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29 September 2021 afternoon

2021 - Fourth part-session Print sitting

Sitting video(s) 1 / 1

Opening of the sitting No. 28

Address: High Level Panel and interactive debate


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


It's 3.15 p.m., I propose to you, dear colleagues, dear friends, that we start with this high-level event on environment and human rights: the right to a safe, healthy, and sustainable environment.

I'm very pleased to welcome the President of Hungary, His Excellency János ÁDER. We had already a couple of meetings. We will have online the Chair of the Italian Parliament, we will see when that flashes up. Of course we have the pleasure of having our own Secretary General, Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, as usual with us. I'm very pleased to have you here.

We will have also the statement, if you wish, by the Minister for the Environment and Climate of Portugal who unfortunately had to desist at the very last second, but we are lucky enough to have his Deputy Eduardo PINHEIRO, who will be with us online. We also have one of our judges to the European Court of Human Rights, Mr Tim EICKE, I hope I said that right, who is the environmental specialist, I've been told, in the Court of Human Rights. And of course we've got Anuna DE WEVER VAN DER HEYDEN, who is a climate and human rights activists, I see on my paper. Basically she's an environmental activist who is pretty well-known across Europe, but specifically in Belgium. She is a Belgian citizen. It is no coincidence that she's a Belgian and that I am. This really is no coincidence at all.

Let me head off by thanking all of you for being with us. We will have some more colleagues of the parliament coming in, but as you know committees are going on, but, as time goes by, they will join with us. We are very pleased to have all of you, and I think today is a very specific and great day.

As you know we had seven different reports, resolutions and recommendations on our agenda. We passed four of them. Now all these four who basically are quite heavy as to the substance were passed, dear colleagues, dear friends, unanimously, which of course is going to put a lot of pressure on the Committee of Ministers, but we like that. And of course the judge of the Human Rights Court knows that having passed this, it probably will be an issue that, to the extent of the possible, will be taken into account when going forward in the case law of environment.

A while ago I was in New York with Antonio Guterres. At that stage he promised to be with us. Due to some circumstances we had to modify our agenda. We normally would have foreseen for June, but then we had the violence against women issue on our agenda, because it was really timely to do so: the Istanbul Convention and other issues. And we placed the environmental debate today. This had as a consequence that since since we have the big meeting in New York that Mr Guterres cannot personally be with us but he absolutely wanted to deliver a message. And so I would like to start by having the message of Mr Guterres right now.


Secretary General of the United Nations


Dear parliamentarian colleagues,

It is a pleasure to join the Parliamentary Assembly for this year's timely debate on environment and human rights. Climate change, pollution the rapid extinction of masses of species, the spread of zoonotic diseases, our planet is rapidly reaching a point of no return.

Not only are we destroying the natural world around us, we are effectively destroying our ability to honour our rights as human beings. That is because every human right ultimately depends on a healthy biosphere. Without healthy, functioning ecosystems, there will be no clean air to breathe, safe water to drink or nutritious food to eat.

The right to life, health, food, water and culture are in jeopardy. Efforts to slow climate change have proven insufficient to stop the tidal wave of environmental destruction sweeping the planet. Once again, the most vulnerable populations are the worst affected.

Covid-19 is a wake-up call. As a part of the natural world, human beings cannot and will not survive a drastic changing the environment.

We must recognise that the human rights-based recovery from the pandemic and our planet's repair are two sides of the same coin.

Upcoming COPs on climate change and biodiversity, as well as the Stockholm+50 meeting offer last-minute opportunities to really change course and redefine our relationship with nature. Only if we recognise the environment and human rights are inseparable, can we turn this tide.

Rights-based conservation is the most effective, efficient and equitable path towards safeguarding the planet. Only if we move towards sustainable consumption and production patterns, will we be able to achieve equity in access to and use of natural resources.

We must urgently acknowledge the profound importance of implementing a rights-based approach to both the climate and biodiversity crisis.

In this vein, I would urge the recognition of the right to a healthy environment. Together, let us build an inclusive world where people can enjoy the full respect of their human rights and live with dignity as living beings on a healthy planet.

I wish you a fruitful discussion, and I thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thanks for this inspiring introduction. As you will have heard, dear colleagues, the Secretary General of the United Nations specifically said that human rights and environment are inseparable and, on top of that, that a rights-based approach is needed, including the right to a healthy environment, which is basically is partly the same that we have been saying and voting on this morning.

Let me have just one small message of sanitary nature: I do appreciate every one of you wearing your masks. This is not an Assembly meeting, it is like an event, so it's not that the same rules apply, but I do urge you to keep your mask on, please. Of course, when one of us speakers takes the podium you are free to take off your mask at the podium, but please going back to your seat and answering to the questions I would ask you to put your mask back on.

So, let me now move to our first speaker, basically as a response a little bit to the other Secretary General. It's my pleasure to, of course, welcome Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, our own Secretary General. Protecting the right to a healthy environment requires action from all States including all parts and entities at the Council of Europe.

This Assembly is an important, I would say a major part, of that, but the entire institution, the Council of Europe as a whole, is stronger when we work together diligently trying to achieve our common goals. Therefore we really highly appreciate, Madam Secretary General, your presence here today.

And without any delay I yield the floor to you.


Secretary General of the Council of Europe


Mr President of the Republic of Hungary,

Mr President of the Parliamentary Assembly

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Never before has human behaviour posed such a danger to the environment. Never before have our knowledge and understanding been so extensive and our awareness of the situation so acute. Never before has it been so urgent for each of us to act. Whether we are individuals, companies, states or international organisations, we all have a responsibility to protect and care for our planet.

The role of the Council of Europe in this respect is clear. The European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter form the bedrock of human rights on our continent. They apply to all aspects of our lives. So when damage to our environment jeopardises these fundamental rights, we intervene because the Convention and the Charter are not, after all, frozen in time. They are living instruments that must be reinterpreted in light of our times and adapted to new challenges in the field of human rights.

When environmental damage results in the denial of the right to life, privacy and property, when it affects the right to health, to a healthy environment or to housing, or when those who act to protect the environment are deprived of their right to a fair trial and their freedom of expression, assembly or association, then it is crucial to remedy these injustices.

That is why the European Court of Human Rights has developed a whole series of judgments and decisions linking human rights and environmental protection and specifying the positive measures that European states must take.

Of course, it is primarily up to the Member States to apply these common standards. Moreover, international legal bodies already rely on these standards when deciding environmental cases. This trend will only accelerate as the Strasbourg case law develops.


Secretary General of the Council of Europe


But, the Council of Europe will not simply leave them to it. Our job is to support member States in fulfilling their obligations. That's why we have updated our manual on human rights and the environment and launched online courses on human rights and the environment. Presenting practitioners with the principles derived from case law so that they can put these two into practice and raise the quality of life for millions.

Of course, laying out the case law alone is simply not enough. We must go further: be proactive. We must use those same principles to set the detailed standards that will make the change required. That's why we are looking to update, revise, and maximize the impact of our existing treaties on environmental protection, including on environmental crimes, for example.

But just as important, we have set to work a group of experts which is preparing a new recommendation on human rights and the environment and which will consider the case for new binding instruments too. Tools that will better prepare European governments for the task ahead.

Dear friends, the Council of Europe has transformed the human rights landscape of our continent for over seven decades now. Applying our timeless principles to the evolving changes of the modern world. Failure to protect our environment will lead to to irreversible consequences, so we will not shy from our task.

This year, our world forum for democracy asks the question "can democracy save the environment?", and here, at this organization we will play our part to ensure that it can. From the Committee of Ministers setting standards to our Development Bank funding mitigation and adaptation to a Parliamentary Assembly that's pushing for progress at the multilateral level.

This is about leadership and the law: the will and the means. We have these tools at our disposal, so let us use them now to shape a better future.

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Madam Secretary General.

I heard you well, because you mentioned at least three times "binding rules". We love that because that's exactly what we are trying to propose to the Committee of Ministers to take on, heading into, if possible, a feasibility study and looking into how we can connect really environmental and human rights.

A while ago I had the enormous honour to be in Rome and to have a conversation, if I may say so, with the Holy Father, on environment. At that stage also I invited him to come to Strasbourg on the item and he basically told me if it is possible in any way I will do so. Of course, physically or online. Although all of this was not really possible, I do have to say that I was very very pleased to receive a personal letter by the Holy Father himself signed in his name. He's got a very small signature on the bottom to the right which calls for his modesty, I suppose. But it is really a true honour that we, as an organisation, and I myself, as President, after this conversation with the Holy Father he really has dug into the issue of linking environment to human rights, as he has done before.

And so, please allow me to have a few quotes out of this long letter, which is available if you could keep it on the screen please. It is a letter in Italian, but I will quote in English. Just a few quotes.

First quote: "Each tangible initiative and decision by this organisation (meaning us) that can improve our planet's alarming state of health must be supported and properly implemented".

These are very strong words.

Second quote: "We cannot wait any longer. We must act. Any instrument that respects human rights and the principles of democracy and the rule of law, the fundamental values of the Council of Europe, can be useful in tackling this global challenge (meaning environment)".

Third quote: "Yet we can, when we talk only of rights, we only think about what is owed to us, we must also consider our responsibilities towards future generations and the world that we want to leave to our children and to today's young people".

Fourth quote: "Let us act with hope, courage, and determination, and let us make concrete decisions. These decisions cannot be put off any longer, if their aim is to protect our common home and the dignity of every human being".

A very strong message from the Holy Father. Straight into the heart of what we are doing, linking environment to human rights. And he, as well as the United Nations Secretary-General, basically calls upon linking the environment to human rights in a binding way.

I just wanted to share this with you because I believe, given the outreach of the Pope into the world, it is important for you to know that this also has the support of them.

Without any delay, and having shared some quotes with you, I would like to pass on to His Excellency, Mr János ÁDER, President of the Republic of Hungary.

Mr President, we are extremely honoured by your presence. We know that one of the key priorities of Hungary's presidency of the Committee of Ministers is the protection of the environment. Your presence here today, Mr President, is a testament to the importance that your country attaches to this issue

President ÁDER himself, dear colleagues, has shown leadership on environmental matters. Besides being among the first world leaders to sign the Paris Agreement into law – I repeat, being one of the first world leaders to sign the Paris Agreement into law – he has frequently spoken on the importance and urgency of taking action to address climate change and protect the environment, including at the United Nations. On top of that, President ÁDER founded the Blue Planet Foundation in 2016 with the aim of promoting environmental and sustainable development in Hungary and abroad.

Mr President, our Assembly counts on the Hungarian Presidency and your personal commitment and dedication to the cause to move forward and take concrete actions to ensure that the environment takes its deserved place in the system of human rights and is recognised as such.

Excellency, I yield the floor.

Mr János ÁDER

President of Hungary


Well, I will seize the opportunity that the President was kind enough to offer to actually take my mask off. I will also seize the opportunity to talk in my mother tongue, if you will bear with me.

Distinguished Mister President, distinguished Madam Secretary General, esteemed ladies and gentlemen,

I am looking at the clock because we did meet with the president and when I told him that in past years, I have had quite a lot of lectures delivered to different age groups and the presentation never fell short of one hour. It was more 90 minutes than one hour. He looked at me with alarm and he said, "please, that is what I was afraid of". I will not talk for an hour and a half, ladies and gentlemen, of course. 

We have just heard quotes from Secretary General of the UN, Mr António GUTERRES, and also words from her excellency, the Secretary General and the Holy Father. I believe, that from all these, if I wanted to sum up the message into one single sentence, he said, "we must act". Secretary General GUTERRES said that we are at the last moment. The Secretary General said that we have never been as dangerous to our environment. The Pope said verbatim in his letter, "we must act". I guess that all three messages concur. 

