentally destructive policies under human rights legislation, which is welldefined in many countries.
The adoption of the UN environmental resolution is also well timed for the ministerial meeting of the Group of 20 Environment and Climate Change Ministerial Meeting on Aug. 31 in Bali. The agenda will include the adoption of resolutions on stopping land degradation, biodiversity loss, integrated and sustainable water management, resource efficiency, circular economy, marine litter, ocean conservation and sustainable finance.
The final communique, which will be issued in the ministerial meeting in Bali later this month, will include resolutions on the acceleration of nationally determined contribution (NDC) implementation, the sustainable transition toward a future of low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate resilience through the utilization of carbon economic value and actions and partnership reinforcement for sustainable marine initiatives. It is noted that despite scepticism on palm oil, the commodity is also seen as a viable crop to support the government in meeting the climate change action plan and target.
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