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29 September 2021 morning

2021 - Fourth part-session Print sitting

Sitting video(s) 1 / 1

Opening of the sitting No. 27

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:42:39

Good morning, everyone, with a slight delay.

I do apologize, but as I understand the political groups are still in meeting addressing some issues I suppose. It means that the attendance at this stage is a little bit low as far as the people in the room are concerned. So, sorry about that for the rapporteurs, specifically for the first one, Simon. But OK, you know how parliaments go. This is not unusual. It's a bit sad, but still, I am just going to ring once more.

Do I have the colleagues.. I see that we now have our four Chairs of the Committees, which is exactly what I waited for to start.

So, dear colleagues, the sitting is open.

We have this morning a joint debate in the context of a very important environmental day. As you know we have seven reports today on our agenda and we also have an event on the issue with high-level people addressing the Assembly at 3 p.m. I hope that many of our colleagues potentially will be able to be with us at 3 p.m. because it is important. We've got Mr. Guterres, we've got the president of Hungary, the speaker of the Italian parliament, the minister of environment of Portugal, a judge of the Court specialized in human rights, we've got the young activists, and I also have a little surprise, but it won't be a surprise if I'll tell you now, in that event. It is important because if the way I see the Committees have taken this work and I want to commend each and every one, the Secretariat, the Chairs and, specifically, the rapporteurs. If we would be able to pass these reports and recommendations it will be really a very important day for the Assembly but also for all of the citizens in our 47 Member States.

Let's now head into the joint debate on four reports of the seven on the theme of environment and climate change.

The first is titled “Anchoring the right to a healthy environment: need for enhanced action by the Council of Europe” (Doc. 15367), for which the rapporteur is Mr Simon MOUTQUIN from the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.

The second report is titled “More participatory democracy to tackle climate change” (Doc. 15351), for which the rapporteur is Mr George PAPANDREOU from the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy.

The third report is titled “Addressing issues of criminal and civil liability for climate change (Doc. 15362), for which the rapporteur is Mr Ziya AL TUNYALDIZ from the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

The fourth report is titled “The climate crisis and the rule of law” (Doc. 15353), for which the rapporteur is Ms Edite ESTRELA from the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. This fourth report has an opinion from the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (Doc. 15354) which will be presented by Mr Boriss CILEVIČS.

So, in order to finish at 1 p.m., the then chair will interrupt the list of speakers at about 12:20 p.m. to allow time for the reply and the vote.

The rapporteurs have 10 minutes in total, of which 7 minutes for your opening remarks and 3 minutes for your reply. The rapporteur for opinion will have 3 minutes.

So, to be clear: 7 minutes to start, 3 minutes to reply. And the rapporteur for opinion Mr Boriss CILEVIČS will have 3 minutes.

Now let's start with the first report.

 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:46:36

I call Mr Simon MOUTQUIN to present the first report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.

I call Mr Moutquin to present the first report.

Join debate: Anchoring the right to a healthy environment: need for enhanced action by the Council of Europe / More participatory democracy to tackle climate change / Addressing issues of criminal and civil liability in the context of climate change / The climate crisis and the rule of law

Mr Simon MOUTQUIN

Belgium, SOC, Rapporteur

09:46:50

Thank you, Mister President.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This summer, a few kilometres from my home, in Court-Saint-Étienne, the village where I studied when I was a schoolboy, the river rose and destroyed hundreds of houses. This summer, a few kilometres away, in Erftstadt, Trooz, Pepinster, Thieu, in the Liège region and in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, 220 people were killed and tens of thousands of others affected in the worst floods our regions have ever seen.

A few hundred kilometres away, in Spain, Greece and Turkey, thousands of hectares of forest went up in smoke, putting the lives of the inhabitants at risk and forcing them to evacuate.

A few thousand kilometres away, in Siberia, an area comparable to half of Germany went up in smoke, while on the other side of the globe, Canadians endured temperatures approaching 50°C.

Colleagues, as you know, these events are only the beginning of the environmental upheaval that awaits us. In fact, they confirm what scientists have been predicting for nearly 50 years. Just this summer, the latest IPCC report once again confirmed the indisputable impact of activities on the climate, announcing that the 1.5°C warming initially forecast for 2040 was to be feared by 2030.

Furthermore, reports on our biodiversity show us that we are on the verge of a sixth mass extinction and, indeed, almost a third of known species are now threatened with extinction. If we needed another figure, in Europe, atmospheric pollution is responsible for more than 700,000 deaths per year, while on a global scale, nearly a quarter of deaths are attributable to climate change.

In the face of these observations, which I could actually multiply again and again, it is becoming clear that all of our fundamental rights are today threatened by ecological crises and that it is urgent to recognise the right to a healthy environment as a right in its own right.

Fifty years ago, the Stockholm Declaration established the interdependence between environmental protection and human rights. Since then, many countries and regions of the world have recognized this right to an autonomous environment, notably the African Charter but also the American Court of Human Rights, not the Council of Europe. Yet in 1953, in the aftermath of the Second World War, our Assembly responded to protect fundamental rights through the European Convention on Human Rights; a few years later, it was the Charter that gave our citizens social and economic rights.

The Council of Europe has always been a beacon for fundamental rights in the world. We cannot allow this light to fade in the face of one of the greatest challenges of this world, of this century: that of living in a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

The Georgian, German, and Greek chairmanships of the Committee of Ministers have all made the environment an absolute priority. The current presidency of our Assembly has also put the anchoring of this right on its agenda.

I now turn to the proposals in the report, which state that today we must create the right to a healthy environment in our legal instruments. The report before you is in fact a kind of panel of solutions to this issue of global warming and climate change. The report and the many others that follow today are a kind of encyclopaedia that we would offer to the Committee of Ministers.

The first tool is the possibility of drafting an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. This protocol would make it possible, on the one hand, to finally include in our legal system a binding tool within States that could be used directly by citizens to prevent and obtain redress against environmental damage; on the other hand, it would make it possible to develop a preventive approach based on eliminating problems before they arise. Finally, it would provide a clear framework for the Court's judges to guarantee environmental rights that are autonomous and no longer based solely on the interpretation of other articles of the Convention. This is known as the ricochet right.

Furthermore, certain elements included in the report take up strong and desirable legal concepts in this protocol: the principle of responsibility, equity, transgenerational solidarity, the principle of prevention, precaution and non-regression and, finally, the protection of nature in case of doubt.

A second proposed mechanism is an additional protocol, this time to the European Social Charter. Unlike civil and political rights, which are individual in nature, most environmental damage has a collective dimension. By extending the application of the Charter to the protection of the right to a healthy environment, it will be possible for organisations to bring environmental claims, which would be a real advance. For example, let us imagine that a territory is polluted: all its inhabitants suffer the consequences. It therefore seems logical and desirable that complaints can be made collectively.

Another tool proposed in this instrument is the "5 P" convention. In addition to the implementation of the protocols, the option of this convention is also part of the desired progress. Indeed, some jurists believe that these green rights do not follow the same logic as civil and political rights or, for that matter, social rights. They call for a specific instrument. The aim of such a convention should be to establish a vision of environmental protection that is not anthropocentric but eco-centric. The principles of prevention and precaution are at the heart of such a convention and would enable this paradigm shift to take place.

Finally, the report also points out that businesses have an important role to play in protecting the environment. Whether we like it or not, businesses are fundamental players in our society and that is why it is crucial that their responsibility for the environment be strengthened.

Today, ladies and gentlemen, we know what our responsibility is in the face of this climate change and environmental upheaval. Denial is no longer a political option. The United Nations, too, has decided to put the right to a healthy environment at the top of its agenda; Ms Bachelet, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded us of this at the opening of the 40th session of the Human Rights Council.

Today, the Council of Europe must have the ambition to play a major role in the preservation of environmental rights in the face of environmental disruption. Our role as an institution that aims to protect 833 million people is to anchor a healthy environment in our legal instruments.

Ladies and gentlemen, for the victims of this summer's climate disasters and others, for the young and not so young who have marched in our streets for months demanding climate justice, for maintaining this biodiversity and these ecosystems that are dying out, for continuing to make Europe a beacon for fundamental rights, in short for the Europe of here, of there, of today and of tomorrow, we must take action.

I thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:53:38

"Thank you, Mr Simon MOUTQUIN, for your report." (spoken in French)

I now call on Mr George PAPANDREOU to present the second report from the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy.

Mr George PAPANDREOU, you have 7 minutes.

Mr George PAPANDREOU

Greece, SOC, Rapporteur

09:53:52

Thank you Mr Chair, dear colleagues,

In 2016, 99 citizens of Ireland were chosen, randomly, by lottery. They were given the power to call on experts, government officials, businesspersons, civil society NGOs and youth organisations. Their task: to come up with recommendations on how to make Ireland a leader in tackling the climate crisis. After extensive democratic deliberation, and almost 2,000 proposals from interested groups, they came up with 13 specific recommendations.

Their work produced innovative ideas around public engagement and profoundly enriched environmental literacy in Ireland. The final report concluded that the State must take a lead role on mitigation, prioritise public transport spending over new roads, tax greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, and stop subsidising peat extraction. Strikingly, 80% of participants said they would be willing to pay higher taxes on carbon-intensive activities. Importantly, the recommendations agreed on were more radical than many politicians expected.

This Irish experiment is only one of many fascinating innovations in participatory and deliberative democracy. Numerous, similar experiments are taking place around Europe, the EU in the Conference for the Future of Europe, the UN for COP 26, and globally. And I strongly support, Mr Chairman, the proposal that the Council of Europe and the EU develop a more permanent citizens' assembly for climate and the future of Europe.

Participative democracy takes its inspiration from ancient Athens and Renaissance Italy. My report documents and evaluates many of these experiments, as well as much of the recent research on what is called the "wisdom of the collective".

Why is this important?

With the Paris Agreement we are asking our societies to undergo long-term adaptation or otherwise face devastating fires, floods, heatwaves, extreme weather, new pandemics and huge migratory flows, huge catastrophes. We must change our means of production, the way we eat and consume, how we build, how we travel; re-think our education, health, water and energy systems.

Dear colleagues,

The transition towards a sustainable society must be socially just, climate justice, fighting the deep inequalities in our society (as discussed yesterday in our colleague Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE's report). It must also be an informed transition, where education, educated citizenship will play a crucial role.

We, as humanity, do have the financial resources. We also have the science to deal with the climate crisis. But no invisible hand will make this transition. It can only be done through the democratic will of our polity. That is why it must also be a democratic transition, one developed and owned by our citizens.

Mr Jürgen Habermas, a great thinker of our times, has said we must “rethink the public sphere”. “Good governance” also means the inclusion of citizens in the decision-making process. With the Covid-19 pandemic a top-down approach seemed to work at the initial stage. Yet as the pandemic continues, we now see that adaptive behaviour needs the participation of all.

And climate catastrophe is not a one-off crisis. It demands long-term adaptation of our societies. We can only do so effectively if we give agency to citizens for their participation, mobilisation, their contribution, innovation, their wisdom and consensus. Indeed I believe that in dealing with these crises either we deepen our democratic practices and guarantee a peaceful transition or we will face conflict, polarisation, violence and authoritarianism.

My report concludes that participatory democracy, when organised well, can contribute to this peaceful transition by: developing a sense of dignity, pride, self-worth, and empowerment as citizens become part of the law-making process; contributing to transparency, greater trust; a legitimacy in politics, building understanding, shared responsibility and ownership of decisions and policies. It can mirror society giving voice to all groups, strata, stakeholders, certainly youth, minorities, providing for decisions with more social cohesion. Active citizenship and organised debate can address contentious issues beyond partisanship and polarisation, hate speech or fake news; building a national debate, it reclaims the public space from the domination of digital giants that have created a false sense of empowerment – particularly for our younger generation. That creates frustration.

It also builds a healthy relationship between citizens and scientists or experts – which we have seen is critical during this pandemic.

Finally, a striking conclusion from our hearings is that collective decision-making, collective wisdom, most often comes up with better results, better policy decisions than a highly qualified expert would, alone. So when we say “in people we trust’’, we can trust that the wisdom of the collective can better guide our decision-making process.

However, deliberative and participative practices documented in my report will only be effective if they visibly influence power and the power structures. Good politics, yes, is innovative, imaginative politics. But democracy and participative democracy is not simply a technique. It must be guided by a philosophy, a culture, and a value system: the values of democratic rule, human rights and the rule of law.

I propose that we help our member States to be able to use these techniques, but also this philosophy, in bringing more agency to our citizens in dealing with climate change, which I believe is the only way that we will be able to deal with this grave crisis.

Thank you very much.

 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:59:58

We now move to Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ.

I call on you, dear colleague, to present the third report from the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

You have 7 minutes.

Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ

Turkey, NR, Rapporteur

10:00:12

Dear President, Dear Colleagues,

It's a great pleasure for me to take part in this unprecedented all-day debate on issues related to the environment and human rights, the rule of law, and democracy. Given a global climate emergency, I can only command the Assembly and his President's initiative to give priority to this topic and to organise this debate a month ahead of the Glasgow COP26.

As rapporteur of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, I have focused on issues related to States' criminal and civil liability in the context of climate change. Let me first address the recognition of States' legal responsibility for climate change at national, European, and international levels began with the signing of the UN Framework Convention on climate change in 1992.

While human rights law may prove useful in this field, other areas of law including civil law, criminal law, and constitutional law have played an increasingly important role in climate litigation. For example, in the Dutch Urgenda case, national courts ordered the state to fulfil its duty of care and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to protect students, right to life and right to respect for private and family life. Last May, the German Federal Constitutional Court delivered a judgment comparable to the Urgenda one but more far-reaching. Individuals and NGOs have also involved climate change liability in cases against companies in other European countries. For example, last May in the Netherlands a lower court of The Hague ordered Shell to reduce their carbon emissions by 45%.