Climate change, water crisis, the decline of biodiversity, environment conservation, environment protection, the right to a healthy environment, these were the words that were uttered in the past few minutes and these are the words that we come across more and more frequently when we read and when we watch the media. 

The question of course is – and that was something those who spoke before me also mentioned – can we really preserve the created world as we know it? Or are we actually destroying it? 

The better part of this year is over. And member States of the Council of Europe are not among the countries that are most hit by natural disasters in the world but if we just look back on the past summer, we will remember: June, the Czech Republic, had such a tornado – 220 km winds – that the region had never seen. The same month, there were record-high floods in Germany and Belgium – I think that is where the biggest destruction happened. Also during the same summer there were huge forest fires. There is one single piece of data, during the summer, two times the territory of Portugal burned down in forest fires in Russia, within the space of a few weeks or a few months.

Some people will say that this is a unique trend. Things happen. Anomalies occur. If you really look at the history of the past 50 years, you will see that the number of natural disasters has increased fivefold and the material damage – the financial damage – has multiplied seven times. 

Natural disasters, especially if these are compounded and successive and if they come in the same region or a country, usually lead to an economic crisis. The economic crisis usually leads to social tension. Social tension frequently leads to political crisis. None of these are very favourable to broadening human rights.

Climate and climate change, these are the buzzwords nowadays. 

Many of you may have been there, I am sure you have seen the images you will remember. The year of 2015, December, Paris, we have just finished the negotiations, everybody is celebrating, hugging one another, all the different delegates. Everybody is happy. We have adopted the Paris Agreement. It is coming on six years later, we have to say sadly that six years later we are further away from the Paris objectives than we were at the moment we adopted them.

The UN published in September, so this month, has published a report which actually says that if the present trend were to continue, by 2030, not only will we have lower emissions, compared to 1990, no, we are going to be 60% higher, and I am talking of 2030.

What we can see is that when it comes to words and to actions, when it comes to principles and to reality, the two are very distant to each other. What we see is climate champions, self-declared climate champion countries, quite a few EU member States who declare themselves to be climate champions. Not only have they not reduced their emissions, compared to 1990, in fact they have increased their emissions.    

Then, of course, we do not like to mention the per capita emissions and how the different countries are performing. 

The second issue is the water crisis. There are mentions of this. Scientists agree that 80% of the impacts of climate crisis are felt through water or something related to water. There is also agreement that the so-called hydrological cycle has been disrupted or is being disrupted – it is changing anyway. This leads to extreme weather circumstances and weather events. It is local and regional water crises that we are seeing, which are actually going beyond the local sphere and are becoming global in their impact. They do result in supply problems in other parts of the world. Let us just remember the Indonesian floods a few years ago. 

Forests. The year of 2020 was the black year for the forests of the world. There were 42 000 sq km of forests cut down. That is half the territory of Hungary that were cut down. 

Biodiversity. Biological diversity. You all know, who are here, in the Earth's history there were five waves of extinction. Scientists actually agree today that the sixth one has begun. The main root cause of this is everything that we are doing. We ourselves are the root cause. We are actually working against our own fate, and we are destroying and endangering our own future and the conditions of living with this practice.

You have every right to ask the question – and I am still looking at the clock – okay and you ask the question, and we have heard all that. What is Hungary doing? What is Hungary doing? To be a role model, to be an example in this or to come up with a solution? To be one step ahead of the pack? Well, let us look at climate. Hungary was one of the first among the EU member States to ratify the Paris Agreement. Compared to 1990, the CO2 emissions in Hungary have decreased by 32%. Just as a comparison, I would like to say, that quite a few EU member States have not only decreased their emissions, they have in fact, increased it. Ours has decreased by 32%. 

The Hungarian Parliament adopted a law, which stipulates that by 2050, Hungary wants to become carbon neutral and there are already executive orders that have been issued as a result of which there was a decision to actually completely phase out coal as a source of energy within a short period of time. We have decided to continue with our practice that we have been doing in the past five years. Every single year, we have doubled power capacities, solar power capacities and from 2030, we will only have electronic buses operating in Hungary. We will have no diesel or kerosene buses in community transports in Hungary from 2030 onwards. As a result of this, we forecast that by 2030 – not 2050 – 2030, 90% Hungarian electricity generation is going to be CO2 free.

There is much mention made of too much water, too little water, the drama of polluted water. Well, we have all of them. We have had our fair share of all of these over the past years. The drama of too much water: the periodic huge floods that hit us every year or every 10 years, actually forced us to build emergency reservoirs, costing a lot of money. It is true that we might only use them every 10 years but to protect people living along rivers, we need them. At the same time, the central parts of the country, because of climate change, are starting to become like a desert. We are fighting desertification in central Hungary and because many of our rivers 90% of our rivers actually arrive from abroad, we are getting a lot of waste coming into the country, being downstream countries. We have to resolve this problem of cleaning this pollution. I am proud to say, ladies and gentlemen, that rivers leaving Hungary are cleaner when they leave than when they arrived.

Forests and forests plantation. I said to you that 42 000 sq. km of forests were cut down last year. That's half the surface of Hungary. During the past 100 years in Hungary, we have doubled the surface of forests and we are planning for further forestification in the next coming years. 

Biodiversity. One single thing and I think that is good news. Not long ago, we inaugurated the Mura-Drava-Danube Biosphere Reserve. Austria, Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia are participating in the creation of this bioreserve. One million hectares of land which is a bioreserve – perhaps I am not being modest – it is – we plan to call the Amazon of Europe. 

Finally, Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to leave with you six questions as food for thought. Of course, I am aiming the questions at you, but at every other decision maker. 

First question: When will we finally take ourselves seriously? Why are we not complying with our earlier joint decisions. Paris – remember Paris – we are further away from Paris than the moment we adopted it. 

Second question: When we realise, finally, that water is one of our most important economic resources? Suitable quantity and quality of water is required for feeding the population, for modern industry and for modern agriculture. 

Third question: How long are we going to sit idle watching how our forests disappear? Our consumption practices, the demand that we generate. How responsible are we?

Fourth question: Natural services, when are we going to prize these services? When will we realise that the decline of biological diversity is fundamentally ruining our chances? 

Fifth question: When are we going to change our economic thinking? When it comes to different projects and investments, when will we start calculating the so-called external costs? Any contamination to water, land or air. 

Sixth question: When will we finally realise that prevention is cheaper than treating the consequences when alleviating the damages? When will we transform our regulations, our subsidy systems in a way that will comply with this? 

In the beginning I referred to the Holy Father, and I asked the question, "will we preserve our created world as we know it or are we going to destroy it?" We should finally realise that this question is fundamentally not about the state that nature is in. She will regenerate; she will adapt. This question is not about Mother Nature, it is about us. It is about our future. 

Thank you for your attention. 


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you Mr President for your inspiring words, and I know that all of your questions we will address them, not necessarily today but we do have to address them, specifically the last one that you put: aside from water, because water is the basis of our life, by the way, is "when are we indeed going to realise that, basically, to prevent is cheaper than to repair damage?"

I think that's a very fundamental question.

Thank you for your inspiring words.

Dear colleagues, let us now go to our next speaker, joining us here on video. I hope that we have the Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Mr Roberto FICO, online. I'm looking at my screen, whether that will work. Hopefully it does, otherwise we will have to skip and go to the next one.

Well, I don't see Mr FICO.

Anyway, Speaker FICO, voilà! Welcome, dear colleague and good friend. We have met already a number of times. I'm very happy that you accepted to be on board, be it through video. We would have loved to have you here, you know. I have pushed you so hard to get here, but for whatever reason it was impossible.

Dear colleagues, Speaker FICO was elected Speaker of the Italian Parliament back in 2018 and since then has shown leadership for both international cooperation and the environment. In a joint statement with his fellow speakers from the G7 countries in September of 2020 last year, he rightly reminded us that the climate crisis is the existential threat of our time, jeopardising the health and well-being of every family in every community around the world.

The statement, dear colleagues, urged all of us to take action and do what we really promise: to respect and implement not only the Paris Agreement but to take action in parliament, which we, by the way, have done this morning and will continue to do this afternoon.

Without any due delay, dear Roberto, you have the floor.

Mr Roberto FICO

Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies


Good morning to all of you,

I would like to greet President Mr Rik DAEMS, as he knows, I would have loved to participate and be in attendance today but unfortunately, I really had to stay in Italy. It will be for another time, and in the meantime, I am happy to be here on video and to be able to be with you.

I greet the President Mr Janós ÁDER and all the other participants.

I am delighted to take part in today's meeting, which is part of an ambitious initiative of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

I very much welcome this "integral" approach to the issue, which brings together environment, democracy and the rule of law, and I share your objective of contributing to the adoption of legal rules on the subject at an international level. This point is fundamental.

Protecting the environment is not just about preserving flora, fauna and natural resources; it is a prerequisite for enjoying all other rights in full. This is an approach now consolidated at an international level and followed in various national Constitutions.

In our country, a bill is currently being examined by the Chamber of Deputies, which has already been approved on first reading by the Senate of the Republic. This bill expressly introduces into the Constitution the "protection of the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems, also in the interest of future generations," and establishes that private economic initiative cannot be carried out in such a way as to damage health and the environment.

Also in Italy, we have recently set up, for the first time, a Ministry for Ecological Transition and, at the Presidency of the Council, an Interministerial Committee for Ecological Transition, which has the task of ensuring the coordination of all national policies for ecological transition.

The initiative of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is to complete this multi-level legal and political framework, helping to further affirm that environmental protection must be a cross-cutting dimension of all public policies.

Indeed, it is the basis for the prevention of climate disasters and their economic and social costs, the protection of human health, the quality of agriculture and of the food we eat, and the right to drinking water and sanitation.

The European Union has set ambitious targets in this direction. The Next Generation EU initiative binds the Member States to allocate at least 37% of the total appropriations to the green transition, which Italy, in its plan, has increased to 40%.

However, these instruments will be insufficient if not accompanied by a renewed political commitment and the ability to fully involve citizens in the choices that then follow.

Even these days, in the face of rising energy bills, there are those who point the finger at the ecological transition. We cannot pass this message on.

Of course, it is clear that ecological transition will have adjustment costs for the production system, causing temporary competitive disadvantages in some sectors compared to foreign companies that follow less stringent environmental, social and energy standards.

But these costs are modest, very modest, compared to the medium and long term benefits for the community and for the production system itself. The reduction of the energy bill, the elimination of the serious problems in the disposal of undifferentiated waste, the development of innovative technologies, green investments and new quality jobs.

We need to explain more to citizens, the multiple implications of a safe and healthy environment and of an integral approach, inviting them to responsibly change their lifestyles, their daily behaviours.

And we must strengthen co-ordination at the multilateral level. In this regard, Italy is, these months, engaged in two important fora.

The first is the Presidency of the G20, centred around the relaunch of green and sustainable growth to the benefit of all with the three pillars: "People, Planet, Prosperity".

The second is the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (the so-called Cop 26) which Italy is organising together with the United Kingdom.

In this framework, the Italian Parliament will host the appropriate meetings from 7 to 9 October, in agreement with the IPU and the British Parliament.

In the Chamber, in particular, we will host a meeting in preparation for COP26.

The meeting will be an opportunity for a discussion on action to combat climate change at national, regional and international levels. In the end, a proposal for a final document will be adopted and will be finalised at the next meeting in Glasgow.

I am confident that through debates such as this one, and the meetings in Rome, we will make our contribution to tackling environmental challenges and defining a path to ensure lasting and equitable well-being for future generations.

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you, my dear friend and colleague, Mr Roberto FICO

I mean, when we listened to you; I come also to the question of the president of Hungary; you are acting, but we need to act more. And you justly mentioned that you will introduce the environment, apparently, in the constitution of Italy. Well, that is a very promising element, because probably that allows people, your citizens, to go to your constitutional court, if that doesn't satisfy, and if the Committee of Ministers, dear ambassador of Hungary, get to a feasibility study and binding rules, eventually even to the Europe European Court of Human Rights.