Nevertheless, while climate change law suits have become more commonplace in the 21st century, an important legal argument is used against these developments: climate change is damaging to all, but no-one in particular. This means that the victims and those responsible must be named, which gives an incentive to further invoke the provisions of criminal and civil liability. Therefore, due to the global nature of climate change, the topic of liability must also be addressed at European level.

So far, two Council of Europe conventions, aimed at reinforcing the responsibility for damage to the environment have been adopted. The 1998 Convention on the protection of the environment through criminal law and in 1993 Convention on civil liability for damage resulting from activities dangerous to the environment. The convention on the protection of the environment through criminal law was the first binding international convention dedicated to harmonising criminal law and environmental issues including the issue of environmental offences. It sought to develop a framework for sanctioning environmental criminality at European and national level, which is important considering that environmental pollution does not stop at national borders.

Unfortunately, it has never entered into force as it has received only one ratification. This might be due to the fact that the existence of stand-alone criminal offences, which are defined in the convention and are completely separate from administrative law, was problematic in domestic legal systems. Moreover, the adoption of the EU member States of directive 2008/99/EC on the protection of environment through criminal law might have overshadowed the convention at that specific time.

As regards the conventional civil liability for damages resulting from activities dangerous to the environment, it aims at providing for adequate compensation for damage resulting from activities which are dangerous to the environment. One of the core features of the convention is "the polluter pays" principle. Unfortunately, the convention has not been ratified by any council member States yet, my dear colleagues.

In my report, I have reflected on how the authorities can be given renewed attention by Council of Europe member states as regards the convention on the protection of the environment through a criminal law. It should be replaced as soon as possible by a legal instrument, better adapted to the current challenges and better defining environmental offences and sanctions.

In this context, I welcome the establishment by the European Committee on Climate Problems of the working group on the environment and criminal law in November 2020. The working group has already had two meetings and has recently decided to prepare a feasibility study in order to assess whether the convention on the protection of the environment through a criminal law shall be replaced by a new legal instrument. As for criminal liability, States could also consider introducing the crime of ecocide in their national criminal legislation, as well as recognising universal jurisdiction for ecocide as well.

Concerning civil liability, member States of the Council of Europe should ratify the convention on civil liability for damage resulting from activities dangerous to the environment and take necessary measures to adapt it to the current challenges in particular through amending its appendix 1 and dangerous substances. They could also strengthen civil liability for environmental damage by amending national civil law legislation, in particular by adding specific provisions on responsibility for ecological harm and/or by expanding the scope of [unintelligible word] liability in some specific situations.

To conclude, my dear colleagues, as many consequences of climate change are irreversible, one needs to focus on deterrence and corrective justice in order to adopt instruments that prevent, correct, and compensate for the damage caused by climate change. Therefore, relevant recommendations are included in draft resolution and draft recommendation proposed in my report.

In the draft resolution, I call on the Council of Europe member States to re-inforce terminal and civil liability for acts and omissions that might have an impact on climate change in particular by ensuring access to preventative and compensatory remedies. I also call on States to allow NGOs to launch climate litigation proceedings against state and private entities and to ensure effective access to appropriate information and environmental matters to the public and to strengthen corporate liability by requiring companies to detail their activities affecting the environment.

As regards to the draft recommendation, I proposed that the Assembly invite the Committee of Ministers to reflect on whether there is a need to revise or replace the two Council of Europe conventions on environment protection. The Committee of Ministers could also prepare a study on the notion of the ecocide and another one on national climate education.

I hope that the Assembly will support the proposals, and I thank you for your good attention.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:08:09

Thank you very much.

Maybe we will subtract a couple of seconds from your reply because you went over time.

I now call upon Ms Edite ESTRELA, rapporteur for fourth the report.

You have the floor, 7 minutes.

Ms Edite ESTRELA

Portugal, SOC, Rapporteur

10:08:31

Mister President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to warmly thank and congratulate my fellow rapporteurs today. This historic day marks the return of the environment to the heart of the Council of Europe's mandate. This is excellent news for our Organisation.

Today, we are making a strong statement: the climate crisis is at the heart of our concerns. The young people who are tirelessly demonstrating for the climate have asked us to do so. We have heard their anger; we know their frustration with representative democracy and share their concern.

Indeed, we have taken far too long. We have eight years left, according to the IPCC, to change everything.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr António GUTERRES, said as recently as last week before the General Assembly:

"We are on the edge of a precipice and we are getting closer. We see the warning signs on every continent and in every region: scorching temperatures; appalling loss of biodiversity; pollution of air, water and natural areas; and climate-related disasters at every turn. Let's face it: we are morally guilty of the state of the world we live in."

These harsh but realistic words deserved no less than a first full day of debate in this House.

Our commitments against global overheating are set in stone with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Our countries have joined the global consensus.

We can no longer make promises and pay lip service. This is a serious moment. Of course, it is not too late provided that we accept the urgency. Our countries cannot remain ambiguous. It is no longer possible to limit ourselves to banning plastic cups while continuing to pollute as if nothing had changed. Today, that is no longer enough. We have an opportunity to rethink our societies, and we must seize this chance.

Let's not get hung up on false technological promises either, because they may not live up to expectations. It is time to adapt and build resilience into our societies. We must move towards the preferred target of 1.5°C to limit temperature increase. We must also adopt the goal of "net zero emissions". These decisions will involve efforts that we know about.

After more than 20 years of international negotiations and warnings from scientists, we feel the threat ahead. We must avoid the overheating that could make our planet unlivable by 2100. The decade that began in 2020 will be crucial.

Colleagues, as parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to meet the challenge of the climate crisis. The possibility of a dark scenario remains. We must ensure that institutions work, that they are based on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We must work together and put pressure on governments to uphold our countries' international commitments.

Today, colleagues, you will be voting on my report on the climate crisis and the rule of law. The report was initially intended to be an opportunity to consider all the tools available to the Council of Europe to build climate resilience. Some have been effective, others less so. What is certain is that our Organisation has been in the vanguard on climate. The Council of Europe has perhaps not always had the resources to match its ambitions in this area, due to a lack of political will. I have also sought to explore new and creative solutions led by strong and captivating personalities who have chosen to be agents of change at the heart of civil society.

We must see the climate crisis as an opportunity for our Organization and our countries to adapt and to support the change in attitudes. This is the meaning of the Council of Europe's action, which it has been doing for more than 70 years. It was the Council that had made the death penalty impossible and had challenged many behaviours until they became unacceptable to all our communities.

The resource that must be available is political will. It is up to us, as parliamentarians, to ensure that it exists throughout society, in our communities, in the entire administration, in all sectors.

Colleagues, changing mindsets and preparing for climate resilience will be difficult and time consuming. Inspired by the successes of our Assembly, I wanted this report to propose the formation of a network around a group of motivated and committed colleagues.

We know that there will be no simple answers to the challenges we face. We must explore together all the solutions available to us. To do this, we must share, experiment and act together. We must do this to avoid intergenerational conflict.

In this period of instability, the Council of Europe remains a watchdog. It must do its part to ensure that the weakest are not the first victims of the effects of the climate crisis and the consequences of the changes undertaken. More than ever, the Council of Europe, together with member States, must support the capacity of our national institutions to resist threats and anticipate a profoundly transformed society. The role of parliamentarians will be essential.

Once again, I would like to thank Mr Simon MOUTQUIN, Mr George PAPANDREOU, Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ, Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ and Mr Olivier BECHT, and Mr Rik DAEMS for their commitment, which made it possible to put the environment back at the heart of our work. Together, we have decided to give the climate threat the importance it deserves for us and for our children.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:16:28

I now call upon a good friend Mr Boriss CILEVIČS, Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, to present the opinion of his Committee.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Rapporteur for opinion

10:16:43

President, dear colleagues,

The report of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development presented by Ms Edite ESTRELA rightly focuses on the threats to the rule of law related to climate crisis and the latest developments concerning tackling this phenomenon at European level.

It focuses on Council of Europe's existing instruments which might prove useful in promoting climate resilience while ensuring the respect for the rule of law, democracy and human rights.

Moreover, its idea to establish under its auspices a parliamentary network should be welcomed.

In the meantime, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has proposed some amendments to further strengthen the draft resolution and draft recommendation. In particular, it is necessary to stress the role of the European Court of Human Rights case law on States' positive obligation in environmental cases. This case law is already quite substantial and is growing fast.

Moreover, we propose to add more detailed references to the notion of the rule of law, on which the Assembly has reflected in detail in its resolution 1594 of 2007 on the principle of the rule of law and in resolution 2187 of 2017 on the Venice Commission's rule of law checklist.

Although there is no clearly established and widely accepted definition of this concept, the Venice Commission has agreed that it should be defined by its ingredients which are listed in its 2011 report on the rule of law and the 2016 rule of law checklist. As these are the most recent documents of a Council of Europe expert body dealing with the issue, the Assembly shall refer to them.

Some other proposed amendments aim at adding some legal and terminological clarifications and to promoting co-operation with other international organisations.

As far as I have been informed, our proposals have been positively received by the Reporting Committee. I hope that the Assembly will support the report by Ms Edite ESTRELA including also amendments tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

Thank you, President.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:19:23

Thank you very much.

That concludes the introduction by the rapporteurs.

May I call to Vice-President Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO to take over and to manage the speakers on behalf of the political groups followed by the list of speakers. 

Thanks again on my behalf and on behalf of the Assembly for the enormous work that you have been doing, also the colleagues in the afternoon, but I think it is true that if we get through all of this, we will be living a – I guess – a historic moment.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:20:42

Dear colleagues,

We continue our work. We have a list of speakers. The first speakers are on behalf of the political groups.

I call first Mr Frédéric REISS from France, please.

Mr Frédéric REISS

France, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

10:21:01

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen, rapporteurs,

On behalf of the EPP Group, I would first like to thank you all for your respective insights into the various aspects of the impact of climate change on human rights.

The successive disasters that have occurred this summer have shown – if it were still necessary – that this subject is a priority. Floods, landslides, heatwaves, fires, hurricanes: all regions of the world are now affected, and the fight against climate change is obvious.

The target to be reached was set by the Paris Agreement, which came into force in 2016. We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The impact of these extreme phenomena on migration is already proving difficult for our populations to bear. The increase in inequalities that they induce is just as worrying.

We must frame our thinking within the framework of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It is an honour for our Assembly to debate these issues today, just a few weeks before COP26.

We agree with the conclusions of the rapporteur in her report on the climate crisis and the rule of law when she stresses, in paragraph 6 of the draft resolution, the importance of the role of parliaments. I believe that a citizens' convention alone cannot replace parliamentary or even inter-parliamentary debates. The idea of a parliamentary network is very interesting.

However, we are more circumspect about the proposals made by our rapporteur in his report on "Anchoring the right to a healthy environment (...)" in the international legal order. Of course, the idea of drawing up specific additional protocols to the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter on this subject may seem attractive. However, this type of process, which by definition would come up against multiple and opposing interests, might never succeed. The urgency of the situation calls for a more pragmatic approach in the search for efficiency. From this point of view, the elaboration of a non-binding instrument on the obligations of States with regard to climate and environmental protection could be useful and complementary to existing commitments.

This approach would be more of a signal or a symbol, it is true, but it would have the advantage of being able to be developed quickly and to achieve consensus fairly quickly. It is important to open up the field of possibilities.

The task of combating climate change is immense, but we have an obligation to take up this challenge if we want to pass on a liveable planet and a healthy environment to our children.

We will vote for all the resolutions and recommendations proposed this morning.

I thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:24:14

Thank you.

Now I call Ms Liliana TANGUY from France.

Ms Liliana TANGUY

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

10:24:22

Thank you, Mr President.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The floods and fires that have ravaged Europe this summer remind us that our continent is no less vulnerable to the consequences of climate change and that there is an urgent need for action. In this respect, we must welcome President DAEMS's determination to put the environment and human rights at the top of our Assembly's political agenda.

This joint debate enables us to address the issue of the right to a healthy, safe and sustainable environment from different angles, based on several very rich reports and accompanied by many avenues of work to ensure that the Council of Europe provides a response that is equal to the challenges facing future generations of Europeans. We want to be leaders in this field.

The ALDE Group shares the conclusions of the rapporteurs and will support them. The question now is to explore the possible deliverables proposed in these reports. Which instruments will be able to truly anchor the right to a healthy environment, to gather the broadest political support necessary to protect this global public good and to enter into force within a reasonable timeframe, given the climate and environmental urgency?

The ambitious option would be to launch a vast project around new additional protocols to the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter, and other "5P" type conventions on environmental threats and health risks.

On a narrower scope, and in the shorter term, the proposal for a revision and revitalisation of the 1998 Convention on the Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law deserves our full attention. An update that would allow this Council of Europe instrument to enter into force could take place in the near future and enable our judicial systems to punish the most serious environmental offences in an effective and unified manner throughout the continent.

Our discussions come at an opportune moment, just a few weeks before the closing of the World Democracy Forum, on 8 and 10 November in Strasbourg, on the theme of "Democracy for the environment". Through the Citizens' Climate Convention, France itself has successfully experimented with an exercise in participatory democracy involving 150 citizens chosen at random who formulated 149 concrete proposals on the basis of which the so-called "Climate and Resilience" Act was voted on last August. This Act contains no fewer than 300 articles designed to contribute to the European objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 - in a spirit of social justice, of course. And this French law, for which I was the rapporteur for observation, creates, in particular, new offences of endangering the environment and ecocide.

So today, the committees of our Assembly and the Council of Europe are urging us to take action for the climate: it is now up to us to be the leaders that humanity and the planet expect.

I thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:27:28

Thank you very much.

Now I call Ms Nigar ARPADARAI from Azerbaijan.

Ms Nigar ARPADARAI

Azerbaijan, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

10:27:38

Dear colleagues,

I thank you all for this timely discussion. Let me draw your attention to a few critical points that I believe should guide us as parliamentarians in further steps in this important direction.

First, the global green agenda means a lot of changes: regulatory, technological, behavioural. It switches on the marathon of law-making; new regulations in all countries and developing international covenants which will support and promote new environmental standards. It is absolutely clear that humanity needs to stop polluting the planet. But how do we make sure that these new regulations do not become toys in the hands of the rich and the powerful, against the weak and the poor?

New ecological standards will mean more expensive entry tickets into industries. What should we do in order to make sure that it's not going to be hijacked by large transnational conglomerates as opposed to small and medium businesses? Large companies own R&D; they run this through complex and expensive licensing and maintenance schemes which are unaffordable for smaller entities.

This question does not only apply to commercial entities. How do we make sure that this agenda is not being abused by rich countries who have more access to capital and modern technologies in order to create a competitive edge over poorer countries? Is there even the slightest risk that the green agenda – however good and benevolent its goals are – may turn into a tool for inequality among nations?

The answer is obvious. Yes, there is such a risk.

To avoid it, there should be fair rules for access to technology and financing for the green technologies across wider Europe and across the globe. We should make sure that this point is well heard. There's also a vital human dimension to the above - just like with countries, how do you make sure that this massive change in how we live, produce, consume does not reflect in the lack of affordability of goods and services for the poor?

Another dimension is education. There should be a clear explanation of what measures, changes of laws and standards mean. Small businesses should be educated well in advance of any upcoming or planned changes and their practical consequences. It will give them time to adapt. We should promote more affordability of green solutions for SMEs.

Dear colleagues, at every step of this process we should do sanity checks of what is being suggested and also diligence throughout, in order to make sure that we are not being manipulated. The new world contains both challenges and opportunities. We have to make sure that the poor and the vulnerable are protected and prepared. After all this is our job as parliamentarians - to make sure that justice and equality is ensured.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:30:30

Thank you.

Now I call Ms Mai KIVELÄ from Finland.

Ms Mai KIVELÄ

Finland, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

10:30:38

Mr President, dear colleagues.

This is my first time and my first speech here at the Palais.

First of all, there are no human rights on a dead planet. Without safeguarding the environment, we will not be able to advance human rights or any other progressive politics. Also people in Europe have seen how the right to a safe environment is being compromised through floods, droughts and wildfires. If we fail our environment, we fail to protect our human rights.

This is crystal clear to an environmental refugee forced to leave home and to a farmer who is losing his yield. So it needs to be clear to us as well.

Environmental rights also mean that people can have their say on environmental issues and have the right to demand environmental justice. It includes rights such as access to information, citizens' participation in this decision-making, and accountability. Leaders need to be accountable if failing to put environmental action forward.

People should be entitled to have more ways to participate. These areas are well covered in the reports and I thank all the rapporteurs for their work. The environmental rights are part of a new generation of human rights and now it is our responsibility to give meaning to it.

The first report suggests that the Council of Europe should adapt its legal framework accordingly, including anchoring the environmental rights into the European Convention on Human Rights. Our group strongly supports the view and now is the time to put these ideas into action.

We also need to look at the course of the environmental crisis which is our unsustainable economic system that demands the overconsumption and exploitation of nature. We need to hold companies accountable for environmental destruction and at the same time put a stop on the ongoing massive greenwashing. Also better protection of the rights of environmental human rights defenders whose lives are in danger is needed.

I would also like to remind us that in the context of ecological crisis, the anthropocentric approach is problematic in itself. We should have legal mechanisms which would better reflect that we respect other species as well. If we want to be pioneers in advancing the right to life, we need to acknowledge that also non-human species should have rights that are relevant to them, so a holistic approach that puts the rights of all living beings before profit is needed.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:33:47

Thank you.

Let me too congratulate you on your first speech and wish you many many more excellent speeches in the hemicycle.

Now I call Mr Fourat BEN CHIKHA from Belgium.

Mr Fourat BEN CHIKHA

Belgium, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

10:33:59

Thank you Mr Chair.

Dear colleagues,

First of all I want to congratulate all the rapporteurs, especially my dear colleague from Belgium, Mr Simon MOUTQUIN, for his excellent work.

Colleagues,

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs but not every man's greed.

Environmental protection is still inadequately guaranteed to this day. The right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment should be self-evident, but that is unfortunately not the case. Your environment should not cause you harm or illness, nor should people be displaced from their homes as a result of a climate crisis. The environment should therefore be the priority at the top of everyone's agenda because it concerns every one of us.

The climate marches remind us that the next generation demand and want a future; one that is not under constant threat. Young people today share that a lack of perspective for the future makes them question whether they would even bring children into this world. They are afraid to put the next generation into a world that is bleeding, a planet that can no longer take it. I understand their concerns.

But colleagues, we must not given into fatalism. We can tackle these challenges if we act now.

This report advises a road map for actions so we need to move forward and work together as member States to prevent and prosecute violations of the right to a safe, clean and healthy environment.

The environment does not stop at our national borders. The fight against the climate crisis is a global one and therefore, more than ever, we need cooperation. As its concerns every single one of us I believe we all share the same interest in leaving behind a better planet for our children, for our loved ones.

Colleagues,

Let us not wait until the last tree has died, and the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish have been caught, to realise we cannot eat money.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:36:19

Thank you.

Now we continue with the list of speakers. I call Ms Marina BERLINGHIERI from Italy.

Ms Marina BERLINGHIERI

Italy, SOC

10:36:29

Thank you, President.

The climate crisis is exacerbating global inequalities, both in terms of access to environmental resources and in the cost of reducing emissions, accentuating migration, triggering famines, pandemics and increasingly frequent humanitarian emergencies.

Strong and urgent multilateral joint action is therefore needed to ensure that access to fundamental rights and to a healthy and safe environment is more equitably shared among regions, countries, different generations and individuals.

The climate crisis exacerbates the effects of other ongoing crises and represents a systemic danger also for societies and institutions. Fair access to environmental resources is a guarantee of geopolitical stability. We must arrive very quickly at the definition of a new, universally recognised concept of environmental law.

It is essential that each institution, from national parliaments to multilateral international institutions, makes its contribution in the knowledge that, as our children tell us, "the time for talk is over". We must be brave. Supporting the work of the Council of Europe today can make a difference.

Thank you.

 

 

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:37:41

Thank you.

Now I call Mr François CALVET from France, who will join us online, please.

No. We move on.

Now I call Ms Serap YAŞAR from Turkey.

Ms Serap YAŞAR

Turkey, NR

10:38:10

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

Climate change is impacting human life and health in many ways. This summer alone, severe heat waves have caused hundreds of deaths in the United States and Canada, floods have devastated Germany and China, and there have been serious forest fires in Siberia, Turkey and Greece.

As climate change intensifies, it is more than necessary to highlight its impacts. I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ, for a high-quality report that touches on unexplored legal territory.

Climate litigation could play an immense role in deterring environmental crimes and in ensuring the legal liability of perpetrators. However, as environmental crimes are generally international in nature, international co-operation is essential to devise effective legal instruments and remedies to address them.

The rapporteur rightly stresses the need to introduce a unified criminal law mechanism establishing common definitions of criminal offences and associated sanctions, including dissuasive financial penalties. This report is a step in the right direction to encourage member States to take the necessary measures without delay.

The current wave of climate litigation shows that the number of cases in Europe and worldwide is increasing. In this context, the Council of Europe should play a leading role in the development of international standards for climate litigation. This report successfully serves as an example of how to deal with this new area of law, which deserves our full attention due to the intensification of climate change.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:40:44

Thank you very much.

Now I call Mr Dimitri HOUBRON from France.

Mr Dimitri HOUBRON

France, ALDE

10:40:52

Thank you, Mr President.

Rapporteurs, colleagues,

We must have the honesty to recognise that the current health circumstances do not make it easy for an awareness of the climate crisis to take root.

On the one hand, in the face of the epidemic outbreak, the majority of governments have had to take measures to restrict individual and collective freedoms, such as lockdown. Radical decisions that are forcing states to slow down the implementation of new environmental measures. Indeed, many national stakeholders too often equate environmental public policies with liberticidal measures. The surcharge on certain vehicles, the ban on building in certain areas, the debates on the frequency of and reasons for air travel: poorly explained or imposed without consultation, these measures are strongly rejected because they call into question fundamental rights such as the right to property or freedom of movement.

On the other hand, the gradual end of the health crisis has motivated states to revive their economies as quickly as possible, sometimes to the detriment of environmental regulations. The report, moreover, mentions the example of the former US administration, which had all federal environmental prosecution cases dropped.

These facts remind us that the desire to pit the environment against the rule of law and economic and social well-being remains tenacious. Our goal is to demonstrate, more than ever, in the wake of this health crisis, that defending the environment can safeguard our rights and improve our living conditions.

Countries like France have based their economic recovery plan on the ecological transition. Thus, out of a global budget of 100 billion euros, 30 are allocated to aid for the thermal insulation of housing, the acquisition of clean vehicles or support for small and medium-sized enterprises.

It is up to us to demonstrate that the fight against the climate crisis can be based on the preservation of rights, but also that climate change threatens our rights. As Amnesty International reminds us, climate change threatens our right to life, our right to health, our right to housing and our right to access to water. In fact, it is the climate crisis that threatens our model of the rule of law.

The Council of Europe could take initiatives based on this analysis, in consultation with the European Union institutions. The aim would be to develop a common body of law that could serve as a model and source of inspiration for member states wishing to embark on the ecological transition, while avoiding infringement of fundamental freedoms such as freedom of enterprise. We could also build on this by establishing frameworks, plans and quantified environmental targets that give governments the flexibility to do so.

Although the last eighteen months have been difficult, I believe that a real awareness has taken root. The United States has returned to the Paris Agreement and the epidemic crisis has demonstrated our ability to break away from the mainstream. Let us continue to learn the lessons and pursue our collective efforts.

I thank you all.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:43:57

Thank you very much. [spoken in French]

I call now Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND from Hungary.

Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND

Hungary, EC/DA

10:44:06

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear colleagues,

The speed and extent of environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, and the climate crisis that directly impact on human health, dignity, and life are highly concerning developments, as we have heard. As the European continent's leading human rights and rule of law organization, the Council of Europe should stay proactive and adapt its legal framework accordingly to stand up for the right to a safe, clean, and sustainable environment.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it is highly important not to forget that the environmental situation on Earth is getting more and more serious and is becoming one of the biggest challenges facing the planet. The Hungarian government and our president, Mr János Áder, who is coming here today, are doing everything in their power to reach these goals of a sustainable environment. That is why environmental challenges is one of the five priorities that Hungarian presidency is focusing on. The Hungarian government launched its national clean development strategy to reach the target to be a climate neutral state by 2050. This deadline has also been enshrined in law. Hungary reduced carbon emissions by 32% in 20 years, this achievement puts the country in the top three European Union emissions slashers.

All this time, our economic growth is unprecedented. In five years, the capacity of Hungary's solar power plants increased tenfold. The aim is that 90% of the electricity generated in Hungary would be carbon free by 2030.

Dear colleagues, the main question is: who will pay the cost of climate change? We believe that large polluters, such as multinational companies, should bear the cost of climate protection. Our government considers it especially important to help the poorest households and care for the workers affected by the transition process. Climate change is a local, national, regional, and global challenge, which requires everyone to pay their part. Europe cannot solve this problem on its own, but we can show a good example for the world.

However, a great transition can only be achieved with widespread social support. That's why our government promotes individual and social responsibility and social participation. In Hungary, sustainability is part of the school curriculum which helped participatory democracy to tackle climate change.

To sum up, I support that the Council of Europe should stay proactive and should contribute with proposals for further discussions and legislation in the national and European context.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:46:36

Thank you very much.

I call Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE from Turkey.

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC

10:46:42

Thank you very much.

Clearly without a healthy environment we are unable to even live at a level commensurate with minimum standards of human dignity and we face a deep crisis in this regard: a crisis of climate, a catastrophic level of global heating. And clearly it is important to properly frame the issue at stake in order to properly identify the policy response to be taken. 

The risks are very high. The destruction of wild spaces facilitates the emergence of zoonotic diseases. We are prone to new pandemics. Air pollution reduces quality of health and lowers life expectancy. Biodiversity loss compromises the nutritional value of food and it also reduces the scope and efficacy of medicines.

Most importantly, a lack of effective legal regulation and enforcement of industrial and artisanal mining, large-scale dams, deforestation, domestic water and sanitation systems – heavily polluting industries – lead to a host of economic destruction but most importantly human rights violations. And in order to overcome such violations, clearly we need to adapt our legal frameworks and we need to change our economic model, making sure we embrace the new needs of human rights.

And clearly all reports we're voting for today are part of this holistic and complementary approach that we have just described, which includes ensuring that participatory new processes and practices are established for a true democratic process, where deliberation will ensure full participation, full voices being heard, but most importantly, that those voices actually become policies.

We also need to ensure that we have a proper legal framework set in our rule of law frameworks to enshrine a rights-based framework, which is much needed for a just transition.

We do not just seek to transition, we seek that it is fair and equitable. We need to make sure that our organisation has our conventions to provide for an umbrella framework that is much needed for the democratic and legal processes to be effective in solution of a global issue. And these conditions are set up through four very critical resolutions that we will be voting for today and we should strongly support them.

I would like to end by reminding you, as the Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on the European Social Charter, what we are speaking of today is also very relevant for our social rights. Therefore, we should hold on to our Charter. These social rights – the right to protection of health, the right to protection against poverty, the right to housing – are strongly related to the right to a healthy environment.