Maybe we will meet in Glasgow. You mentioned the COP26. I would like to make one remark to that extent and it goes into what president ÁDER said. I always ask myself, this is the seventh question, Mister President: "how come that so many people make so much effort meeting now, for the 26th time after 30 years, and the environment is still going the wrong way?".

It's a very simple question, and so, this is the seventh one in a row, if you wish, and this is exactly how, with your permission and certainly with the support of this Assembly today, that I will take as a message to COP26.

I now come to the representative of the Portuguese Minister for environment and climate action. Unfortunately, the minister was called away at the very last second, this happens when you're a minister. I mean, a lot amongst us have been there, so we know that. But we have the pleasure of having the deputy Minister, Mr Eduardo PINHEIRO, to whom I gladly give the floor to right now.

You have the floor.


Portugal Secretary of State


Thank you, good afternoon for all of you.

Your Excellency, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Distinguished Representatives, Excellencies,

First of all, as a representative of the Portuguese Government, I would like to welcome the reports that were approved in the previous session. It is an important step. And it is with the greatest honour that I address this house par excellence of human rights.

The right to a clean and healthy environment was left out of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because it was drafted before the modern environmental movement in the 1960s and in the 1970s. However, over recent years there has been a growing interest and movement at national, regional and international levels to go further on this understanding.

Portugal was the first country in the world to include in its constitution the right to a human, healthy and ecologically-balanced living environment. You know, the legal recognition of the right to a healthy environment has been expanding for decades with over a hundred countries having incorporated in it in their constitutions, and many more having recognised it through national laws or regional agreements. Nowadays more than three quarters of countries around the world recognise the right to a healthy environment.

We have reached the stage where, through science and technology, we have acquired the power to transform our environment in countless ways and on an unprecedented scale. All around the globe there is growing evidence of human-caused harm, such as water, air and land pollution, the destruction in the pollution of natural resources, biodiversity loss, and climate change, just to name a few.

Thus, it is important to recognise our dependence on Earth's natural resources such as air, water and land are fundamental to life, and so it is our climate. Much more than economic assets and infrastructure, they are the basis of our survival.

With more than 1.7 million children under the age of five losing their lives every year as a consequence of avoidable environmental impacts, and millions more suffering diseases, disability and an array of other harms, all of which are linked to exposure to unsafe environments. We should understand that environmental and climate crisis are also a child rights crisis.

People all over the world seek inspiration, knowledge and spirituality within their natural surroundings. And that was even more relevant in these pandemic times. And climate change is affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and weather events are becoming more frequent and extreme.

Destruction of environment and thereby of the natural resources is therefore a violation, or relates to the violation, of human rights, directly by undermining the above aspects of human existence or indirectly by leading to other violations of human rights. For example, through social disruption, conflicts to maintain or reach natural resources, or even war.

At the same time, millions of species of plants, animals and microorganisms share the Earth with us. And each has a value of its own, a role to play in this wide complex web of interdependent connections. We all are interconnected so they are also affected.

Biodiversity has numerous uses in agriculture, medicine, food and Industry. Its loss is therefore a part of the destruction of environmental human rights. In fact, access to safe drinking water, clean air and soil benefits, and abundant biodiversity are essential fundamental and universal human rights, because they determine people's survival and are therefore a condition for the exercise of the other human rights.

Mr President, Excellencies, the environment is the collective good, the heritage of all mankind and the responsibility of us all. We are all connected in an environment that has no borders, and it pushes us towards a new concept of nation, which transcends geography in a new understanding that we are all one single humanity in a planet that is unique. The time for change is getting shorter and shorter, we need to urgently act against climate change and biodiversity loss.

Europe is leading the way: the European Green Deal, the new growth strategy for Europe, provides the framework for sustainable recovery in line with the objectives of making Europe the first carbon neutral continent. The European climate law sets a clear framework for climate action and ambition in the EU, in line with the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, with the so-called Fit for 55 package Europe will show how to reach those targets.

The recently adopted European strategies on climate neutrality, adaptation to climate change, circular economy, hydrogen, biodiversity, chemicals and food systems for instance are a clear testimony of the EU determination to go from words to action. Portugal was the first country in the world to commit to carbon neutrality as a contribution to the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Ladies and gentlemen, I can assure you one thing: there will be no human rights without climate.

In this worldwide context, internationally used instruments such as international conventions and protocols on environment are fundamental key pieces on this chessboard and very significant to protect human rights. That's why we strongly support multilateralism that unites us and does not divide us.

In the coming months, crucial decisions will be taken at Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD COP 15) and at COP26 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Portugal is prepared to contribute to the ambitions of both.

Combating climate change and biodiversity loss are currently recognised as moral, ethical, and economic imperatives. Climate change is a precursor of a set of disruptions of the environment, the economy and society that normally affects the most vulnerable populations, in this factor that promotes poverty, induces migration.

Human rights are about respecting human beings both as an individual and as a member of the human species and ensuring the dignity of the human being. Human rights are the real touchstone for the revolution of a society that is evolved and structured in humanity, in respect for each other. We urge for the universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment, to clean air, drinking water, healthy foods, clean oceans, a stable climate, and to biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

We firmly believe that such recognition would have real-world practical value, both in terms of better protecting and promoting individual human rights and by protecting and preserving our unique natural environment.

Thank you for your attention.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


As we all know, Portugal has been a leader, as Hungary has been, and still is, on this issue [of] having environment in your constitution. The Deputy Minister is also fighting together with us for human rights - environment gets linked because environment is a universal right.

What sense has Article 2 of the convention, which is the right to life? What sense does it make if you cannot enjoy that right of life in a clean, safe, healthy, and sustainable environment?

Judge Tim EICKE from the European Court of Human Rights - these are the ones that everyone should be afraid of. At the end of the day, I hope that you will scare everyone now! Judge EICKE has been serving at the European Court of Human Rights as a judge in respect of the UK since 2016. As a prominent scholar and lawyer in human rights in European and international law, Judge EICKE has been at the forefront of the discussions on how the European Convention on Human Rights might be used, or what are the limitations to using the Convention to address environmental matters.

Of course, this is yesterday. Because maybe tomorrow the right to a safe, clean, healthy, sustainable environment might be inscribed in the Convention itself.

Without any delay, we are extremely interested in hearing you.

Mister EICKE, you have the floor.


Judge, European Court of Human Rights


Thank you very much, dear President DAEMS.

Dear President, dear Madam Secretary General, dear Mr ÁDER, dear representatives.

Thank you very much for your kind invitation for me to participate in today's high level event. It is an honour for me to be able to contribute to the important debate concerning environment and human rights which you are having today.

President Spanó regrets he cannot be here today but judicial commitments required his presence across the river.

The pressing issue of human rights and the environment have been put at the top of the agenda again by the Parliamentary Assembly, as well as the three recent presidencies of the Committee of Ministers. And we as the Court are grateful that we are being invited to participate, at least as far as our traditional role permits us, to take part in this important Council of Europe-wide debate.

After all, over almost 30 years the Court has in its case law consistently recognised the increasing importance of the protection of the environment and its interrelationship with the enjoyment of human rights. And that even though, as is well known and is of course part of your debate today, neither the Convention nor any of those protocols currently expressly provide for a right to a healthy environment.

This recognition of the importance of the environment and its interrelationship with enjoyment of human rights is now reflected in more than 350 judgments and decisions in which the Court has adjudicated on questions involving the relationship between the environment and the protection of the environment and the rights protected under the Convention. And in particular, the rights to life, the right to private and family life, the right to access to court, to freedom of information and to the peaceful enjoyment of property.

It has been able to do so in relying on and applying its long-established living instrument doctrine. As well as its recognition that the Convention cannot be interpreted in a vacuum but must be interpreted in harmony with other relevant rules of international law, of which it forms part, as well as soft law standards developed by the Council of Europe, including the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers.

As a consequence the Court's case law now provides a degree of substantive protection, primarily where environmental disasters or accidents have caused, or threatened to cause, loss as well as it now provides substantial procedural protection. Under the latter, it is now a primary requirement under the Convention that member States put in place an appropriate legislative and administrative framework including regulations to compel institutions, whether private or public, to adopt appropriate measures for the protection of people's lives.

Furthermore, as the Court underlined in its judgment in Taskin in Turkey, where a State must determine complex issues of environmental and economic policy, the decision-making process is subject to three procedural requirements: one, it must involve appropriate investigations and studies in order to allow the decision-maker to predict and evaluate in advance the effects of those activities which might damage the environment and infringe individual rights and to enable them to strike a fair balance between the various conflicting interests at stake. Second, there must be public access to the conclusions of such studies and to information which would enable members of the public to assess the danger to which they are being exposed. And thirdly, individuals concerned must be able to appeal to the courts against any decision, act or omission where they consider that their interests or their comments have not been given sufficient weight in the decision-making process.

That said, of course, there is no denying that there are limits to the protection the Court has been able to provide to date. These delimits are derived primarily from its focus, inherent in the Convention, on the protection of the Convention rights of individual victims from the acts or omissions of the respective respondent State in any case before it. A focus which requires the identification of a sufficiently direct link expressed as the need for a serious specific and imminent risk between an applicant and the harm arising from the alleged violation.

As a court of law, the Court therefore needs to be satisfied not only that the individual applicant is such a victim, but also that there is a sufficiently established causal link between the act or omission of the respondent State in question and the victim's injury.

Furthermore, there is of course the mandatory requirement that applicants should have exhausted domestic remedies before they can bring their applications before the Court, as well as of course the requirement of subsidiarity, long recognised by the Court but now expressly incorporated into the Preamble of the Convention by Protocol No. 15.

Now as you are aware, some of these limitations are now being tested by an increasing number of climate change applications brought before the Court, the most well-known of which are probably the application brought by six Portuguese children and young adults against 33 member States and the application of the Climate Seniors association against Switzerland. Now while these applications are frequently described as having been accepted by the Court, I should make clear at this point that while they have been communicated to the respective respondent governments, both the admissibility and if admissible, the merits of these applications, are yet to be decided. You will, therefore, I hope, understand that I as a sitting judge of the Court will be able to say little more about these cases today.

But we are, of course, not alone in engaging with this challenge and the Secretary General referred to this. And in addition to other international developments we follow closely and with particular interest decisions of our colleagues at the national courts when they are confronted with these issues. The dialogue between the national courts and the Strasbourg Court is an essential tool in our collective engagement with the challenges posed by environmental degradation and climate change.

Now, I might not have been able to deliver the scary message but let me close by reiterating that while ultimately our role under Article 19 of the Convention is to ensure the observance of the engagements undertaken by the High Contracting Parties in the Convention, under the Convention and the Protocols there too, it is not for the Court, or for me, to express a view on the desirability or feasibility of a further protocol to the Convention expressly bringing environmental protection within its competence. But I want to assure you all that, as President Spanó has previously said, whatever the answer to this essentially political question, the Court will continue to play its role within the boundaries of its competences, as a court of law, forever mindful that the Convention guarantees must be effective and real and not illusory.

Thank you very much.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

Those who listened very well should be nevertheless, dear judge, a little bit scared. And I'll come back to that in the second part. But let me now come to Ms Anuna DE WEVER VAN DER HEYDEN.

A warm welcome, Anuna, amongst us. I'm very glad that you are here. As parliamentarians our job is to be representatives of the people, that's what we are supposed to be. But to be fair, we need to be reminded once in a while of who it is that we are representing.

Now, Anuna DE WEVER, dear colleagues, is one of the leading activists around the world who, starting back in 2018, if I'm not mistaken, gathered thousands people to protest in favour of the environment. Because to protest is negative, but it is in favour of the environment. And she, Anuna, and all other people reminded us that as lawmakers and citizens we really have to take the climate urgently on board.