I support that idea that draft additional protocols to the Convention and the Charter be actually the next step we take, and I support and congratulate all rapporteurs.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:49:56

Thank you.

Now I call Mr Corneliu-Mugurel COZMANCIUC from Romania.

Mr Corneliu-Mugurel COZMANCIUC

Romania, EPP/CD

10:50:06

Thank you Mr President, dear colleagues,

I would like to begin by stressing that protection and promotion of the human rights rooted in human dignity for a healthy and sustainable planet are interdependent.

It is important that the Council of Europe Member States acts as a credible and reliable partner of the global stage through to the adoption of training and implementation of legislation - with a comprehensive human rights-based approach to climate action.

The mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment pushes for a global recognition of the right to live in a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

As a human right, it is very important and we need to support the global recognition of this right.

This recognition should serve as a catalyst for stronger environmental policies, improved law enforcement, public participation in environmental decision-making, access to information on justice and for better outcomes for people on the planet.

I believe that in creating the human right to a healthy environment in key environmental agreements and once processed, is critical to a holistic response to Covid-19 that includes our reconceptualisation of the relationship between people and nature that will reduce risk and prevent future harm in environmental degradation.

The global Covid-19 pandemic perfectly illustrates the impact of environmental degradation in creating the conditions for an increase of severe health, social, economic, and political consequences.

I express my deep concern that a global recession caused by Covid-19 might further delay the commitment to international climate objectives and human rights standards.

This is why we can no longer wait to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:52:09

Thank you.

Now I call Ms Margreet De BOER from the Netherlands.

Ms Margreet De BOER

Netherlands, SOC

10:52:19

Thank you, Chair.

Humanity stands at a crossroads. Scientific evidence shows that the destruction of ecosystems and current rates will have catastrophic consequences for our environments. This directly impacts human health, dignity and life. The resolutions under discussion today guide the way for future approaches to the climate crisis. In this, they encompass several route towards progress: international legal standards, political action and more grassroots approaches of participatory democracy.

It is evident that legal developments can contribute to the protection of our earth. In the Netherlands, we have seen a clear example of this with the Supreme Court of the Netherlands issuing a landmark decision in the case of a Urgenda versus the State, confirming that the Dutch government had acted unlawfully in taking insufficient action to prevent dangerous climate change. The state was ordered to immediately reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The message suggested in the resolutions on the right to a healthy environment and on criminal and civil liability, will support individuals in holding states accountable for their environmental obligations and will enable stronger standards for corporate responsibility. This is necessary.

In addition, I believe that we should broaden our view towards these legal standards. The climate crisis does not only impact individuals but has a strong effect on groups of people, think of, for example, of people living in hard-hit areas. In this frame, it could be beneficial to investigate and the possibilities for creating a collective complaint procedure regarding the right to healthy environments.

Also, the climate crisis is not only a crisis of our current generation. The action we do or do not take will have an enormous impact on the Earth that future generations will inherit from us. Therefore, I also believe it is important that we consider the legal possibilities to serve this interest of future generations.

The importance of collective impacts of the climate is well reflected in the report on participatory democracy. As a global issue that touches on all lives, the solutions to climate change also need to be rooted in broad support and understanding, including measures of participatory democracy in climate policy making would be a good way to ensure their support as well as combat the misinformation, mistrust and apathy that often dominate public climate debate.

Let me end with thanking all the rapporteurs for their important reports.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:55:24

Thank you very much.

Now I call Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO from Ukraine.

Please.

Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:55:35

Thank you, Chair.

I want to refer to everyone who is in this home to ask you to think. We here are talking about environment, but isn't it our task to think about the effect of that environmental change and threats to our lives and human rights? Is it our task here or not to actually make our member States be responsible for that damage that states and different companies can do to the environment? Can we impose new rules, maybe, to those states that really violate the rules around environment?

Of course, I want to mention such very loud projects, for example Nord Stream 2 and the threat that it causes to ecosystem of the Baltic Sea. I'm not talking just about political consequences, but the environment. The same about the construction of the Belarus nuclear plant that is only 45 kilometres from Vilnius Lithuania and is built against all international standards in the field of environment production, and is unsafe.

Also, if we talk about Crimea that is annexed and occupied, the Kerch Bridge that was built, shall we look at the numbers of how many species were killed and died after that? How much damage it cost to the flora and fauna? What about the militarization and how many trees have died after that?

Unfortunately, I have an impression that the states that really violate these rules are not interested in life they are interested sometimes as, for example, in occupied Crimea, the Russian authorities are now interested in having a land that has no life and no fauna and flora. This is very sad. To protect that and to change that, I really think we need to think about the new rules that we all can impose on an interstate level.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:58:08

Thank you.

And now I call Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN from the Russian Federation. He will join us online.

Please, Mister Aleksandr.

Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN

Russian Federation, NR

10:58:19

Good morning, distinguished colleagues, 

I had to change my plans in function of the previous speeches. I should thank the previous speaker for mentioning Crimea. We should mention the fact that the Ukranian authorities closed the northern Crimean canal preventing residents from having access to water. You cannot really care about the interest of the Crimeans if you have cut them off from water, in addition to cutting off power lines. That is how much Ukraine cares about the environment. 

But now, back to the issue at hand, these threats to civilisation are known to all. First among these threats is the impact of climate change. Therefore, it is very important that today's plenary session is fully dedicated to tackling these challenges. However, in order for these proposals to be viable, we do not only need to praise them but to critically think and identify and correct their weaknesses. 

I would like to say a few words about the report of Mr Simon MOUTQUIN. The draft document aims to strengthen environmental human rights  within the legal framework of Council of Europe through a legally binding document. However, I have to note that within the Council of Europe's Steering Committee on Human Rights, we already have a working group on human rights and the environment, which was given a mandate at the end of this year to present to the Committee of Ministers, a draft legally non-binding document on this topic. So until we hear the conclusions of this groups, any discussions within the Parliamentary Assembly about this topic seem to be premature.

Setting aside political considerations, I would like to take a critical look at some of the arguments of this draft from a legal point of view. For example, the inclusion in the draft resolution and recommendation of concepts and terms that are far from the environmental law that is unjustifiable including AI technology and so on.

The draft protocol to the ECHR does not correspond with existing additional protocols to the Convention from a technical legal point of view. For example, the structure of the document does not correspond to the rest of the protocols and there are certain substantive additions, for example, placing obligations to protect the environment on generations which are not a subject of international law, or including an article on procedural rights within the sub-section on material rights. 

The draft resolution also uses controversial terms, for example "environmental justice", which is a concept which is not codified by international law. The report does not clarify the meaning of this term. 

I would like to conclude with a brief comment on the report "More participatory democracy to tackle climate change". The concept of participatory democracy I think does not necessarily correspond with the Charter of the Council of Europe. We must recall that our countries are based on representative democracy and the Parliamentary Assembly also functions via a representative democracy. Thank you. 

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:01:26

Thank you Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN.

Now I call Ms Nicole TRISSE from France.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE

11:01:32

Thank you, Mr President.

Ladies and gentlemen, rapporteurs, colleagues,

For the third time, our Assembly is holding a full day's debate on an essential and particularly topical human rights issue. After the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects, and then artificial intelligence a year ago, we are now dealing with a set of challenges posed by climate change for our societies, our democratic systems, our states and multilateralism in general. In this respect, I would like to congratulate all the rapporteurs on the quality of their reflections.

There is no doubt that climate change is already causing migratory movements and glaring inequalities, which can only get worse if the trend continues. Furthermore, the climate crisis is also having a major impact on the rule of law and the functioning of our democracies, so it is up to us to outline possible solutions to prevent political or institutional backsliding, which would be very damaging.

From this point of view, two reports drawn up by our colleagues, Mr George PAPANDREOU and Mr Olivier BECHT, seem to me to offer hope by proposing concrete, relevant and pragmatic measures.

The first report, which calls for a more participatory democracy, resonates with recent experiences that have been quite successful, despite the fact that the previous speaker did not like them. In this regard, I will only take the example of the Citizens' Convention on Climate, initiated by the President of the French Republic in November 2019 and which was composed of 150 citizens drawn by lot, to find measures to reduce France's greenhouse emissions by 40% by 2030. After eight months, out of the 149 measures proposed, 146 were taken up and we turned them – of course, with debates with the National Assembly and the Senate – into a law on combating climate change and strengthening resilience to its effects, which was enacted last August.

The second report, drawn up by our colleague Mr Olivier BECHT, sets out some very interesting prospects for research and inter-state cooperation on environmental challenges. I fully support the idea of developing specific research programmes on recycling and renewable energies, while maintaining fundamental research projects on new sustainable energy sources. I also agree with the conclusions on funding but, above all, I agree with the rapporteur on the ambition of a framework – in the form of an enlarged partial agreement, for example – enabling Council of Europe member states to pool their research resources for targeted projects in favour of the energy transition.

Colleagues, I believe that, after the tensions that have arisen within our organisation in recent years, this is the seed of a fundamental revival of the spirit of the founding fathers at the level of our 47 member states, because what is at stake goes far beyond our borders and undoubtedly brings our interests together.

Ultimately, through this debate, PACE is making its contribution to the fight against global warming.

I will, of course, vote unreservedly in favour of the resolutions and recommendations drawn up by our committees, all of which are equal to the challenge.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:04:46

"Thank you" (spoken in French).

And now I call Mr John HOWELL from the United Kingdom.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA

11:04:55

Thank you very much, Mister President.

I want to raise a number of concerns on the participatory democracy paper. The rapporteur I think quite correctly identifies a number of problems, but these are not wholly associated with climate change.

For example, one of the problems he raises is how do we engage in politics with young people? How do we get them to participate in politics? How do we take their ideas and develop those ideas into policy?

The solution that the paper comes up with is essentially a citizens' assembly.

Now, I don't know whether there is a difference of culture amongst the many countries that are represented here, but we already have a citizens' assembly. It is called the House of Commons. It comes with a strong mandate that individual members of parliament (MPs) cannot be directed as if they were delegates. They are representatives. They alone are responsible for taking an action in a particular area. This is a tradition and a philosophy which has lasted many, many more than 300 years.

We should not undermine our parliaments or our MPs. As I said, they have the right to come up with with ideas.

Where will this end? Will we have citizens' assemblies on every subject? In which case, what is the value of parliament and what is the value of MPs, full stop?

Of course, MPs take ideas from many different sources. I have regular meetings with groups across my own constituency in the UK to be able to ascertain what their views are, but it is my decision as to what I support in the voting in the House of Commons.

Now in the UK we have a government which has already moved fast and far on the issue of climate change. It was the first to introduce a net zero target. Of course, it is hosting COP 26 shortly, which I'm sure we all hope will be a great success.

I do not believe that a citizens' assembly is essentially about democracy. I think that we need to find other ways of encouraging young people to participate with MPs and with their parliaments. I cannot see any advantage in the citizens' assemblies that have been tried around the world that cannot be exercised by traditional policymaking. They have, for example, had no long-lasting results. For that reason I have grave concerns with the idea of citizens' assemblies.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:08:07

Thank you.

Now I call Ms Marietta KARAMANLI from France. Is she here in the hemicycle?

Ms Marietta KARAMANLI

France, SOC

11:08:18

Thank you, Mr President.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to begin by thanking the four rapporteurs for their analyses and proposals on subjects which, in the end, work in a complementary way on the climate crisis.

I would particularly like to highlight two reports; that of our colleague Mr Simon MOUTQUIN, rapporteur, to thank him for his proposals to strengthen the Council of Europe's provisions and conventions on the right to a healthy environment; and that of Mrs Edite ESTRELA to thank her for her observations and suggestions to strengthen the rule of law in the face of the climate crisis.

I will stop at these two reports because I would also have liked to make two more proposals in addition to those which have been presented. The first proposal concerns the need to introduce a climate protection goal to international trade treaties. The second is to give status to what is known as a common good.

In the first case, it seems essential to take social and environmental concerns into account in the context of international economic and commercial exchanges. Treaties have been and will continue to be concluded to ensure access of goods and services for economic needs. While these treaties aim to facilitate economic trade, they are sometimes less protective than local law in terms of environmental and health protection.

It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that the right to a healthy environment is guaranteed in the light of the de facto increase in trade that their conclusion entails. It is suggested that these draft treaties should be subject to an independent assessment before they are concluded, in the form of a carbon footprint and also an assessment of the maintenance of biodiversity.

My other comment is aimed at giving the status of common goods to natural resources shared by all countries. This concept of "common goods", in other words, "resources shared and managed collectively by a community," must be updated.

While private property has been a cornerstone of law in many societies and States for two centuries and also constitutes proven protection for individuals and their freedom, it is now necessary to recover and guarantee the status of common property for natural resources.

This concept existed in Roman law or in the legislation of the Middle Ages and there are many examples. There are many goods for which new and innovative thinking must be carried out in order to guarantee access to the greatest number of services to all. Beyond the definition of a new status of the rule of law in the service of democracy, it is also a renewed protection that we are working towards.

Our Assembly has the power and the duty to act in this direction.

I really thank you all for the work that you have done, and we will continue to be attentive to the expected developments.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:11:40

Thank you.

Now I call Ms Larysa BILOZIR from Ukraine.

Ms Larysa BILOZIR

Ukraine, EPP/CD

11:11:47

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues, dear Mr MEREZHKO.

I would like to thank all the rapporteurs for the excellent comprehensive reports where they revealed very important problems very thoroughly about climate crisis, about climate justice, environmental problems, and all of us are united in one that we need to take action now and we need to act now.