And as the President and so many other people have said, we have to take action.

We are extremely interested in what you, as a young activist, have to tell us.

Anuna, you have the floor.


Climate and Human Rights activist


Thank you very much.

Distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly and fellow panellists,

I am here today as a voice of the generation that will live with the consequences of the decisions you are making here today. In these resolutions, you talk about democracy, migration, rule of law, and the need for enhanced action by the Council of Europe. Many of the priorities highlighted in the resolutions are extremely important and I want to applaud that.

You are right in promoting a shift in international and national law, as well as government policies to ensure that a healthy environment is recognized as a basic human right.

You're right in the notion that we need more participatory democracy and to respect the rule of law in order to combat the climate crisis.

And you are right in the fact that if we want to protect human rights we cannot turn away from the reality that millions will be forced to forcefully migrate and flee due to the climate crisis.

It's an important first step to recognise problems and highlight solutions and we can see that here today. But the part where you show true courage as the leaders of this world comes with the implementation of those promises. When we see that many of the crucial scientific feedback loops, carbon budgets and tipping points are not taken into account in your policies and you only set targets decades from now, but the climate crisis is happening today and there are many people on, for example, island states who don't even have until 2025; it's really hard for us young people to take your promises and beautiful words seriously - because the policies supporting them are not consistent.

We understand that changing the system is not easy, because it's not just about fossil fuels. It's about human rights, it's about reinventing our economic system, and about respecting planetary boundaries. And because of decades of policies that have been destroying the ecosystems keeping us alive, we are extremely late.

This is exactly why every hesitation or inaction to combat this crisis - as a crisis - is purely criminal. Because it is people who pay for that with their lives. The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report clearly underlines the fact that any delay in the implementation of measures makes the most ambitious, meaning the only equal and liveable scenarios, purely hypothetical.

I think if you would all be a bit more straightforward and honest, we would be much further than where we are now. And as the next generation, I am not afraid to confront you with the truth because I have nothing to lose. Everybody in this room knows that behind these doors there are other deals, policies, and resolutions being agreed upon that are completely contradicting the ambition laid out here today. If we really want to build a different world, we cannot just do it as a part-time job; we cannot preach about the climate crisis and then put 2030 and 2050 on targets that will lead our world to a 3 to 4 degree rise; a world nobody can live in.

We cannot put millions of Euros in renewable energies while pouring billions into fossil fuels expecting our emissions to go down. And we cannot build walls to keep climate and other refugees out and, at the same time, preach about human rights protections for mass displacement of people affected by the climate crisis. It's all about consistency, and your responsibility doesn't end by presenting resolutions. It's where the real work begins.

While we sit here today, millions around the world are already suffering from the consequences of climate change. A report published this month by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies shows that since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters have affected over 130 million people worldwide; 600 million people have been exposed to extreme temperatures. The numbers are simply terrifying. And these are consequences of real policies adopted by real politicians such as many of you in this very room.

I would like to echo indigenous activist Nemonte Nenquimo who said "this is my message to the Western World: Your civilization is killing life on Earth." Our way of disrespecting planetary boundaries by exploiting people for decades is killing life on Earth. What we are talking about is historic responsibility, a global challenge that humankind must face up to.

Real leadership is about having the courage to put truth and care before profit and growth. It's about listening to the science and the facts, and to act accordingly. It's about stepping away from cowardly shortcuts, towards a new sustainable world.

Standing here in front of you today, appealing for the right for a future was not how I dreamt of spending my youth. Your actions have, however, denied me of my freedom to live without fear. I never had a choice but to be brave. Everyone in this room has a responsibility to do anything in their power to change this system, everything about it; the pillars it stands on and the narratives that keep it going. And you have heard this many times, but we are running out of time. It is only in these brief moments that I get to have the chance to stand in front of you and tell you how terrifying it is, how angry I am, and how we will not settle or compromise for anything else and a total system change. It's in these brief moments that I hope you don't just look at me as yet another climate activists with yet another speech, but as someone who is human, just like you, but brave enough to dream of a different world.

As we are weeks away from COP26, this bold initiative by the council has potential to show real, conscious climate leadership, which we desperately need. And as this has too often happened in the past, let's make sure that this time it doesn't stick to words.

Therefore our call on the Committee of Ministers to show courage and to do the right thing by making these resolutions a reality.

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Ms Anuna DE WEVER VAN DER HEYDEN for that message.

It is shaking us, a little bit, to our feet - which is needed, and I think that we share that kind of a 'combat' if we may say. The last sentence was, as far as I'm concerned, was also extremely important and of course the other ones before; you really understand what we try to do from the Assembly side with resolutions; but specifically with recommendations which have been accepted unanimously. You support that question, that demand, that the Committee of Ministers have the duty to take a recommendation on board; you and I hope that we can move onto the next step and get the environment linked to human rights - in whatever way, but in a binding way. So thank you for that.

Dear colleagues,

Let us now go for the next 20 minutes - we're a little bit over time - but I'm looking at the Secretary General. We can go over a little bit more? Nice.

Let's now go to our next phase where we've got the leaders of the political groups, or the representatives of the political groups, who will make their reflections.

I will do my best, dear panellists, to direct one or more of their reflections to you so don't be surprised, I mean, we had this exercise another time so I don't know whether I'm good at it, but still, I'll try. Let me head off by giving the floor to Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

May I ask, dear colleagues and groups leaders, to be brief enough in order to have as many people as possible being able to take the floor and address our panellists?



Turkey, SOC, Spokesperson for the group


By all means! I salute everybody on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

It's very heartening to hear a consensus that we all strongly believe that we need intervention to avert a climate crisis and we need it now. Clearly, such an intervention has to be holistic. We've already discussed many of the items that it should include.

Firstly, I'd like to underline that we need to change the structure of our world economy. Secondly, we need to ensure that the structural transition is fair, just, equitable and it doesn't feed further into the existing socio-economic inequalities. Finally, that indeed we have a rights-based framework to ensure the legal protections.

Indeed, it was this holistic approach that was approved within this very chamber this morning: I strongly underline that it was done unanimously!

Now this is very critical. I refer especially to two of the recommendations that this very plenary in this very chamber actually recommends to the Committee of Ministers. It says we'd like them to draw up an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights and to draw up an additional protocol to the European Social Charter to ensure that clear responsibility is given to States to maintain a good state of the environment, and to take equality into account.

Therefore, I'd like to ask the panel, in their very own capacities, given this very unanimously strong mandate that was agreed upon this morning, what concrete steps would they be willing and ready to take, especially with regard to these additional protocols in the coming few months – not too far away since we don't have much time left.

Thank you very much.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE.

Now we go to Mr Aleksander POCIEJ for the Group of the European People's Party.

Mr Aleksander POCIEJ

Poland, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group


Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, on behalf of the EPP Group, I would like to welcome the fact that our Assembly has made the right to a healthy environment an essential part of its work. With this high-level panel, there are no fewer than seven thematic reports, including a draft additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights.

I thank the President of our Assembly for his personal commitment to making these issues a priority, and I congratulate the various rapporteurs on the quality of their work, as well as the members of the panel; especially the President of Hungary, for their speeches.

I would also like to make an observation, Mr President: inviting the judges is really a sign of determination to achieve the goal. But, after the accusation that we heard from Mrs Anuna DE WEVER VAN DER HEYDEN, I also see another explanation for that presence.

As you know, the environment was recognised rather late as a common good at the international level; from the 1970s onwards, but it is now of crucial importance. Faced with the dramatic consequences of climate change, it is essential to recognise the right to a safe environment as a fundamental principle and to strengthen legal instruments guaranteeing its protection at the international level.

It is our responsibility - as has been said today - to current and future generations, and we must move forward. As former French President Jacques Chirac said, "in a changing environment, there is no greater risk than to stand still."

I am convinced that together we need to develop a real strategy at the pan-European level. Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, you can count on the support and co-operation of our political group.

Thank you very much.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Mr Aleksander POCIEJ.

We now give the floor to our colleague Mr Jacques MAIRE, president of the ALDE Group.

Mr Jacques MAIRE

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Mr President.

It is a source of pride for us, the ALDE Group, to be with you today because it has taken almost two years of effort to build up this important work.

The messages that have been sent today by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, by you, Mr President, by the Pope, by the Court, by the ministers and by the Secretary General show however that there comes a time when action must be taken.

This is the Council of Europe. We are not at the OECD, we are not in our states. The action is to work and to do what we are able to do. If today there were the Hague Conference with Konrad Adenauer, Winston Churchill and François Mitterrand, the right to the environment would obviously be included in the Convention. If the same thing happened in 1990 at the time of the Social Charter, the environment would obviously be included in the Social Charter. So what are we waiting for?

There are, of course, a few difficulties here and there, there is, I would say, the cumbersome nature of multilateralism today, there are, of course, the obstacles of a few states, but we are a pivotal political generation, the one for which our children, our grandchildren, our grandchildren will say in a few years' time: "Grandpa, Dad, you were there, you were in charge, do you see where we are now? What did you do?"

Everyone knows perfectly well that we are not within 2°C. We are not within 1.5°C. Everyone knows that, so everyone must take action. Here at the Council of Europe, the seven reports show the ways in which we can take action. The most important of these are the additional conventions. This is not a taboo, nor is it a magical object: these are objects that must be studied.

I believe that we have done our utmost in the Parliamentary Assembly. These seven reports, which bring together all the political groups, have been voted on strongly and will be voted on shortly. I think that the time has come to act, and I thank Ms Anuna DE WEVER VAN DER HEYDEN for what is not a guilt trip but simply a reminder of our responsibilities.

Thank you, Mr President.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Mayor.

We now turn to Mr Zsolt NÉMETH.


Hungary, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group


First of all President I would like to congratulate you for organising this panel for the second time.

I think we have now got a new model which gives great visibility to a certain matter and obviously to the Council of Europe as well, but also we have the substance because in the morning we were able to unanimously accept very important reports which have been referred to.

I would like to ask you, President János Áder: you are not only a green expert but also a Christian politician. Less than two weeks ago, you received Pope Francis in Budapest on the occasion of the 2021 International Eucharistic Congress. We all know that Pope Francis was the author of the Laudato Si encyclical on climate and environmental protection.

How do you see, personally, the relationship between environment, human rights, and religion?

What role do you think religion can play in changing our mentality to the environment?

Thank you very much for the opportunity.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you dear Zsolt.

We now move to our fifth representative of the political groups Mr Tiny KOX.

Tiny, you have the floor.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you very much, Mister President.

May I first compliment you for taking the lead in organising this Council of Europe environmental day. That is the achievement by you and our Assembly. May I also thank especially Ms DE WEVER and all those numerous young activists throughout the world, who worldwide, contribute so much in making us politicians aware that our very future is at stake. If we do not act now and do not act decisively to halt climate change and the disastrous pollution of the planet, we are really in a deep crisis.

In April of this year, this Assembly with a very large majority, called upon the Committee of Ministers to prioritise the development of new legal instruments aimed at ensuring the right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment for present and future generations and making it a legal obligation. The Secretary General tells us today, it is only six months later, that the Committee of Ministers is indeed debating the issue in that. That is positive news. We are working hard, and we are working hard to make the right to a healthy environment an accepted fundamental right. However, the essential question of mine to the activist Madam DE WEVER is, are we working hard enough? Are we going fast enough? If not, what then? "Après nous, le déluge"? or do you still see, as a representative of the next generation, any positive way out of this horrendous crisis?

Thank you very much.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Tiny KOX.

A lot of questions - if you allow me to do direct them a little bit.

I would like to start with President János Áder with the question that I find particularly interesting from Mr Zsolt NÉMETH.

Indeed we link environment to human rights. What is the role of religion, I suppose, in the global sense, to this effect? If you could respond to that dear Mr President in a brief moment.

You have the floor.

H.E. János ÁDER

President of Hungary


One thing is for sure. There is absolutely no short response to this question.

If anybody attempts to respond to this in a brief way and can respond to this briefly, I will give them the microphone!

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH quoted Laudato Si, Pope Francis' encyclical published in 2015. I don't know how many sitting in this chamber have read it, or read an excerpt.

It's a rather voluminous book with quite a few important sentences, food for thought. He has 170 pages to discuss this, I am sure I won't be able to do this in a few words.

There is, in fact, a shorter statement in the run-up to Glasgow. This was the first time it ever happened, that such a joint statement was signed, a few weeks ago, by Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Well, they didn't take 170 pages, it was only four pages long, but they also articulated thoughts together which they believe were important for people of the faith, whichever teachings they follow, they show considerations for the created world.

If I were to actually endeavour to respond briefly to what Mr Zsolt NÉMETH asked, I would say the following:

Robert Schuman is supposed to have said “Europe will become Christian or it will not be.” If I was to translate it into the logic of today, human civilisation will either be sustainable, or it will not be.

There, religion and religious connections will have an important role to play.



Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

Mister President, I have another reflection.

I don't know whether Mr Roberto FICO is still with us? I hope so. Can someone give me a sign of whether the speaker Mr Roberto FICO is still there? OK, we'll see if he pops up. Then I will go to our Judge, if you allow me to do so, because you didn't scare us enough, as far as I'm concerned. I do have a very specific question, because I had a discussion with a non-disclosed member of the court yesterday, not going to mention any names, but he told me that the mere fact that this goes into one of the reflections of the colleague's group leaders, that the mere fact that we pass resolutions, but more specifically pass recommendations, and, in this case, unanimously, with very clear elements; to what extent are they taken into account when the court handles treaties and delivers judgments on environmental cases?

Could you give us an inside into that?



Judge, European Court of Human Rights


Thank you very much - I would be pleased to.

As I alluded to in my short contribution; the Court does feel itself both embedded in other international instruments, be it Paris, be it the World Health Organisation´s, be it other binding instruments, as well as, what we call soft law; which is non-binding instruments, so it is not a protocol, it is not the Convention, it is not a treaty, but it is recommendations and resolutions adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly. So we particularly have regard to what happens in this House and happens in the Committee of Ministers. Therefore, it will no doubt be taken into account, and it will be given a fair amount of weight - the fact that it was adopted unanimously this morning - I would expect. But I think it is also clear that it is soft law, and therefore cannot change the legal framework which we as a Court are required to adjudicate on. [These are] some of the limitations which I sought to identify. It certainly is a strong message, which I suspect, will be heard loud and clear when we have to come and look at it as a document that informs us about what the thinking and the European consensus is on an issue in which we are developing and being asked to develop our case law, which as I said, is already showing a certain trajectory, but it cannot alter the basic framework.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you for that.

Translated into, let's say, easy language: we did create soft law this morning, which will be taken into account to the extent of the possible, if I can say so, by the Court.

Of course now it is to the Committee of Ministers to consider to make it into less soft law, so to say.

I would like to go to Anuna for a second.

Many people have a addressed you. I've got, if I translate a little bit what the groups' leaders say, the question that I have is: how can we together, knowing what we are trying to do here, how can we together move forward instead of separately?

Because I do believe that if we do not have the new generation on board, it really doesn't make any sense. And so, how do you see, it's maybe a question difficult to answer today, but what would be some building blocks where we, as Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, having passed what we have passed, and you as youth movement, environmental movement, how do you see us going forward, but together?


Climate and Human Rights activist


Well I completely agree with you that we definitely have to work together. This is also why in my speech I addressed the fact that we applaud these resolutions, because they are really good but it is about consistency at the end of the day. As I said, it is really hard for us young people to take these resolutions seriously if on the other side of the door there is other things happening, as we all know.

One of the biggest issues that we, as a movement, have identified when it comes to the climate crisis is not that we deny climate change. We are past that. But we denied the crisis of it. In the narratives in the media and in the narratives about policies and in the way we sell these policies, we are minimising the fact that we are in an existential crisis and that we need a radical system change. We, as a young generation, are not going to compromise for anything less than that. If you want to work together, we need to know that you take the system change seriously, that you take our future seriously. If you look at science now and if you look at the new IPCC reports, you clearly are not. Working together means facing the climate crisis and acting accordingly.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Anuna.

Well, as far as I'm concerned, I mean you're always welcome, even with a lot of more people, to basically give us your insight and helping us to forge basically a better future for all of us.

At this stage, I would like to go to the next five speakers because I didn't, Madam Secretary General, get to a very specific one to you, except if you wish to comment on the reflections, if I may say, of our five group leaders.

Please, you have the floor.


Secretary General of the Council of Europe


Just very briefly, since the Committee of Ministers is not in the panel and it was actually requested to give an answer.

Of course it's a responsibility of the Committee of Ministers and it will deliberate.

Let me just reiterate what I stated in my speech: the Committee of Ministers is already working on that, I mentioned the working group that is set.

Don't forget also that this is now the fourth presidency in a row which puts environment as the priority. I think that is telling; starting with Georgia, Greece, Germany and now Hungary.

So I think that by itself is a testimony of the will of this house, the Council of Europe, all together this morning voting unanimously, four presidencies in a row having this as a priority, all other bodies already working on this.

I would say that with respect, of course, to responsibility of the Committee of Ministers to continue working on that, I hope that the Committee of Ministers will adopt standards related to human rights and environment and of course combat environmental crimes.

I just felt this needed to be said because there are a number of members, deputies around but they are not in the panel. So as the one here I wanted to reiterate this important message, and this important fact – which is that the Committee of Ministers is already involved in the work quite a lot.

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much for that information, but, of course, we want a lot more. It is true what you say, it is not that this is an unknown subject but mentioning the four consecutive presidencies immediately, of course, I mean I have to reach out to to my friend speaker of the Italian parliament Mr Roberto FICO. I hope that Roberto can get on the screen now.

Roberto, I have got a question for you. After the Georgians and the Greeks and the Germans and now the Hungarians, will you raise hell and make sure that the Italian Presidency will keep the environmental issue as a priority during their presidency?

I link – so I am putting pressure here now – and linked to that, what are the steps that you feel that your presidency will have to make to get progress in terms of these additional protocols that have been requested by the Assembly in a unanimous way?

Roberto, you have the floor.

Mr Roberto FICO

Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies


There is no doubt that environmental issues [...] national and international mechanisms.

There is also no doubt that everything that is being done here with the unanimous approval of these documents that I will take back to the relevant committees where a debate should be opened and these issues developed. As I have already said, these important changes, modifications and even additions with respect to the environmental issue that therefore the Constitution, which is our mother law, will eventually affect the whole country. We are trying to change a production model, a change of a paradigm that in the end, together with the whole European Union, we will succeed and not only.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Well, I understood from the little Italian I speak that Roberto said that he is fully on board with the paradigm shift, at least as far as he is concerned. I'm looking at my colleagues who do speak Italian. I understand a bit of it, that at least to my understanding Roberto will be one of those who will, from his side, make sure that the environmental issue stays on the priority list of consecutive presidencies.

That is, if I got it right.

I'm looking at Roberto again, but he is gone. I suppose that is the case.

Let me now go to our five next speakers.

One minute.

Yes? Roberto! Well, I was just translating you... you see, I was right! So my language skills are still more or less there.

Let me now move to our five next speakers. One minute please. We have: Ms Marina BERLINGHIERI, Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY, Mr Claude KERN, Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ, and Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN.

We start with Ms Marina BERLINGHIERI.

Marina, you have the floor.


Italy, SOC


Thank you, President,

The right to a healthy environment is increasingly seen as essential to the effective enjoyment of other fundamental rights, and the institutions have a duty to commit to guaranteeing effective protection for citizens. The right to a healthy environment increasingly appears to be essential for the effective enjoyment of other fundamental rights, and the institutions have a duty to commit themselves to ensuring that citizens are effectively protected.

Yesterday, Professor Sachs reminded us that the world expects Europe to continue to be a bulwark and leader in respect for human rights, a role that Europe has acquired thanks to the functioning of its democratic institutions and their ability to exercise representative democracy by translating into law the responses to the needs of the citizens.

Therefore, in order to combat the climate catastrophe, the institutions must work to promote constant debate and confrontation and must quickly arrive at concrete political choices that will allow everyone to live in a healthy and safe environment.

These are urgent choices.

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

I now pass to Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY.

Emine, you have the floor. I think it is online.

Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY

Turkey, NR


Thank you President.

Dear colleagues,

A decent physical environment is a precondition for living a life of dignity and worth. As the climate crisis worsens, countries have had to rethink economic development and look for ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet and recognise the right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment as an indispensable human right.

As a country suffering from the adverse effects of climate change such as the wildfires of this summer, Turkey attaches utmost importance to combating climate change. I would like to share with you that our president, Mr Erdoğan, has recently announced that the Paris Agreement will be submitted to the Turkish Parliament for ratification and that Turkey will be fulfilling its obligations in line with the constructive steps to be taken and within the framework of our national contribution statement.

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


We'll now go to Mr Claude KERN, who, I assume, is in the room.

Mister KERN, you have the floor.

Mr Claude KERN

France, ALDE


Thank you, Mister President.

We have finally realised that we are degrading the environment in which we live and that this threatens not only our health but the sustainability of our species on Earth.

I am therefore pleased that our Assembly is taking up the environmental issue today and its relationship with human rights. The right to live in a healthy environment has been introduced into national law by several member States today.

Today the record of implementation of the Paris Agreement is unsatisfactory. According to a report by the NGO Climate Action Tracker, of all the nations that signed the treaty, only Gambia has taken concrete, sufficient steps to meet its commitments. I therefore hope that stronger commitments will be made at the forthcoming COP26 in Glasgow.

Let us embrace the quote of Saint-Exupéry: "We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children".


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


You have the floor.

Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ

Hungary, EPP/CD


Thank you, Mister President.

We have a common responsibility to fight against climate change.

Climate change has a serious effect on water security. That is why preserving our clean water supply and providing water accessibility around the world is not just an environmental issue, but a national security issue as well.

Hungary is on the front line of solving global water problems. We are very proud of that. We organise several international conferences like the Budapest Summit and the upcoming Planet Budapest Sustainability Conference in 2022.

I would like to ask you, your Excellency President János Áder, do you think that a drinking water shortage has a key role in increasing challenges in environmental protection?

What can international organisations like the Council of Europe do related to global problems like water scarcity and water crises?

Thank you very much.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

We now take Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN. Fifth speaker after which we will go back to some of you on the panel. We will try to conclude a 5:00 p.m. because we already have an hour over time. I am glad that we did. I do say thank you very much to all of our panellists to stay on board so long.

Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN, you have the floor.

Vladimir, I do not see you.

No? Okay, then we just take Mr Lukas SAVICKAS. Is Luka in the room?

Lukas, you got lucky, otherwise you would not have been on board. Please do so.


Lithuania, SOC


Thank you, Mr President, dear panellists,

Thank you for this opportunity.

A couple of points.

Among the speakers today we heard the very clear voice of the future. Therefore there is no question about it: we all need to have the right to a safe, healthy and clean environment.

Today we also have to be honest with ourselves. Some of us have disproportional rights to cleaner environments than others. It is like a vicious circle. Disadvantaged groups are more exposed to the adverse effects of global warming, which in turn increases their vulnerability to damage caused by natural hazards and lowers their capacity to cope and recover.

Therefore I would like to ask our honourable panellists:

What are complete solutions, in your opinions? What do you do in order to improve the environment for socially vulnerable groups?

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

I would like to – in a diligent way – give the floor to the President of Hungary on a specific topic and then I will have the same topic, Anuna –and that is a challenging one – also to you. And I think that you deserve to have the last word in this event.