I would like to tell you about one of the largest rivers in Europe, the Dnieper River. It is an important transport artery of Ukraine as well as a source of fresh water for me, my children and for 70% of the population of Ukraine. Despite this, this summer, 161 pollutants were detected in the surface water of the Dnieper River, in particular cadmium, nickel metals, radioactive elements, agricultural pesticides. Every year there is a systematic deterioration in the ecological state of the rivers, and now the Dnieper River is on the verge of an irreversible environmental catastrophe, like many other rivers in Europe.

And the next generation of people may not see clean water in the rivers. Of course the government of Ukraine is implementing measures to improve the health of the Dnieper River basin, but they are not enough, nor are there enough legislative mechanism to preserve a clean and sustainable environment. And the legislative mechanism need to be improved.

In this context, the Assembly's concerns about the rate and extent of environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity and the climate crisis, which directly affects human health, dignity, and life, is extremely relevant. The Council of Europe must demonstrate a clear position and strategic vision for the future and improve legislation to strengthen environmental protection, which is extremely necessary in the year of systemic environmental threats to present and future generations. Improving legislation will be an adequate response in the context of responding to the rapid deterioration of the environment, loss of biodiversity and the threat of the climate crisis, which directly affects people's health, dignity and life.

The Ukrainian delegation supports the development of additional protocols to the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Social Charter which are necessary for additional guarantees of the right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, and will help the member States of the Council of Europe more effectively achieve the goals set out in the framework of the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:14:39

Thank you.

Now I call Mr George LOUCAIDES from Cyprus.

Mr George LOUCAIDES

Cyprus, UEL

11:14:48

Thank you Mr Chairperson.

Dear colleagues,

Allow me to also thank the rapporteurs for their excellent work on climate change.

Today's agenda is of upmost importance: dedicating a whole day of the session to these very important issues demonstrates the resolve of the Assembly to effectively contribute to this debate. Undoubtedly, we are facing a large-scale ecological crisis which threatens our lives and livelihoods, our societies and economies, maritime and terrestrial biodiversity.

The lowest strands of our societies, including the poorest and the most vulnerable groups, are those who are most heavily impacted by the climate crisis. At the global level, dear colleagues, the escalating conflicts over natural resources and the impending flows of climate refugees are probably the strongest evidence of this intersectional threat to people and the environment.

In the Mediterranean region in particular, the parallel crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are reflected through wildfires. Today we see increasing heat waves and subsequent droughts: that threat is spreading all over Europe, with more and more countries now facing these new and unexpected pressures.

Allow me to say that the root causes of these imminent threats are closely interlinked with the current socio-economic system that sets as priority profits over environmental sustainability and the people's wellbeing.

In these urgent circumstances we cannot ensure, dear colleagues, social justice without environmental justice. At the same time, environmental justice cannot be met without social justice, as well as international and intergenerational solidarity.

As one of our rapporteurs, Mr Simon MOUTQUIN, correctly notes, these new threats to human life, our collective well-being, and our health do not stem only from national governments failure to uphold civic and political rights, but also from their lack of action in preventing cumulative harm to all living creatures from environmental degradation due to the commercial exploitation of nature.

Given the above circumstances, an additional protocol to the convention is urgently needed in order to provide the Court with a solid framework for legal accountability against physical and legal persons committing environmental offences. In particular the Court will have the jurisdiction to prosecute human rights violations resulting from environment-related negative effects on human health, dignity and life.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:17:52

Thank you.

And now I call Ms Lucie MONCION from Canada. She will join us online.

Ms Lucie MONCION

Canada

11:18:07

Thank you, Mr. President, for allowing me to speak before this assembly.

Let me also thank you for dedicating an entire plenary session to the issues of the environment, climate change and its impact on us and our planet.

The report by Mr Simon MOUTQUIN urges the Council of Europe to enshrine the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment in its legal framework. The report also calls on the national parliaments of member states to do the same.

I will now describe the Canadian legal framework, which is based, among other things, on international human rights obligations. The Canadian Constitution, unlike that of many other countries, does not explicitly mention the right to a healthy and safe environment. Nonetheless, any efforts by the Government of Canada to mitigate climate change here must respect the constitutionally protected right to life and security.

In addition, in 1995, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that environmental protection had become a fundamental value and designated this value as the right to a safe environment.

Finally, Article No. 31 of the Canadian Charter recognizes the Aboriginal and treaty rights of Aboriginal peoples. Recognizing that climate change affects the exercise of Aboriginal and treaty rights, particularly those rights that are based on traditional land-use practices, Canadian courts have long recognized that these rights require government protection to avoid environmental degradation. Thus, the Government of Canada has a duty to consult and accommodate the interests of affected aboriginal groups on the lands where they hold title. Canada could build on these provisions and further enshrine the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment in its legal framework.

By embedding it firmly, we are ensuring that our institutions and citizens are prepared to meet the challenges that climate change will bring in the future, but also, that they are prepared to take advantage of the new opportunities that will result.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:20:25

Thank you. (in French)

And now I call Ms Petra BAYR from Austria.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC

11:20:31

Thank you very much, colleagues, I'm convinced this Assembly needs a general rapporteur on the protection of the environment and of the climate.

We know that the global heating is everywhere, but not everybody is affected in the same way. There are those who are living in poor houses, close to streets with heavy traffic, with polluted air, hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and having no chance to seek refuge anywhere else. There are those who live in better houses and well-equipped houses they can switch on the air-conditioning if they are feeling too hot or too cold. They can take the plane and go on holidays and flee from hostile environment, and by taking a plane they generate additional greenhouse gases.

By the way, we also know that the possibilities for adaptation mechanisms, how do get in line with global heating, how to adapt your living conditions, your crops, your way, how you work, how you live, is even very unequal. Those who are living close to the equator are much more affected than those in the North, in general, but they lack any measures, any possibilities, any resources to pay for this technical solutions and to have adaptation mechanisms on having a decent life as well.

We know because all the eight reports today show that the protection of the climate is a cross-cutting issue across very different political fields, political areas. It is not only all over Europe, it's a global problem of course. I think that for tackling these you really need a long breath. We also see that especially all people are concerned. If you ask people in Europe what the main concerns are: climate global warming will come among the first three or four, five issues they are concerned about. Especially young people really take the chance, take the possibility to protest to have a decent future as well, to have living conditions where they can can survive in a couple of years.

I think, especially in Europe, we have very different conditions when it comes to global heating, there are those with glaciers, for instance, like in Austria, in my country, the glaciers are melting. There are those in the coastal areas where they really are endangered to losing some of their space, of their country, of their environment at all.

I think that a general rapporteur could really have the long proof and the impact and the face to a problem that we all are facing and that we really need to act on politically on very different levels.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:23:40

Thank you.

I call Mr Yuriy KAMELCHUK from Ukraine.

Mr Yuriy KAMELCHUK

Ukraine, EPP/CD

11:23:48

Thank you Chairman, thank you colleagues.

Combating climate change in recent years has become a top priority for countries affecting humanity through the speed of greenhouse gas selection, and adaptation to climate change over the next 10-15 years, defining the next generation.

To prevent catastrophic climate change, the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015; Ukraine became one of the first European countries to ratify it.

Other nationally recognised extrajudicial in Ukraine to the Paris Agreement is a concept of State development to achieve an environmentally and economically feasible transformation in all sectors of the economy: energy, industry, transport, construction, agriculture and forestry, and waste management.

At the national level the document proposes not to exceed 35% of greenhouse gas emissions to 2030 compared to the 1990 levels, or in other words, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65% in 2030 compared to 1990.

We are convinced that the countries that have acceded to the Paris Agreement face similar challenges.

The transition to a visa-free economy was related to restrictions; the search for balanced methods of stimulating production to the fastest possible modelling of equipment, attracting alternative sources of electricity.

As a member of the energy committee of the Ukrainian parliament, and the head of the working group on the disclosure of laws on hydrogen energy, I want to draw your attention to the version of fuel that is used in our cars and other various power plants in European economies.

I fully support the use of electric cars but if the share of the power generation from wind or fuels in your country is even higher, then this way you can increase the share of electric cars that support emissions from thermal power plants.

Therefore, as soon as possible introduce the use as a primary fuel for cars, trains and aircraft and fuel for power plants which can correct the situation.

I propose in the future decisions of the Assembly aimed at developing international documents on the responsibility of countries for high efficiency of cars with internal combustion engines running on a selective panel, and the hate of heat and power generation on equipment using natural gas and coal.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:26:29

Thank you.

And now I call Mr Jacques MAIRE from France.

He is not here. Well, we'll have to move on.

And now I call Ms Felicity BUCHAN from the United Kingdom.

She is online.

Ms Felicity BUCHAN

United Kingdom, EC/DA

11:27:17

Apologies for the slight technical delay there.

Mr President and esteemed colleagues, it is a great pleasure to talk in this debate.

Climate change is one of the most important issues that we face and clearly it needs to be tackled on a global basis.

The UK, as the host of COP26, in a few weeks time has a critical role to play in partnership with Italy who is also a joint host of Glasgow. Glasgow is a great opportunity for us to be ambitious. In terms of rebuilding our economies post Coronavirus in a greener, cleaner and more resilient way. Glasgow is a great opportunity for countries to come together and to set ambitious climate change emissions goals. It is also a great opportunity for wealthier countries to commit funds to help developing nations tackle climate change.

I am proud of the commitments that the UK has made. In terms of our emissions, we have committed, by 2030, to reduce emissions by 68% and we have put in place a further time scale of 2035 to reduce emissions by 78%. That is all relative to 1990 levels. These are very ambitious goals that I am proud of.

On climate finance, the UK has committed to doubling its budget for mitigation and adaptation to £11.6 billion over the course of the next five years.

There is no question in my mind that developing countries will need support as they transition to net-zero and since we are all in this together, it is the responsibility of developed nations to help provide finance and thus to encourage private sector finance.

In conclusion, this is such an important debate. It is very important that we do meet climate change goals but we must also do that while growing our economies and the UK has been successful in doing that since 1990.

What is clear is that the path to net-zero must be a joint endeavour.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:30:24

Thank you.

I'll call Ms Susana SUMELZO from Spain.

It seems that she's not here.

Unfortunately. So we have to move on and I call Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU from Cyprus.

Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU

Cyprus, SOC

11:30:58

Dear colleagues,

Human activity has played a fundamental and detrimental role in the deterioration of our planet. Therefore, it is essential that governments, parliaments and stakeholders join efforts towards effective environmental protection policies, as well as awareness campaigns and incentives, so that citizens become informed and actively involved in the fight against environmental deterioration.

Accountability must be resumed by all actors in particular public and private, no matter their legal or corporate status. Strict policies guaranteeing environmental protection have to be adopted. New initiatives need to be translated into packaged reforms debated within national parliaments, especially when dealing with the emerging autonomous right to a healthy and viable environment.

In this context, the role of the Council of Europe in safeguarding human rights should be made more visible. I therefore welcome the proposal to adapt the legal framework and the additional protocols to the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Social Charter. Such valuable instruments will enshrine all people’s right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment towards ensuring a safe and greener planet for the generations to come. The only concern I have is that the Protocol is addressed, is binding, to the public authorities while the protection must be also extended towards private interests and detrimental interventions to the environment. So I would suggest considering, in the near future, the adoption of an international or European treaty or convention supplementary to the additional protocol.

Once again I congratulate the rapporteurs for the excellent work they have done. We are looking forward to implementing the nice dispositions of the protocol.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:33:18

Thank you.

And now I call Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN from Ireland.

Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN

Ireland, ALDE

11:33:26

This is a very interesting and incredibly important debate.

Across the world we have to acknowledge that scientific evidence is accumulating on the mass of detrimental effects of environmental degradation, on the health, dignity, and well-being of humans and the stability of our ecosystems. This is a boomerang effect of human economic activities with an excessive and toxic environmental footprint.

The next 10 years are absolutely crucial if we are to address the climate and biodiversity crisis which threatens our safe future on our planet. We have to acknowledge that the Council of Europe has played a pioneering role in strengthening the protection of human rights in a number of areas. It's now time to face a major transforms of challenge for human rights by securing their enhanced protection in the area of systemic environmental threats to the current and future generations.

This cause, absolutely, for the explicit recognition of a human right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment through policies and legal instruments including legally binding and justifiable ones at the Council of Europe level.

Tackling climate change is a momentous challenge which requires not only clear political engagement from the authorities, but also the active involvement of citizens. Combining a top-down and a bottom-up approach would enhance citizens' trust and public decision making, as well as this as its legitimacy, transparency, inclusiveness, and responsiveness and would also result in greater support for public action.

Amongst the forms of participatory democracy which can compliment and enrich the work of representative institutions, citizens' assemblies are the best place to harness the collective wisdom and allow citizens to reclaim the public space. Ireland, together with the EU, has long been a champion of transparency, consultation and participation in tackling climate change. Particularly in the UN framework convention on climate change, EU, and national climate action, my country has been a vocal advocate for ensuring a balanced representation of countries most affected by climate change and fund a number of initiatives through Irish Aid. At a national level, our forthcoming climate action plan builds on the government's existing work to collaborate with local authorities with the public and expert stakeholders.

Thank you. [spoken in Gaelic]

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:36:39

Thank you.

I call now Mr Dara CALLEARY from Ireland.

He is online.

Mr Dara CALLEARY

Ireland, ALDE

11:36:52

Good morning, Chairman and thank you. And it is a pleasure to follow my colleague, Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN and I endorse all that she had said but I also add some words of my own.

I welcome Mr George PAPANDREOU's report in relation to citizens' assemblies and yes; we have had a very successful record of those here in Ireland. They have been instrumental in changing our country but they cannot be mistaken for detailed engagement with local communities, with local organisations, with sectors that are directly affected by the necessary changes that climate change demands. And we cannot absolve government or we cannot absolve any organisation of responsibility to bring communities with them along this change. 