So dear President ÁDER, you spoke and this comes, a bit in some of the remarks, about the change of our economic thinking. We discussed it a little bit over lunch. I think to some extent, even a large extent, we may be thinking along the same lines, and so, what is this change in economic thinking that might be in your mind because you are now at a spot where you decide?

And then I will have the same question, Anuna, to you. I hope it is not too challenging and then see what you think about that – not yet having the opportunity to decide – and who knows in the near future, having the opportunity to decide, but having us move in the right direction. Just one small remark: maybe we politicians might be the head but the young people are the neck and you know what makes the head turn? It is the neck that makes the head turn.

So dear President, could you have a short reflection on this question? And then I will go to Anuna, offering her the last words of this event, and addressing the same question. 

Dear Mister President, you have the floor.

H.E. János ÁDER

President of Hungary


All those who have been participating in the work of such different international organisations, I myself was a member of the European Parliament for some years. They have the experience already that all these conferences end up having too little time, in the end. You don't have enough time to respond to questions.

I am going to do a short message in 160 characters.

The 20th century was the century of oil. This one, the 21st century, is going to be that of water. It's not "going to be"; it is the century of water.

What should we do?

We have to put an end to pollution. If we have enough water, it is no good if it's polluted; since we cannot then use it.

Number two, we have to protect our water reserves and water bases because these are the primary sources providing healthy, potable water to the population.

Number three, we have to reduce the so-called grid loss because there are countries where there is 70-80% of water that is lost through leaking grids, pipes. We need new technologies, mainly in irrigation, but it could also have an impact on wastewater management, etc.

One single example – since there is not too much time –  in Israel they use one-sixth of the amount of water to produce the same amount of agricultural products that other countries use.

The second question had to do with changing economic thinking. Well, there's no time for that. I can tell you what the objective would be.

Today, we calculated in terms of GDP. When we have a project we say, this project, let's say 10 million euros is what we have increased our GDP with. We haven't calculated that when production starts that it is going to contaminate the water, the air, the land, it's going to threaten human life. In the end when you add up the costs, you may in fact have been decreasing, rather than increasing, GDP.

That is why I believe external costs have to be taken in to account. It's not me saying this. It's a Nobel Laureate economist, an American economist, Mr William Dawbney Nordhaus, who said that if we do not calculate these external costs into economic performance, then in the long term, at the social level, we are going to pay a much, much higher price.

I couldn't respond briefer than that.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


No, no, no, but you were going well.

I mean you could have continued as far as I'm concerned, but time is a bit limited.

Being a business school alumni myself, I mean, I recognize some of that – like this is a reasoning of total cost instead of singular cost – but the one thing lacking in my view and, it has been touched, is the issue of opportunity cost.

What if we do not do something? What is the cost we incur if we don't do something? It's not that I'm pitching that to you Anuna, but you have the floor.

Please, give us your thoughts. And I'm very pleased that I can give the last words of this event to the young generation.

You have the floor.


Climate and Human Rights activist


Thank you for giving me the last word that is most definitely an honour.

To respond to the question quickly, our economic system is built for few people. It is built for a few people around the world, and it is standing on pillars of exploitation and racism and colonisation. The people that are least responsible right now for the climate crisis are facing the toughest consequences. The climate crisis is a human rights crisis if we can only take this seriously, if we revise the way we look at our economy, if we revise the way we look at money, if we look at why we have the luxuries that we have today in the Western world and what they are actually built on. They are built on exploitation of human rights. Therefore, I do not even call myself a climate activist. I call myself a human rights activist. It is the people who are currently facing the toughest consequences – the real consequences – of the climate crisis that should have a say in these debates, who should have the platform – like me, like I just had – to debate about these things, because they are the ones that are being exploited because of the way that we built this world.

I want to thank you very much for giving me the platform. I hope you keep doing this because it is extremely important that young people like me – not only from Europe, but also from the global south, many of my friends who are are facing the direct consequences of the climate crisis – are also being granted these stages.

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Anuna.

By the way, you're always welcome. As all the other panelists, obviously, are always welcome, but you specifically are always welcome to join us.

This concludes, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, dear panelists.

Thank you very much also online for having been with us.

I would just like to conclude with one small sentence that I said at the beginning of the sitting addressing the environmental issue, and I quoted a little bit of Hamlet, but in a different way. It was not like "to be or not to be, that is the question", but the question that I put is "to lead or not to lead". Basically "to lead or to follow". And I said, "I say we lead". And today that is what we have done.

Thank you very much. Thank you very much and see you soon, all of you.

Thank you.


Azerbaijan, ALDE


(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Exactly one month ago, today, on August 29, I was going to Shusha, the major city of Karabakh, passing through our territories which had been occupied for almost 30 years and finally liberated by the might of Azerbaijani army.

Wars have always taken place, and each war inevitably led to some kind of destruction. However, no other book on the history of war has reflected such horrifying scenes similar to the ones that I witnessed in the liberated territories. There are no stones left on territories 100 kilometers long. Everything was destroyed, and the buildings were taken away to the last stone.

During the occupation various toxic wastes have been dumped into the rivers flowing through that area for many years as well as life-threatening chemical and nuclear waste has been buried in these areas. The military aggression is over, construction is gradually beginning. Nevertheless, the consequences of the environmental occupation will persist for a long time. In these territories without forests, trees and water, the ecological balance is disturbed, there is no vegetation, birds and wild animals have disappeared.

Today, the fight for a healthy environment is the only common goal that can unite people all over the world without exception. Given the importance of this topic, at one time there was a separate committee on environmental issues in the Council of Europe, and I was a member of this committee for a long time and prepared reports. This committee which did a very useful job, was unfortunately disbanded during the wave of reforms in the Council of Europe. More and more environmental issues are now being raised and reports are being prepared at each session. Of course, this is legal, this is a requirement of today. So perhaps there is a need to reestablish the Environment Committee which used to be once one of the most exemplary and professional committees in the Assembly?

Joint debate: Combating inequalities in the right to a safe, healthy and clean environment / Climate and migration / Research policies and environment protection


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Ladies and gentlemen, can you take your seats for the next session, please.

Thank you.

We now have the joint debate on three reports on the theme of environment and climate change. The first (this is not necessarily in the order in which they would appear), the first is titled “Combatting inequalities in the right to a safe, healthy and clean environment” (Document 15349), for which the rapporteur is Ms Edite ESTRELA from the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. The second is titled “Climate and migration” (Document 15348), for which the rapporteur was Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ from the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. The third report is titled “Research policies and environment protection” (Document 15357), for which the rapporteur is Mr Olivier BECHT from the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media.

In order to finish by 7.30 p.m., I will interrupt the list of speakers at about 6.45 p.m. to allow time for the reply and for the votes. The rapporteurs have 10 minutes in total, of which 7 minutes is for your opening remarks and 3 minutes for your reply.

And I'd like to start by calling Mr Olivier BECHT to present the third report from the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media.

And you have 7 minutes.

I believe he's online.

Mr Olivier BECHT

France, ALDE, Rapporteur


Good morning, Mr President,

I am very sorry that I am only speaking remotely. I was in the Chamber a few moments ago but, unfortunately, I have to leave for Paris urgently and I will therefore have to do so remotely.

We have just had a good illustration of the climate crisis. This climate emergency is a reality in Europe; several hundred people died this summer in mega-floods or mega-fires. We all know that we are obliged to respect the zero-carbon objective by 2050, but 2050 is just around the corner. And we know that the only way to get there is to gradually move away from fossil fuels. But today, there is no energy, none, that can completely replace oil or gas. We must therefore increase our efforts to seek and discover new energies. After all, we are only in the 21st century; 120 years ago, we did not know what atomic energy was. We have sought it out, we have discovered it, and it is, therefore, likely that there are still other energies in nature that we will have to seek out, discover and develop.

On the other hand, we have a challenge with renewable energies. We know that often, these energies are intermittent - they are not there all the time. We don't have wind all the time, we don't have sun all the time and therefore, unless we agree to only shower when it rains or to only plug in the fridge when it's sunny, we must store the energy. To store these energies, we need batteries and, for batteries, we need materials; nickel, rare earth; cobalt, lithium, and we do not necessarily have these materials in Europe. We are therefore dependent today on these materials to make batteries, just as we were in the past with regard to oil. There is therefore an essential issue at stake here, and we must act.

Europe was built on energy. In 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community with the European hard-core; in 1957, it was the Atomic Energy Community, and we also built up strategic stocks of oil.

What we are proposing to you today is that we also consider this for the raw materials needed for renewable energies, without which we will not be able to act and ensure the energy transition. The report proposes a partial agreement on these issues in the Council of Europe and the creation of a strategic resource bank to create and manage such stocks.

It was important that the Council of Europe should work for peace because it would bring everyone together, and ensure that all our countries - some of which had fossil fuels - could anticipate and participate in the prosperity of the future. Shared prosperity for all, a viable planet for all: this seems to us to be the first human right for the future. This is the core of the history of our Organisation and this is what we are proposing to you through this report: to be able to make a greater commitment to the climate, to the planet, by working on these renewable energies, to pool research efforts and to be able to share and manage, in the future, stocks of raw materials that will be essential for the batteries that will run our renewable energies.

I thank you for your attention and I apologise again for the conditions under which I am speaking. I'll be back later, of course, to answer any questions. Thank you for your time.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

I now call on Ms Edite ESTRELA to present the first report for the Committee Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

The floor is yours.


Portugal, SOC, Rapporteur


Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

Today is a historic day for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The whole day is dedicated to the debate on climate change; a debate about the future of humanity, a debate about our future and the future of our children.

First of all, I would like to thank and congratulate my fellow rapporteurs this afternoon, Mr Olivier BECHT and Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ.

I am proud to contribute to two reports: "Climate crisis and the rule of law", which we debated this morning, and "Combatting inequalities in the right to a safe, healthy and clean environment," which I now present to you.

I will begin by asking you a question: what kind of planet do we wish to leave to our sons and daughters and to future generations? The Earth does not belong to us, we are borrowing it from our children. It is up to us to preserve it so that future generations can inhabit it with health, well-being and security.

Climate change affects a world marked by deep inequalities (economic, social, gender, and other types.) These inequalities are amplified by crises, including the pandemic crisis and, in particular, by the climate crisis. Climate change creates new inequalities and is reinforcing existing social inequalities. The fight against climate change must be accompanied by the fight against all types of inequality.

According to the World Health Organization, 23% of deaths worldwide in 2012 were attributable to environmental damage; a figure that has certainly increased over the last decade.

Some populations are more exposed to the effects of climate change and have less capacity to cope and adapt. My report focuses on the specific environmental challenges for young people, Roma, indigenous peoples and women and lists a number of provisions that should be included in any new legislation. I identify the most critical inequalities in access to the right to a safe, healthy and clean environment and make recommendations on how to reduce them. I emphasise the duty of developed countries to help the poorest countries manage the climate change that affects them most. While the number of natural disasters has been similar for all States since 1970, the number of deaths arising from them is ten times higher in the poorest countries.

In the spirit of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, a new text should include a "4Ps" mechanism, including prevention, protection, prosecution and policy, with a fifth "P" which would be the commitment of parliaments. 

Dear colleagues, as elected representatives, we are on the front line in the fight against inequalities of all kinds and against climate change. Developing a consensus is our responsibility as elected representatives. On the one hand, it is imperative to raise public awareness of the effects of global warming. On the other hand, it is essential to put in place protective and compensatory measures for already disadvantaged groups. Indeed, when you fear losing your job, when you have no access to social protection, when you fear not being able to feed your family overnight, you may be less concerned about the future of the planet. It is our responsibility to listen, to explain and to make sure that no one is forgotten.

For all of the above, I am convinced that a paradigm shift is urgently needed in international and national law and government policy to ensure that a healthy environment is recognised as a basic human right.