For many communities, the concept of just transition is vital to their survival, to their economic and their social future, to the incomes of families, and to the incomes of neighbours and friends. Just transition must be real, it must not just be a marketing concept.

For many of our citizens across Europe, they have experienced floods and the damage and devastation of floods this summer. We are used to that here in Ireland as an island nation. The difficulties being caused by coastal erosion to communities must also be highlighted and taken on board. And the very difficult decisions that are required by the government must be taken in collective and in partnership with people right across the country.

We already have in Ireland – for many years – a green schools programme which starts at our very youngest school age. And that has given to our young people; a sense of information, a sense of responsibility and a sense of leadership in leading the climate change debate and in challenging those of us who are older as to changing our own personal responsibilities as well as government policy.

Our government here have introduced a climate action bill. We will now see our first major climate action budget and all of the necessary steps that will come. We are beginning to make the very difficult changes that are necessary for Ireland to cut our emissions and to change our behaviour. We are a small island nation. We cannot do this on our own, we need the co-operation and the work of every country across the world.

This Chairman, is the human rights challenge of this generation. The Council of Europe has stood for human rights and stood into the reach on so many occasions. It can once again, lead that challenge. It can set the challenge to governments and to people around Europe, and around the world, but it must bring communities with us it. It must be cognisant that we will not make the necessary changes without the support of people right around our continent. 

Thank you very much. 

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:39:53

Thank you.

I call now Mr Zoran TOMIĆ from Serbia.

He will be speaking online.

Mr Zoran TOMIĆ

Serbia, EPP/CD

11:40:07

Thank you Chairman,

Climate change is a problem that we have been facing for decades and that we have been working on to slow down, but we can discuss the results on another occasion.

It is certainly necessary to take additional measures to fight the slowdown in climate change and to apply the rule of law in the fight. So we must fight to prevent the average temperature from rising by more than 1.5 degrees and for the Paris Agreement to be respected. So we must influence the members of the Council of Europe to draw up programmes. These programmes, as stated in the resolution, should help the States and their economies but also societies to recover from the corona and to continue to achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement as well as the 2030 agenda.

We as parliamentarians can contribute to the whole process by influencing the development of the debate in society on these topics and by influencing our governments to include the excitement of the fight against climate change through national legislation. We as parliamentarians must help strengthen and encourage the fight to preserve the climate and the environment in order to create the conditions for future generations to live and use the resources of this planet.

In Serbia we have taken this path and we have adopted important laws related to climate change and environmental protection. Through our legislation it has been adopted that no project in Serbia concerning development and economy will work without an analysis of environmental impact and climate change.

Our goal is to have climate-neutral projects that will not endanger and affect our planet and the climate. We are a country that has decided to go into the right direction of developing a green economy and protecting the environment. We will give our maximum contribution to protecting our planet, no matter how small it may be in relation to larger and more developed countries.

Regardless of the size of each of our countries, the efforts we all make will affect our planet. Only together can we succeed in that.

So that is why I call on everyone to adopt this resolution and recommendations and to make every effort to preserve our planet together.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:42:22

Thank you.

I call now Ms Olena KHOMENKO from Ukraine.

Ms Olena KHOMENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

11:42:32

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Simon MOUTQUIN, Belgium, for the presented report.

As a member of the Ukrainian PACE delegation, I would like to stress on some of the comments. There are already visible consequences of the climate crisis [and I] have no doubt that the European vision of contemporary human rights protection should become a benchmark for environmental human rights in the 21st century. And therefore, we should step forward to recognise the intrinsic value of nature and ecosystems in light of the interrelationship between human societies and nature, as mentioned in clauses 4 and 6 of the draft resolution.

We definitely should think about the responsibility that our generation bears towards future generations. The damage to nature, and its further effects on the climate crisis, will adversely affect our descendants who must be protected accordingly as mentioned in Clause 12.

As mentioned in Clause 21 of the explanatory memorandum drafted by Mr Simon MOUTQUIN, Ukraine is listed among the countries which have been addressed in the ECHR's pending climate change case. While recognising the considerable share of the Ukrainian economy in the global greenhouse gas emissions, it should also be noted that in July 2021, our government has set an ambitious goal to meet 35% emission reduction by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. I would also like to remind you of the fact that while other leading world economies – the USA, the European Union, South Korea, the UK and Japan – have pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, the Russian Federation is consistently ignoring climate change and taking zero action to limit its greenhouse gas emissions.

To sum up, I totally support the approach of 5P as presented in the draft resolution referring to preventing and prosecuting violations of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; protecting the victims; implementing state-wide integrated policies that are effective, and other comprehensive responses to environmental threats and technological hazards.

Thank you, dear colleagues.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:45:22

Thank you.

Now I call Mr Pere LÓPEZ from Andorra.

Mr Pere LÓPEZ

Andorra, SOC

11:45:30

President,

I'd like to start by congratulating everyone on the excellent work that has been done has been done by our rapporteurs and I would also like to state my firm support for their work because the climate crisis is undeniably the biggest challenge that we have ever faced. This is not a problem of the future, as some people are suggesting, it's a problem right now.

This is a challenge that requires political action policy, coordinated and decisive political action. Europe must start this new international step and must tackle the risks which we face and must make sure that we take the necessary steps, otherwise we will not be doing justice for the future and future generations. And in this context, in this bringing of several reports together; there is one focal point which is central to this debate and that is what everybody has pointed to; the absence of democratic and legal mechanisms for tackling this problem in order to ensure that humans have the right to a clean, safe and sustainable environment.

At the same time, we need to envisage other mechanisms. The Green New Deal is an excellent way forward, but I also think that we need to adapt this, we need new ways forward, we need new conventions and other mechanisms to ensure citizen participation.

This is why, I think, that we should make sure that we map out a green future that takes into account all of these actions.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:47:40

Thank you.

Now I call Ms Róisín GARVEY from Ireland.

Ms Róisín GARVEY

Ireland, SOC

11:47:47

There's never been a more important time for us all as public representatives to be brave, bold and courageous. What we are facing with this climate emergency can only – and I mean only – be mitigated if we politicians can enable all our people to be involved. We need everyone from every level of society to be seen as equal contributors in how we try our very hardest to slow down our rising global temperatures. We need to listen in power, facilitate, and even step aside when necessary or we haven't a hope.

I worked for 14 years on behavioural change with green schools around car use, and I could have talked all day about the benefits of reducing car use. It was only when I facilitated people in organising events themselves that they saw the merits of leaving the car at home and actually created new habits around our car dependency.

People need to know that they matter, what they think matters, and what they feel matters.

In Ireland we set up an all-Ireland citizens' assembly in October 2017. It was made up of a hundred citizens from Irish society, picked at random with quotas based on gender, age, and region. They invited impartial experts on many topics that led to healthy, honest, informative, apolitical debates among the citizens that are important to policy issues facing Irish society.

This Assembly played a huge part in enabling Irish society as a whole to access and listen to really informed apolitical experts on very important issues that otherwise could have become polarised and over-simplified by both media and certain political groups.

We see this happening more and more these days. Clickbait and sound bites have eroded much of our political democracy, sadly. Now more than ever all trust is gone of most politicians by most people.

Thanks to our citizens' assembly, in no small way, the country of Ireland passed a referendum finally giving women their right to make their own choice for their own bodies. It finally gave all people in Ireland the right to choose marriage if they so wish, irrespective of gender.

Most recently, the citizens' assembly fed into the Climate Act, passed just a few months ago, that has the most ambitious targets in the world, with its mission to reduce carbon emissions by 51% in just nine years.

As South Sudan makes the long journey from winning independence ten years ago after a long brutal war, a people-driven constitution is being worked on.

In San Marino we see citizen-led and citizen-owned photovoltaic solar power supplying up to 24% of the country's power thanks to, in no small way, to one of our colleagues here, Mr Gerardo GIOVAGNOLI.

I say to all of you today that are public representatives it is our duty to engage and empower as much citizen engagement as possible.

We now need to decide on actions and the actions have to be for the people by the people.

Thank you. (spoken in Irish)

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:51:01

Thank you very much.

Now I call Ms Minerva HERNÁNDEZ RAMOS from Mexico. She will be speaking online.

Ms Minerva HERNÁNDEZ RAMOS

Mexico

11:51:09

The Covid-19 pandemic has made us think about the impact of our human activity on climate change and animal-borne diseases and the urgent need to change our behaviour, our consumption patterns and production models towards much more environmentally friendly goals. 

The nations of the world have sought to ensure that environmental protection is the mandate for government and to translate this popular mandate into laws, governmental institutions and public policies. But this is not proven enough as things stand. The limits of representative democracy mean this is an insufficient solution to this problem that has planetary dimensions and is a fact about climate change. 

Greta Thunberg's action has shown us the error of considering that environmental action must come from political leadership or governmental institutions because there are millions of people who are not only interested in mitigating the adverse effect of climate change but are really, all of them, making efforts to modify their own behaviour and become more environmentally-friendly. They have even organised themselves into co-ordinating such efforts and to influencing the course of government action.

Given the proliferation of fake news and the recent mistrust of data and scientific evidence and the growing disenchantment that citizens have shown towards the represented democratic process, we have seen the emergence of regimes that claim to be democratic but in reality violate civil liberties and fundamental rights.

We therefore need to promote greater education and knowledge about climate change amongst our citizens and to promote the commitment of citizens to action that would benefit the environment. We must channel the collective interest of society in environmental protection and in striving to reverse the impact of climate change with mid- and long-term solutions for the benefit of the planet as a whole. 

All this, which has been stated in this Assembly, means strengthening more possible mechanisms of participative democracy to involve our citizens and especially our youngest citizens in decision-making processes and in the designing of public policy. 

The path that this Assembly recommends to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is a great step in the right direction. It represents a useful guide to us in the Americas. We can build on this starting at the most local level and in areas closest to our citizens, mechanisms for participative democracy which seek to protect the environment and mitigate climate change.

Thank you very much and all the very best.

 

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:54:04

"Thank you" (spoken in Spanish).

Now I call Ms Inka HOPSU from Finland.

Ms Inka HOPSU

Finland, SOC

11:54:10

Mr President, dear colleagues,

The environment and human rights are strongly linked.

When we protect nature, tackle climate change and halt the loss of biodiversity, we are equally protecting and promoting human rights around the world.

The consequences of climate change, like extreme weather events, threaten fundamental human rights, such as the right to health or the right to an adequate standard of living. Individuals who have to leave their homes due to droughts or floods, are exposed to many human rights violations.

The consequences of biodiversity loss or climate change will further increase inequality, since the impact of these phenomena will first hit the poorest people and those who are already among the most vulnerable groups of people, such as persons with disabilities, indigenous people, and women and girls.

Some geographical areas, such as small island states, and the people who live in them, are particularly in danger. The Arctic is also a geographically challenging area, where the effects of climate change are dramatically visible. In my home country Finland, especially in the north, the indigenous Sami people have observed changes in seasons, temperatures, vegetation, fauna, reindeer behaviour, etc. All these threaten their right to maintain and develop their own culture and traditional livelihoods.

Thank you to the rapporteurs in highlighting the necessity for everyone to have access to justice when the rights to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment are offended. Individuals, and also groups, must have ways to demand accountability from governments. Therefore, it would be worth considering whether there should also be a possibility for collective complaints included in the European Convention on Human Rights to strengthen environmental protection in the future in the light of the international debate on ecocide.

Mr President, to effectively address the magnitude of climate change and biodiversity loss, we need to tackle the temporal dimension of politics. Policy-making is very often short-sighted. Short-sighted policies are not optimal in the fight against long-term phenomena. We need to take better account of future generations in decision-making at every level.

We need more possibilities for everybody's involvement.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:56:51

Thank you.

I call now Mr Gagan MOHINDRA from the UK.

Mr Gagan MOHINDRA

United Kingdom, EC/DA

11:56:57

Thank you, Mr President.

Fellow delegates, I'm honoured to be speaking in this critical debate.

Climate change represents a very real threat to the environment and subsequently to all of us here. It is the responsibility of all parties, from the individual to multinational institutions such as the Council of Europe, to lobby for continued action against global warming.

As a member of parliament in the United Kingdom, I witnessed the damage and devastation that the climate can have on my own constituents. Since my time in parliament, areas like Moor Park, Bovingdon and Long Marston in my constituency have witnessed flooding never seen before, damaging homes, schools and businesses.

The UK accounts for approximately 1.2% of global emissions. Despite this small figure, I am pleased to see that the UK government is taking the initiative to strive for Net Zero by 2050. Further to this, the UK's Ten Point Plan lays a blueprint for how we will achieve Net Zero, which includes mobilising 12 billion pounds of government investment.

We expect to meet with other states in November of this year at the COP26 Summit and I hope the conference will encourage all of us to cooperate and tackle climate change. But we, as a community, can do more. Members of the Council of Europe should encourage states to adopt environmentally friendly policies and inspire private industries to consider sustainable business practices. Earlier this month, the UK lobbied some of the richest countries to collectively donate 100 billion dollars annually to help developing countries combat climate change.

This highlights the UK's belief that everyone has the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. As suggested by my fellow delegates, and in the aforementioned reports, laws may be necessary, but I believe that the focus of this Council should be on encouragement rather than punishment when discussing the strengthening of corporate environment and environmental responsibility. It is conferences like this that allows us all to promote the global battle against climate change and I thank everyone here for participating in this important debate.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:59:13

Thank you.

Now I call Mr Irakli CHIKOVANI from Georgia... he's not here? Unfortunately, he's not with us.

In this case I call Ms Lesia VASYLENKO from Ukraine.

Ms Lesia VASYLENKO

Ukraine, ALDE

11:59:40

Thank you, President, thank you dear rapporteurs and dear colleagues, for all the powerful statements we have been hearing this morning in this room. I'm so happy that this House has an almost unanimous understanding of the urgency of the issue at hand.

We truly must act now in order to continue to enjoy our basic human rights, the right to life and the right to health, in order to live in a comfortable and secure environment, and in order to leave our children a safe and sound planet – very basic things one might think, and yet.

And yet for at least two decades we observe in this Assembly the reluctance to complement the convention text with clear-cut definitions of environmental human rights. When the environmental rights issue was last raised here at PACE the arguments against an additional environmental human rights protocol watered down the issue to merely a guidebook on human rights and the environment.

I sincerely hope that today, almost 10 years on, we will find the political will and necessary number of votes to support the development of such an additional protocol and finally stop the European human rights system from lagging behind similar systems on the American and African continent. That is right. The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights has long enshrined the right to a general satisfactory environment in its Article 24. The American Convention on Human Rights has, of course, the San Salvador protocol where Article 11 stipulates the right to a healthy environment.

This European environmental protocol can be a powerful deterrent and a prevention mechanism for further environmental threats emerging from the territory of respective member States. Putting environmental rights in writing will have a definite impact on their activities in the corporate and industrial sectors and finally will have a positive impact on curbing the overconsumption culture which is also present here in Europe.

Please notice, colleagues, that the only risks and reservations to a strong recognition of the environmental right are made today by representatives of countries that espouse policies which are counter-environmental and which endorse large fossil fuel projects.

When our colleague from the Russian Federation spoke earlier today about Crimea and the lack of water and energy resources there, he basically gave an account of what Russia's occupying forces have done to the lawfully Ukrainian territory of Crimea. As we all recall in our numerous resolutions Russia has annexed Crimea in 2014 and since then has exercised effective control in the territory of Crimea. This basically means that Russia and Russia alone bears all responsibility for the territory it has occupied and so ruthlessly degraded with its anti-environmentalist policies and total lack of environmental management.

Thus I hope that with the adoption of this binding environmental protocol countries in breach will be made liable and be led to changing their policies.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:02:52

Thank you very much, Madam VASYLENKO.

I now give the floor to Mr Petri HONKONEN from Finland.

Mr Petri HONKONEN

Finland, ALDE

12:03:06

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Dear colleagues,

Regarding the practical implementation of climate policy, the active involvement of citizens is an essential element which we should never disregard. As Mr George PAPANDREOU reminds us in his excellent report, the fundamental premise here is to use people's own language. The language we use must always be clear and explicit when we are talking about climate impacts and actions needed.

We should keep in mind that there is a huge risk if solutions are made only on the terms of the highly educated middle-class and the upper-middle-class people. In that case, many aspects of a disadvantaged social position will be offside.

In the current public debate on climate change, entire professional groups and livelihoods are being blamed and even stigmatised. In Finland, for example, those who work in agriculture have found themselves in a difficult position in these discussions. Unfortunately, this will only increase confrontation in society and weaken support for climate action.

Participatory democracy is needed, but I want to highlight, that eventually the positive public opinion is essential to get enough support for the climate change policy.

In the long run, climate change creates poverty and inequality. Climate action in practice may also undermine the livelihoods and social status of certain groups of people if their perspective is not taken into account. To succeed in tackling these severe consequences, it is our responsibility to make a climate policy that does not increase the dichotomy but is creative and inclusive, and in addition, effective in terms of business.

As I pointed out at the beginning, the essential thing here is to speak clearly and understandably on climate change and especially on climate action, so we could all proceed in the same direction.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:05:19

Thank you very much, Mister HONKONEN.

And now I give the floor to Mr Lukas SAVICKAS, from Lithuania.

Mr Lukas SAVICKAS

Lithuania, SOC

12:05:35

Thank you.

Dear Chair, dear colleagues,

Earlier, the impact of global warming was perceived as populist and unreal rhetoric but today we can clearly state that the effects of it are very much real, and very much here.

I completely agree with the statements heard today; that if we need to achieve real results, we need to attract more people to the problem. Not only politicians but also people from different age groups, ethnic groups, different genders, and different regions.

We need to ask people to share their voices in contemporary problems such as global warming.

We all need to participate in this process.

The model of a people's assembly is a powerful tool that has been proven to be successful time after time: Ireland, France, Britain, and others.

It helps not only with attracting people to the problem but also increases the public's knowledge of the subject that the assembly needs to face.

The model of assembly also increases the culture of democracy and the trust of the people.

One more thing that I want to touch on, as well, is raising legal liability in the context of climate change.

We have to take a stand and take all the needed legal actions which would help fight the effect of damaging the environment, but we cannot forget to be united and to strengthen our co-operation while achieving the necessary decisions.

Therefore, I am looking forward to the adoption of resolutions presented today in the plenary, and especially, that our solidarity and common positions are clearly discussed today, to revive efforts to prevent the climate catastrophe.

Thank you Chair, thank you colleagues.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:07:45

Thank you very much, Mr SAVICKAS.

And I would like to give the floor now to the Observer of Israel, Ms Emilie Haya MOATTI. Is she there?

Can we contact her?

She is not online.

So, the next one is also online. It's Ms Carina OHLSSON from Sweden.

Is she online?

Ms Carina OHLSSON

Sweden, SOC

12:08:14

President, dear colleagues,

A wise management of Earth´s resources is a prerequisite for the future of mankind.

Of course, I think about that in my different roles: as politician, as a woman, as a citizen, but even more as a grandmother.

The science is very clear and there is no room for doubt. Together we must do everything we can to stop a climate catastrophe.

In Sweden, major investments are now being made, not at least in industry, for example to produce steel without coal, and in the transport sector, to reduce emissions.

But climate work must include all relevant areas, and the climate knows no national borders. We have a historic opportunity to implement measures that both reduce emissions and provide new jobs.

We must continue to push for a green transition, to put pressure on the major emitting countries to live up to the Paris Agreement, and to assist countries that need help in reducing their missions.

The climate challenge has a clear relationship to equality and gender equality.

Therefore, I am so glad to hear this report and the rapporteurs.

The change is thus not only our clearest solidarity what we can do for future generations. It is solidarity with each other, a community building that we only can do together.

Climate change is the fateful issue of our time.

Thank you and let's do it together!

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:10:27

Thank you very much Ms Carina OHLSSON.

I would like to give the floor to Ms Mònica BONELL, Andorra.

Ms Mònica BONELL

Andorra, ALDE

12:10:40

Thank you, Madam President.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Climate change is of the utmost importance and needs a lot of quick and decisive action. That is why the participation of all economic and social players is extremely important. My country, Andorra, is a clear example of this.

In 2018, the Parliament of Andorra unanimously passed a law promoting energy transition and climate change. In 2020, environmental associations, young people, as well as various social and economic players united to declare a state of climate and ecological emergency, becoming one of the first ten countries in the world to validate and submit the text to NATO.

It was thanks to all this work and the legislation in force that today Andorra has :

- a national energy strategy to combat climate change, with one key objective: to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2050;

- a green fund, included in the draft general budget bill, which is funded by targeted taxes and is used to finance the actions planned for decarbonisation towards the objective of carbon neutrality.

Currently, we are working on a circular economy law, drafted with the participation of citizens and economic players. We also continue to maintain fluid communication with these different players in order to continue to legislate for greater citizen participation in solving an issue as important as climate change.

All institutions play a vital role, and this Parliamentary Assembly is no exception. That is why I congratulate you on the reports presented and encourage you all to continue the fight against climate change.

I will certainly vote in favour of your reports.

Thank you for your attention, Madam President.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:13:08

Thank you very much, Ms Mònica BONELL

I will give the floor now, to Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA from Ukraine.

Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA

Ukraine, ALDE

12:13:20

Dear Madame Chair, dear Mister rapporteur, dear Assembly.

I would like to note how much I, as representative of the environmental community, feel the Assembly support seeing that the environmental agenda is put forward.

Climate change will impact our lives, economies, democratic and political systems, stability and peace worldwide. All international organisations and expert institutions have been calling to start taking urgent actions in different areas. 

The relationship between human rights and the environment is self-evident. The United Nations and European Union continue to raise issues of climate and environmental protection by adopting important climate and environmental documents such as, the United Nations Climate Change Convention and the Paris Agreement and the European Climate Law which sets a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, investing in green technologies and protecting the environment.

Environmental pollution, loss of biodiversity and the climate crisis are making people and the planet sick which cause premature deaths in the current generation and deprive us and the next generations of a viable living space. 

So I think that measures for human rights and a healthy environment are necessary because today we pose a threat to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, for the future generation, by neglecting environmental protection.

I want to add that not really having legal binding instruments in order to save the territory, will start a war in the occupied territories. It is also about environmental and human rights.

I would like to emphasise the importance of amending the European Convention of Human Rights and its protocol to the European Social Charter in terms of establishing a clear responsibility of member States to keep the environment in good condition ensuring and dignifying life for good health and the full implementation of other fundamental rights.

The protection of human rights and the environment must [create a] symbiosis with environmental education for young people and for young researchers. The Assembly also calls to the member States of the Council of Europe to fulfil all their obligations arising from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the Paris Agreement.

So members of the Council of Europe have always taken charge of the climate agenda and we have spent a lot of our attention on issues of climate and its change in our world. This topic is urgent not just for us people sitting in this conference hall, but for every organism on the Earth's surface.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:16:13

Many thanks Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA.

Now I give the floor to the last speaker in this debate, Mr Zeki Hakan SIDALI from Turkey.

Mr Zeki Hakan SIDALI

Turkey, ALDE

12:16:25

Thank you Madam Chair.

I'd like to congratulate all four rapporteurs – Mr Simon MOUTQUIN, Mr George PAPANDREOU, Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ and Ms Edite ESTRELA – for their visionary and comprehensive work.

Humanity has solved problems throughout history by developing mechanisms, inventions and collaborations. We survived many severe natural difficulties by inventing mechanical tools against physical distances, promoting peace against conflicts, developing liberal democracy against tyranny, and nowadays finding a vaccine against Covid-19.

What we call civilisation is the result of that common struggle, common accumulation, and common heritage of mankind based on cooperation, technological development, and reason and science. Humanity – our civilisation – is today facing the south coast climate crisis: the biggest challenge ever.

This very complex and threatening problem could deeply concuss liberal democracies and even destroy our future.

To overcome that we should develop much more cooperation globally, all together with all stakeholders nationally, and carrying our responsibility of the struggles locally. As a result, all of us – regardless of whether we are rich or poor, rural or urban, western or eastern, believers or not – must fight for our children's destiny.

Today at this debate I hope we will be able to make steps closer to this non-delayable cause because we don't have much time left. We must fully support the idea of directly transforming the environment as one of the most fundamental human rights globally, as Mr Simon MOUTQUIN pointed out.

I invite governments and companies to take responsibility, as they have seen our nature as their backyard and polluted the environment without calculating any social environmental outcome. In order to accomplish this, everyone must take responsibility: youth, NGOs, even citizens without any cool title.

I underline the need for participatory democratic structures in building a common mind in this challenge, as Mr George PAPANDREOU pointed out. Within liberal democracies, citizens and mainly youth at the centre, should lead to implementing new regulations immediately. For these regulations we need a global legal framework against the environmental damages caused, as underlined by Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ.

This should be a determination, upon which we all should agree: we said we will not leave anyone behind. In order to succeed we should not leave any of the above-mentioned aspects behind too, as they are valuable if they are simultaneously applied.

There is much to say, but as my time is up, so is the world, at least for humankind.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:19:37

Thank you very much, Mr Zeki Hakan SIDALI.

So we have now had all the speakers and we come now to the replies.

First I would like to call Mr Simon MOUTQUIN, he is the rapporteur for the first report, for his reply.

You have 3 minutes.

Mr Simon MOUTQUIN

Belgium, SOC, Rapporteur

12:19:57

Thank you, Madam President.

This is going to be a rather complicated exercise since your speeches were so comprehensive and, I must say, very warm, despite the fact that there may have been some nuances in some of our reports, which, it must be said, are quite rare.

I am delighted to see, in listening to you, that there is a total awareness of the challenge of climate change. Ten years ago, in assemblies such as this one, there might still have been doubts among some parliamentarians; today, we can see from your actions, from your concerns, that this awareness is total, and for that, truly, sincerely, I thank you.

Mr REISS, you explain that you have doubts about certain aspects of the report. I would like to remind you that this report is a panel of proposals: it should be seen as an encyclopaedia, as a signal to the Committee of Ministers and to others - we should not underestimate the work of our Assembly, and I think it is important to remember that.

Mrs TANGUY used an expression that I liked very much, "the field of possibilities", and I think that our field of possibilities in this Assembly, with regard to the right to the environment, is very important.

I think that our Assembly could take up these issues.

Ms ARPADARAI (Azerbaijan) said that she was quite right to be concerned about the issue of global warming and the most vulnerable people. I think that the fight against global warming will not have a negative impact on the most disadvantaged people, it must not impact them: on the contrary, we must do so by remembering that climate change affects the most disadvantaged people, particularly in terms of pollution but also many other ways.

If you read the report carefully, it is not just about binding rights. There are other proposals, I am thinking of the "5P" convention and, moreover, you explain a reluctance with regard to the issue of new technologies, which appears rather briefly in my report, and I think that the issue of new technologies and the issue of the right to a healthy environment are completely linked.

Mr d'Ukraine mentioned the issue of electric cars, for example: are electric cars an ecological invention. I would also like to ask whether 5G, which will require a huge amount of CO2 emissions, can also be useful in the fight against climate change. There is a whole balance to be made and, for that, in the report, it is really the "5P" convention which is a very interesting tool since it is based on prevention and precaution.

Many people have referred to Covid-19 and I think that Covid has indeed shown that climate change is an emergency because we know that our relationship with animals, and in particular deforestation, will increase the number of diseases.