It is not the purpose of this report to establish the legal basis for such legislation. However, if the causes of climate change are to be addressed, and efforts made to minimise inequalities in the application of environmental rights, the relationship between the environment and humanity itself needs to be further explored.

I propose to the Assembly a new binding legal instrument to protect the right to a safe, healthy and clean environment. So far, there has been no agreement on the form this text should take. However, there is a consensus on the need to translate environmental rights into a body of law that Council of Europe member states could join and implement.

In conclusion, I would like to remind colleagues that in 1995, at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, a declaration stated that "women have a fundamental role to play in the adoption of sustainable and environmentally sound patterns of consumption, production and management of natural resources". The same declaration contains a "point K", the first objective of which states that it is necessary to ensure the active participation of women in environmental decision-making at all levels.

As a watchdog for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, the Council of Europe must support the European Union's efforts to ensure that no one is left behind.

Thank you very much.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Ms Edite ESTRELA.

I now call Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ to present the second report from the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. You, too, have 7 minutes.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, Rapporteur


Thank you, Mr Vice-President.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues,

The Earth is getting warmer and this warming will have a profound impact on humanity. The obvious repercussions on human life are and will be highly variable depending on where people live and, above all, on their technological and financial capacity to adapt. The physical repercussions of global warming will, schematically, in the long run, take on two main aspects of the scenarios announced: either too much water in certain regions of the world, or, in other regions, a worsening of the lack of water.

According to successive IPCC reports, by the end of the 21st century, rising sea levels as a result of melting ice - particularly in Greenland, the Arctic and Antarctic - will be a reality, the extent of which will depend on the intensity of global warming. At least 50 centimetres is mentioned, but figures of one or even two metres are also put forward. The obvious consequences of these forecasts point to a predicted catastrophe for hundreds of millions of people living on the immediate shores of the sea, who will see the inexorable rise in water levels drown their homes and drive them out. For some, the danger will be episodic in relation to episodes of massive flooding linked to an extreme climatic event, such as the dramatic consequences of Hurricane Katrina on the American city of New Orleans in 2005. Seashores with insufficient gradient and river deltas, especially the most populated, are obvious prime targets.

Bangladesh is an emblematic example of a region at risk: a vast, densely populated area located in a developing country, therefore poor and unable to withstand climatic hazards. This will also include all the islands and islets with no slope that will be irremediably submerged, a common situation in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Conversely, regions of the world that are already under water stress will see their situation worsen: think of the Near and Middle East or sub-Saharan Africa. This last region represents the programmed source of significant migration because it combines all the criteria: poverty, increasing desertification and a real demographic bomb. Indeed, the countries making up sub-Saharan Africa will see their population double by 2050. These forecasts take into account the fact that the vast majority of African countries have not yet completed their demographic transition. A woman in Niger, for example, gives birth to an average of six or seven children today. From three million inhabitants in 1960, this country now has 23 million inhabitants and could have 65 million by 2050. All the countries in the region are facing a more or less comparable situation: ever-increasing populations, ever poorer, with a land that is less and less capable of feeding its children, the way wide open to mass migration.

The phenomenon has already begun. In Africa in particular, what we will call climatic migration is now essentially internal, either within the country itself or to a neighbouring country. Long-distance migration to Europe, for example, is only a small part of it, because migrating far away requires physical and financial means, which concern only a small proportion of the people.

As the new environmental situation makes and will continue to make access to basic necessities, such as water and food, even more precarious in some parts of the world, violent struggles and conflicts are likely to arise, leading to serious humanitarian crises with victims and displaced persons who will also push people to migrate en masse. It is a vicious circle.

The situation is obvious, but the responses are less so, given the scale of the resources and forces to be deployed. But everything that will be done will already be done, like small stones piled up one by one to reduce the disastrous effects announced in terms of human drama and infringement of the essential right of the victims: the right of climate refugees.

So what should we do? First of all, clearly, and we discussed this just before, we must fight resolutely against global warming. This is obvious. We must fight relentlessly to ensure that our various States finally take the climate issue head on. It is not too late, just the right time to reduce the intensity of future dramas.

Next, we must prevent and anticipate migratory phenomena by drawing up the most accurate maps possible of the areas and populations at risk, either to anticipate and organize their displacement in a decent manner, or to improve their resilience, their ability to resist the changes announced in their living environment and thus reduce the number of people called upon to migrate. In concrete terms, this resilience means that, in order to enable these people to resist, they must be guaranteed access to water, food, physical and sanitary security in the face of the ravages of nature, energy, a job and a future for their children. This means, above all, improving the management of major risks: floods, tolerance of extreme temperatures, resistance to earthquakes of all kinds. It is easy to imagine the efforts to be made and the financial resources to be invested. Gigantic efforts.

Secondly, migration must be made safe because not everyone will be able to stay in their place of birth, as the land where they were born has become too inhospitable, unable to feed them or too dangerous. In connection with the conflicts, in order to share the meagre resources that remain, a large number of people will have to choose the path of migration and, in this context, our debate takes on particular significance. These men, women and children are innocent victims and have rights. Nature is unleashed against them, but the responsibility for what happens to them is shared by all of humanity, especially in the rich countries. We know who produces the most CO2.

Climate migrants must be given a status; their journey to more hospitable lands must be supervised and secured, in order to avoid the tragedies, suffering and unacceptable violence to which these migrant populations are currently subjected. What is happening in the Mediterranean with thousands of deaths every year is a disgrace for our continent and the solidarity of the whole of Europe with the countries on the front line is an urgent necessity.

Europe is ageing. Its demography is faltering. Let us see immigration as an opportunity. Let us not lock our continent behind an impassable fortress.

All this will require enormous financial resources. Development cooperation with the countries of origin must be intensified and we call for the creation of a European, or even global, solidarity fund for migration issues because the challenges, as I said, are enormous and the financial needs are colossal.

Ladies and gentlemen, to conclude, I would say that the climate issue is the number one challenge facing our civilisation today. Europe must rise to this challenge. The populations most affected today and tomorrow are counting on our active solidarity, either to help them resist on the spot or to accompany them in their necessary migration.

I would like to thank the secretariat, and in particular Mrs Angela, for her invaluable support in the preparation of this report, and I ask you to support it.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you to all three rapporteurs.

We now move to the speakers on behalf of political groups.

Is Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA here?

Yes, the floor is yours, you have three minutes.


Ukraine, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group


Dear Mister Chairman, dear Mister Rapporteur, dear Assembly,

I am honoured and delighted to have this opportunity to speak on behalf of the ALDE group on this vital topic, especially since I belong to both areas: to research and environmental protection.

First, let me congratulate all the rapporteurs with excellent reports and the draft Resolutions.

Research and development belong to the strategic area, resource and instrument to combat global challenges, find new solutions, adapt to climate change, rethink economic models and to develop the circular economy. It is not the task for selected countries. It is the goal for the whole planet Earth.

As a researcher in environmental issues, I welcome the Report and Recommendations to develop and financially specific research programmes and at the same time support fundamental research. Unfortunately, sometimes commercialisation influences education and research funding and diminishes priority for elemental analysis. Money is a resource, not a goal in science.

We call member States to establish instruments for cross-sectoral and inter-sectoral collaborations and massive involvement of early career researchers. Young researchers should develop their skills in a more collaborative, more inclusive and open research environment.

As national parliaments, we should look for new forms of research funding and make it more open and participatory.

I would also like to make some fundamental suggestions:

The Resolution should promote Open Science as a critical priority in research policies in Europe and especially in the climate action field. According to the recent report of the Parliamentary Assembly, “the current policies and efforts of Council of Europe member States to combat climate change and its impacts remain insufficient.”

We need to rethink research assessment systems and criteria of excellence which are based on quantitative metrics mostly today by qualitative approach, considering impact of the research outputs on the environment.

Finally, I would like to call the Assembly and member States to support, invest, develop and promote the National Framework for Climate Services in Europe.

Dear colleagues, I strongly call to support the Resolutions and encourage all member States to implement recommendations that will make incredible tectonic changes in the European research environment for the public good.

Thank you very much.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, is Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO here?

Yes, I can see him now.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group


Dear colleagues,

Today we're speaking about an extremely important issue - it's climate, its the environment, it's about the future.

One of the most important things is global warming and the greenhouse gas emissions which are responsible for this.

I want to stress our attention on one topic; methane emissions.

Methane is much more powerful in trapping heat than carbon dioxide. It has more than 80 times more of a global warming effect than carbon dioxide.

If we're speaking about the human cost of methane, it gives not less than one-quarter of global warming today. So that is an extremely important topic.

Take a look at the countries which are responsible for methane emissions in the world - unfortunately, No. 1 is a member State of the Council of Europe: Russian Federation; No. 2 is the United States; and No. 3 is Iran.

Certainly, we need to demand all countries decrease their methane emissions.

When we are speaking about the United States, there is a common decision of the United States and European Union to decrease not less than 30% of methane emissions by 2030.

Coming back to Russian Federation, what we can find there, unfortunately, is quite the opposite.

The major part of these methane emissions in Russian Federation - and, by the way, Russia gives 20% of worldwide methane emissions to the atmosphere - but a major part is placed in their gas transportation system pipelines.

Today, in 2020, Russia showed a 40% increase in methane emissions despite the fact that in the world we have a small decrease in methane emissions. Russia has a big increase in methane emissions.

So when we are building such projects like the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, when we are launching them and they're starting to work, it means that Russian gas is not only dirty because of the EU money which is used from this gas for worse - for terrorist attacks; like the war in Ukraine or Georgia, or terrorist attacks in Czech Republic or the United Kingdom - no, it's not only metaphorically dirty - it's literally dirty - because methane kills our planet.

So first of all I think we need to demand that Russian Federation decreases its methane emissions. Without this, we should not accept the launching of Nord Stream 2, for example.

We need to push them to be more ecological. If we do not do this it will mean that Mr Vladimir Putin is killing the planet with his gas.

So our slogan today is less gas - especially less Russian gas.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

Mr Sokratis FAMELLOS from Greece is the next speaker.

Is he in the Assembly?

Mr Sokratis FAMELLOS

Greece, UEL, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Mister President.

Dear Chair, dear colleagues,

The decision to devote this day on the climate and environmental crisis is the least that we can do.

I would like to thank all the rapporteurs and the speakers for setting our discussion.

This interconnected climate and environmental crisis is deep and systemic. It challenges our society, our institutions, democracy, and basic human rights, where it is time to include the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. But, despite high-level political agreements, we are still very far from effective action on the ground.

Climate catastrophes all over the planet, the forest fires in Greece this summer, show us that we must act now. We need deep and systemic change, we need a "green revolution". We need rapid changes in production patterns, in consumption, in everyday life. These necessary systemic changes should take place in a fair, socially equitable and democratic way. The transition to a carbon neutral economy should be effective, rapid, and should be combined with action to protect ecosystems and ensure a pollution-free environment.

It is evident that this transition cannot be achieved with the current economic model and cannot be achieved by market forces alone. The State should design, lead and guarantee a just and inclusive transition. This is the only way to ensure that no-one is left behind.

We are again seeing the evidence in the energy crisis that affects energy prices and living costs in all our countries these days. The energy crisis challenges the liberal business model of the energy sector: privately-run energy supply companies face financial issues, but the result is that access to affordable energy for households and businesses is not secured.

This energy crisis adds to the deep economic consequences of the pandemic, and reminds us of the importance of State involvement and regulation, as highlighted in one of the reports this morning. State involvement – to secure Citizen’s access to basic goods and to human rights.

Social justice and democracy are essential elements for the green transition, and we have not yet managed to find the correct path. The climate crisis already deepens social and economic inequalities.