I would like to thank my fellow rapporteurs very sincerely: you can see that we are colleagues from different countries, from different generations, and this clearly shows that this is a global issue rather than just that of the younger generation.

I would also like to thank all my different colleagues very warmly, as this is the first time that I have produced a report in the committee, and we really do have services of incredible professionalism and quality.

The time has come to act, now more than ever. Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:23:27

Thank you very much.

Normally we would ask Mr Luís LEITE RAMOS, but we will do that afterwards, because in this committee we have two reports.

So I would like to call now Mr George PAPANDREOU for the second report.

You have 3 minutes.

Mr George PAPANDREOU

Greece, SOC, Rapporteur

12:23:45

Dear colleagues,

I watched with my compatriots with uttermost horror the devastating fires in my country this summer. They destroyed not only our habitats, but also some of the most beautiful and ancient forests in Greece. In a tragic symbolism, an ancient olive tree of 2,500 years survived and, being mentioned in ancient texts, went up in flames.

So, our human rights and our civilisation will also go up in flames if we do not respect the rights of our species, the rights of our natural habitat. And this does need, as has been proposed, a common legal corpus, as the Council of Europe should promote.

And this of course falls to the governments and to the parliaments to do their responsibilities. But the transition, this major transition, cannot be effected unless we have our citizens involved in this. Unless they own this process. And that is why we are talking about social justice and climate justice. It cannot fall on the disadvantaged. We cannot have an environmental apartheid.

Secondly, we need an educated citizenship. And of course we need a participatory society. I say this because there were some comments, and I thank the colleagues for these important comments, many of them supporting the idea of more participation, but there were also some questions about this. I want to answer to Mr John HOWELL for example.

This is not a process to replace our parliaments, it is a complementary process to support the democratic processes. Secondly, we generally consult experts as politicians, why not consult an organised body of citizens, not only every four years, but consistently, through these citizens' assemblies. And of course it is not only citizens' assemblies. There are other methods of participatory democracy: using the digital platforms to allow for an agora, an electronic agora where people can consistently voice their views, all citizens.

I did this when I was in government. We created what we call wiki-laws, so, before the laws went to parliament, the cabinet would have to... the minister would have to publish their law so that we will get comments and then it comes back to the cabinet to be adopted the good recommendations and then sent to parliament for discussion and legislation.

I also believe that the wisdom of the collective is very important. We see that working with citizens, they can come up with solutions which we may not think of. We also can go beyond. As Ms Róisín GARVEY said, this goes beyond partisanship. I would add to this also, we have a lot of money, as Jeffrey Sachs yesterday said, money in politics. When we randomly choose citizens, they are much less able to be targeted by powerful lobbies, and this can help our policies. Also on social media: we have the digital giants with their algorithms that create hate speech and so on. These types of participatory practices can allow us for a more organised, peaceful, and useful debate.

And finally, this will create a national debate and educate our societies, but it also can be a cross-border debate, which is very important for Europe, for the European Union, of course for the Council of Europe.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:27:26

Many thanks Mr George PAPANDREOU.

Now I would like to ask Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, Chair of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, if he wants to use his 3 minutes which he has as Chair of the Committee?

Now, Mr Zsolt NÉMETH.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, Chairperson of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy

12:27:46

The report received unanimous support of the Committee.

Chairperson, dear colleagues,

In our view, the report charters a way forward on how to innovate and modernise democracy to make it more efficient but also more inclusive, accountable and more responsive to the needs and views of citizens.

It explains how participatory and deliberative democracy can be complementary to the representative form of democracy. We do not see any conflict between the two and it even strengthens the functioning of democratic institutions allowing for greater civil participation and engagement.

Combating climate change and protecting the environment are fields in which these new forms of democracy have been successfully used in instances, but we should continue our reflection even further because all those people in the debate were right who suggested that they can be useful and usefully applied also in other areas of concern and political life.

Dear colleagues, I invite you to vote in favour.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:29:15

Thank you very much Mr Zsolt NÉMETH.

Now, I call Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ, rapporteur for the third report, to reply. You also have 3 minutes. 

Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ

Turkey, NR, Rapporteur

12:29:27

Thank you, Ms Chair and dear colleagues,

I like to thank all our esteemed parliamentarians for their valuable contributions and support on our reports.

I may not mention many of the friends and colleagues who supported our reports but I like to mention some of the friends that remarked on something that I picked.

Ms Nigar ARPADARAI said there should be an accessible technology for transforming the green economy, yes, I fully agree with that.

Ms YAŞAR rightly mentioned legal aspects of climate [change that] have not yet been harmonised internationally. Of course, [there are] demands that have not yet been included in domestic law as well [sic].

And Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND from Hungary asked "who will pay the price of climate change?" I propose in my report that the polluter pays the price.

And Ms Petra BAYR said and proposed a general report on climate change. I also support this idea.

And Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE and Mr SIDALI rightly mentioned that there should be a legal framework harmonised internationally.

And dear Chair and colleagues, the green recovery requires governments to act decisively together, as I mentioned in my previous presentation. The European Commission could be a leading force behind it in collaboration with international organisations such as the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the OECD.

On the way forward, in addition to economic actions, strong legal measures are required. Strengthening global co-operation is needed to reach targets, legal and economic actions should go hand in hand.

And also, I would like to underline that many consequences of climate change are irreversible, at least, in the short term. It is important that the revision of, or replacement of, these two Council of Europe Conventions No. 1722 and No. 150 should be given the highest priority on the Council of Europe´s agenda.

And lastly, I just would like to thank my Chairperson on the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the Secretariat for their invaluable support and contribution to the work of others and myself. I thank you all for your contribution and support.

I am sure the future will be different by this comprehensive and conducive discussion.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:32:55

Thank you very much Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ.

I now give the floor to Mr Boriss CILEVIČS if he wants, the Chair of the Committee.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Humans Rights

12:33:04

Thank you, Madam President.

Any political programme or project or concept needs a legal framework to be implemented, and these ideas which were expressed by today's rapporteurs and participants in this debate anyway must be put into the form of some legislation, both international provisions and national legislation, in order to be implemented.

This is what we are interested in. And this is what we must do as politicians. It is very easy to speak for a long time, very loudly, very beautifully, but without clear legal regulation nothing will change. So this is why I believe that the contribution of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights to this debate is so important. And our rapporteur Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ highlighted clearly two serious areas where we should work.

First, international cooperation at the level of the Council of Europe. Yes, we do have two good conventions which simply do not work. The States do not ratify them and do not apply it in practice. What should be done to make these conventions work? And the report contains a number of interesting and potentially effective proposals.

And the second aspect is national legislation, national judiciary, and the implementation on the level of the member states, which is also very important. And here we can use some input from national courts, because the case law is growing and this is really important.

I would like to express my gratitude to our rapporteur Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ for his very diligent work and to our Secretariat for all assistance.

And the last thing I would like to say is that I was a bit surprised when I saw the results of the latest sociological polls about the priorities for people in Latvia and also in Europe.

It appears that for younger people, the climate, the environment is a top problem to be resolved. More than 60% believe that this is a top priority. And this is a problem of us but of course for our children and grandchildren. And what is at stake now? What kind of Europe and planet will we leave to our children and grandchildren?

Yes, it's very cumbersome, it's very difficult, it costs a lot of money, but still it's about future, about the future of our children. So I believe that we must tackle this issue very seriously and today's debate I hope will contribute to the achievement of this goal.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:36:03

Thank you very much Mr Boriss CILEVIČS.

I call now for the last report, our colleague Ms Edite ESTRELA.

Ms Edite ESTRELA

Portugal, SOC, Rapporteur

12:36:13

Thank you very much, Madam President.

First of all, I want to thank the speakers for their support and comments on my report. In particular, I would like to thank Mr Boriss CILEVIČS for his support on behalf of the Legal Affairs Committee. He has submitted a number of amendments that I support and has thus made a real contribution to improving the report. Thank you very much, Mr CILEVIČS.

Ms. Yelyzaveta YASKO from Ukraine spoke about human rights that are related to environmental rights. This topic is addressed in my report of the Equality Committee which I will present this afternoon. The report is entitled "Addressing inequalities in the right to a safe, healthy and clean environment".

I also thank Ms Marietta Karamanli and Mrs Petra Bayr for their support and ambitious proposals. I support the proposal to have a general rapporteur for climate issues in the Council of Europe. That is a good idea.

Despite some differences of opinion, we all agree in substance that climate change is a reality. It is not fiction. The diagnosis is known: it is therefore time to act and to act quickly. If we want to have a planet to live on, we must act quickly and there is no time more for hesitation.

The responsibility lies with everyone, each and every one of us. It is necessary to change the paradigm of economic development but also individual behaviour. Small gestures can make a difference: saving water, saving energy, etc.

I would also like to stress the importance of the parliamentary network that I propose in my report and I hope this will merit the support of our Assembly.

I again thank colleagues for their comments and I also want to thank the Chairman and Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development and the secretariat, who have been very helpful.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:39:43

"Thank you Ms Edite ESTRELA" (spoken in French).

Now Mr Luís LEITE RAMOS has the honour to speak two times - three minutes - as Chair of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, you have two reports.

I give you the floor.

Mr Luís LEITE RAMOS

Portugal, EPP/CD, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

12:39:57

Madam President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to congratulate and thank the four rapporteurs for their excellent work, for their thoughts and their proposals, but in particular I would like to congratulate Mr Simon MOUTQUIN and Ms Edite ESTRELA for the work they have done together in committee, the results of which are here, as they referred to them. It is truly a piece of work which, despite a few small differences, has a consensus on the substance of these proposals.

Secondly, to tell you that there is a word that has been weighing on us for a long time, but in these four reports it is very present. The word is "urgency". If we really want to do something, we must act immediately. We have just over eight years to change our lifestyles, according to the panel of scientific experts. Young people, our countries, would not forgive us if we did not listen. It is worth remembering that more than 600,000 young people went on climate strike last week in Germany.

The next elections will be the elections of the century in each of our countries. Beyond the vote, a profound change in our societies is expected. To limit environmental degradation and climate change, strong, rapid and sustainable action is needed. We have known for a long time that our house is burning.

As Mr Simon MOUTQUIN writes, we will need new instruments to bring our legislative framework up to speed. The European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter should be enriched. The right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment should be included. Our continent is lagging behind other regions of the world on this issue.

My colleague also proposes to prepare a "5P" convention on threats to the environment and technological risks to human health, dignity and life, and to enter the field of corporate environmental responsibility. Our law must protect the environment. I would have said that the Council of Europe is expected to act as a watchdog for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Every effort will count. Every step in the right direction will be appreciated.

The conventions on wildlife conservation and on landscape are already two examples of good practice. Let us rise to the challenge. Let us be creative if necessary. We must look at what is being done elsewhere. Let us explore all the solutions that are presented to us to find the climate resilience that we lack.

Our Assembly is also a great democratic space where parliamentarians from 47 States exchange views. I hope that Mrs Edite ESTRELA's proposal to launch a network of parliamentarians will be supported. Its mission will be to inspire and monitor the actions of national authorities in the face of environmental degradation and climate change, but also to ensure the cross-fertilisation of ideas, while ensuring exchange between parliamentarians.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:43:15

Thank you very much.

You were the last speaker in this debate of this morning.

I declare the debate now closed and we go on...

Vote: Anchoring the right to a healthy environment: need for enhanced action by the Council of Europe / More participatory democracy to tackle climate change / Addressing issues of criminal and civil liability in the context of climate change / The climate crisis and the rule of law

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:43:58

Dear colleagues,

We now come to the voting.

Thanks, Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN, our very esteemed Vice President, and all the other vice president colleagues to help us out on a very busy day!

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has presented the draft resolution, a draft recommendation Document 15367, to which no amendments have been tabled. 

We will now proceed to vote on a draft resolution contained in Document 15367. A simple majority is required.

Members present in the Chamber should use the Hemicycle voting system. Members participating remotely should vote using the remote voting system.

The vote in the Hemicycle and via remote voting is now open.

Vote is closed, results please.

Congratulations.

We will now consider the draft recommendation to which no amendments have been tabled. A two-thirds majority, since it's a recommendation, is required.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed. Results please.

I see that we have a two-thirds majority.

Congratulations.

As you see we have 19 abstentions.

Therefore the recommendation is adopted unanimously! That is really a great moment.

The Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy has presented a draft resolution, the draft recommendation to which no amendments have been tabled.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 15351. A simple majority is required.

The vote in the Hemicycle and via remote voting is now open.

The vote is closed.

The resolution is carried.

Congratulations.

We will now consider the draft recommendation to which no amendments have been tabled. A two-thirds majority is required.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

Again, carried unanimously!

Congratulations.

We will now consider the draft, this was the recommendation - I'm a bit puzzled here, just give me a second because... I'm just a little bit surprised that we really get this unanimity, so I am a bit out of balance, it doesn't happen a lot I have to say, but I'm really a little bit shaken.

Addressing issues of criminal and civil liability in the context of climate change, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft resolution, a draft recommendation in document 15362.

No amendments have been tabled. A simple majority is required for the draft resolution. 

The vote in the Hemicycle and via remote voting is now open.

The vote is closed. 

The resolution is carried.

Congratulations. 

We will now consider the draft recommendation to which no amendments have been tabled. A two-thirds majority is required.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed. Results please.

Once again, carried unanimously.

Thank you.

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has presented a draft resolution to which six amendments have been tabled and a draft recommendation to which one amendment has been tabled. This is document 15353.

First, we will consider the six amendments to the draft resolution, unanimous approval of amendments.

I understand that the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development wishes to propose to the Assembly that amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 to the draft resolution which were unanimously approved by the Committee should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

Is that so Mr Luís LEITE RAMOS?

Can you please say that in the microphone?