Citizen assemblies can indeed be a step for more democratic decision-making, but we must ensure that concerns and resolutions of citizens are not bypassed, particularly when they challenge government policy. This is why young people are asking us to change the system. They feel that in our system their voices are not heard. We must trust and provide evidence of our trust in society.

We also have a collective responsibility towards those people and those countries that suffer most from the impacts of climate change. Not only providing “development aid” but providing real access to research and technology resources. And in our discussion about new research and technology we should not neglect the role of social sciences and trans-disciplinarity, if we are to address the actual societal needs and concerns.

I would like to conclude by re-iterating that the green transition is a necessity. But it is also necessary that we have to prepare this transition and ensure that is implemented with democracy and social justice.

Thank you very much.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you we now go online for our next speaker, Mr Jeremy CORBYN.

Mr Corbyn, you have to request for the floor. 

Mr Jeremy CORBYN

United Kingdom, SOC, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you very much and I am very pleased that the whole day has been given over to the environment in this very important session of the Council of Europe and the reports we have got in front of us are excellent and provide a very good legal and political way forward.

But I think the standout contribution today has been from Anuna, the young environmental activist, who showed the determination and thirst of young people all over this continent, and indeed all over the world, to try and bring about a safer, cleaner environment for the future. The reports we are debating discuss the legal, the economic issues and the inequality issues that face the whole world, not just Europe.

And I think we should think for a moment of the victims around the world of the current state of the world's environment. Children breathing polluted air in the world's major cities, life expectancy falling in many parts of the world because of air pollution, water pollution and lack of healthcare. And the numbers of people around the world who are actually environmental refugees, who have been driven out of their own countries by land grabbing by mining interests and because of the poverty in which they have to live. The global inequality is absolutely enormous.

So as we move towards COP26 in Glasgow in November, I think we have to be very clear that, first of all, net zero of emissions by 2030 is absolutely essential AND achievable but it will require concerted government action. And it will require an assessment of the effects of inequality across the world, but it will also require a serious assessment of the effects of trade and the pollution that comes from air travel as well as from shipping and the need to reduce the volume of traffic in order to get us a cleaner environment.

Can all this be achieved in an era of free market economics? I seriously doubt that. And I draw attention to the excellent statement made by Ms Edite ESTRELA earlier in which she said working-class communities are those that suffer the worst, those that work in industries that pollute are in danger of losing their jobs. It is only public intervention and public support for a transfer to a green industrial revolution that will bring about a defence of those jobs, those communities and those living standards.

The last thing I would say is this, in the few seconds I have got left: a legal protection of the natural world, a legal protection of biodiversity and an essence that in every major planning and investment decision we take, we take on board the need to enhance our biodiversity and enhance our protection and recognise that we, as humans, have got to live in step with nature, not by destroying nature and the very world on which our own lives depend.

This is a crucial moment for all of us. I hope COP26 takes it.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Mister CORBYN.

I now call Mr Theodoros ROUSOPOULOS from Greece.


Greece, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you Chair,

The previous discussion is linked with the message from the President of the Assembly.

We must show leadership, we must pre-empt the future, not just follow developments. We must be proactive.

This reminded me of a discussion I had in Munich years ago, with Helmut Kohl, the chancellor who led Germany for 16 years. Over a nice lunch I asked him, what has been the most difficult thing that you did in your political career? He said, to convince people that I could see things that most people could not see, and that people saw years later.

Today we are discussing exactly this: the ability of politicians of an Assembly to see the present and future. It's not about predicting the future like in the ancient Greek tragedies, with prophets, etc. We are talking about very specific facts. We have the experience, for example, concerning migration all these years. We have the mere facts, the demography, the different cultures, etc. It has to do with politicians who followed the populist way and who led their countries down dangerous paths.

We are experienced with migration, we are experienced with climate. We know that everything changes these days. Therefore, we do not have the luxury of not getting on board the train and not making the right decisions.

The report of the Chair, who I'd like to congratulate, goes in this very direction. So let's look back: what happened with migrants, with climate change, and how we can combine the respect for human rights with the particular features of each country.

Our political group believes in two things: on the one hand we comply with international law and the Geneva Convention, aiming at protecting human life. At the same time, we believe in the need to protect our European borders and fighting the traffickers of human beings. There are provisions of international law that must be respected.

Then, environmental degradation and human rights: these go beyond borders and require us to see things in a new way. The report on the environment, on migration, etc. offers precisely these solutions.

Thank you very much.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

That brings to the end; the list of speakers for political parties and we move on to the main speaker's list and we start online with Ms Kate OSAMOR from the UK.


United Kingdom, SOC


Thank you, thank you Vice-President for calling me to speak in this joint debate on environment climate crisis, inequality and migration.

I would like to thank the rapporteur on their reports.

Dear colleagues, I believe that the climate crisis currently facing the world must be considered a major international priority. Climate change is causing mayhem across the world and is increasingly becoming a driver of poverty and vulnerability. We know this will only get worse. Immediate and serious action is needed to prevent extreme heat, droughts, floods and poverty.

There are over 65 million refugees and internally displaced people on the move seeking refuge. As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. Three out of five people in the world now live in water stressed areas. Poverty, inequality and climate change are interconnected crises. That terrible symptoms of deep-rooted causes of a broken global economy that funnels wealth upwards to an elite few, a power structure that traps women in a cycle of oppression. We all know government subsidise gas and oil and fail to keep on track to hit climate targets. This will only ruin our planet. As parliamentarians we must encourage our respective governments to divest away from fossil fuels and invest instead in renewable energy that is public-owned and wherever possible community-controlled.

If we are to deliver on our targets then we, the international community, must start doing things differently. The key to doing different things is recognising that inequality goes hand-in-hand with power imbalances and unequal power relations within the international community is something that we must not shy away from tackling however uncomfortable it may be to face up to reality.

We must start redistributing that power. I am convinced that there is already a powerful global movement of people changing the world for the better. Millions of citizens activists and volunteers, trade unions, social movements, diaspora and faith groups giving their time and money and solidarity.

Too often international banks, agencies, like the World Bank, are out of touch with the very people they are meant to serve. Too often because wealth and power sits in the global north with so-called experts, thousands of miles from the people and communities most affected by the crisis allowing status quo to prevail and business as usual to continue. Far too often the worst polluters have the power over the least polluters. We all have a responsibility to change this direction.

In closing, I would end by saying, I support the rapporteurs on their well-written reports. Let us come together and support their efforts.

Thank you.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

Now, Ms Dubravka FILIPOVSKI.


Serbia, EPP/CD


Dear colleagues,

This report shows all the gravity of the problem we are facing.

It is predicted that close to 10 billion people will live on the planet by 2050, which will create additional pressure on limited resources and inside conflicts. A register of imminent threat indicates that have 1.2 billion people from the poor and unstable areas, such as sub-Sahara and North Africa, South Asia and the Middle East could be forced to migrate by 2050. This will have huge social and political consequences.

Mass deployments will lead to greater flows of migration to the most developed countries. Most of the migrants will end up in Europe. That is something that Europe must take into account. We saw what happened when, at the peak of the migrant crisis in 2015 and 2016, 2 million people, migrants, set off to Europe. And we will all remember the political instability that caused.

I just want to remind you that most of those refugees which passed through my country Serbia, through the Balkan route, and that they were treated humanely as if we did not build a fence of shackles and briars along our border.

In any case, if something is not done in terms of environmental issues, the scale will be far greater than what we have seen in the past few years.

This report comes at a time when the EU is trying to reform the existing Common European Asylum System, which has been negotiated since the beginning of the migrant crisis in 2015. Based on this report, in my opinion, is that the EU should address the causes of migration as well as the question of how it can empower the countries most at risk.

Many countries have reduced the budget for humanitarian and development aid in recent years, and because of Covid-19 there will be problems in allocating money to help under-developed countries.

Therefore, it is necessary to consider what is in the strategic interest of countries when it comes to the problem of refugees and climate change, because some of the countries facing these problems have already found themselves in a vicious circle in which the struggle and scarce resources cause conflicts in turn for the impoverished.

Thank you.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly



Ah yes, there you are. 


Turkey, NR


Dear colleagues,

I would like to thank all the rapporteurs for their enlightening reports.

The climate crisis - as we have been discussing the whole day - is among the most important problems of this era. We have been having a constructive and courageous debate about the climate crisis and how to cope with its negative consequences. I believe the reports that we have been having here in the Hemicycle will enable the Assembly to adopt a holistic approach towards possible solutions for climate change, as we did in the morning session today.

Climate change and environmental crises have catastrophic effects on nature and mankind. Unfortunately, human beings still ignore this grim reality. People and companies continue to over-exploit natural resources and to have a consumption-based mentality. This is a vicious cycle perpetuated by the hands of the people. Human behaviours, which are extremely harmful for the environment; endanger the lives of mankind in turn, in the form of climate change and environmental crises.

Dear colleagues,

We have to transform our modes of production and consumption behaviour into a more environmentally friendly manner.

First of all, we have to minimise carbon emissions at both industrial and consumer levels. States must support the transition to a green economy. Developed countries are required to transfer some financial support to the developing world and make some necessary arrangements to transform the whole economy into a green one.

Energy transition must be done delicately, as well, while switching to renewable energy from carbon-based resources.

We should refrain from causing any new damage to the future.

Establishing a circular economy also enables us to tackle climate change.

I thank you all.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Mr Jacques MAIRE.

No, no, thank you.

And online, I think we have Ms Konul NURULLAYEVA.


Azerbaijan, EC/DA


Thank you, Mr Chairman for the floor.

Firstly, I would like to express my deep gratitude to all rapporteurs for preparing such a detailed and influential report on these special topics.

It would be appropriate to mention that an adequate environment is considered a precondition for the realisation of other human rights, including the right to life, food, health, and an adequate standard of living for us all. Obtaining the right to a safe, healthy and clean environment has always been harder for low-income populations, countries, marginalised communities of colour, gender, IDPs and refugees.

Looking at the issue from the perspective of Azerbaijan, I want to shed particular light on the environmental terror committed by Armenia in the Nagorno Karabakh region of Azerbaijan during the occupation. That includes illegal activities, such as the plunder of natural resources, the pollution of water resources, the destruction of endemic flora and fauna. Armenians have destroyed half of the forests in the territory of the Basitchay reserve. After the liberation of our lands, the water of Okhchu River is intentionally being polluted by industrial wastes from the territory of Armenia. Obviously, Azerbaijan has been a target of the ecological terror committed by Armenia in recent years, which is the main obstacle to achieving a healthy environment in my home country.

Azerbaijan, on the other hand, has included inclusive environmental protection in its National Action Plan for 2020 to 2025. This year we also banned hazardous forms of plastic bags, progressed in transitioning into renewable energy sources and launched the first-ever green and smart village project in the recently liberated Aghali town of Zangilan. That has been done to ensure that environmental equality rights of rural people and nearly 1 million IDPs have also been proportionally protected.

Coming to the solutions, I believe that member States should promote environmental human rights education and incorporate it to their programme. Meanwhile, governments should support the establishment and strengthening of networks through which environmental human rights defenders will share their experiences and develop better strategies to promote environmental protection and, hence, ensure the right to a safe environment.

Thank you for your attention.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

Now, Ms Susana SUMELZO.


Spain, SOC


"We need a green planet, because this is red alert". Those were the words of the UN Secretary General at the Climate Summit.

Young people from across the world are mobilizing for climate justice and today we heard that here. They are defending our health and our natural environment, and we have the Milan Youth Conference on climate taking place right now, and it is important that we have a healthy environment for the future of humanity. And here at PACE we strive to defend, protect and promote human rights. And there is a great deal still to be done to fight against climate change and the inequalities that are caused by climate change. And we now need to take urgent steps in order to avoid a very dark future for our planet. And we have to pull together collectively in all our countries now, without delay, without leaving anybody behind.

Spain is embarking on it embarking on its environmental transition. It is a priority, it is a people-centred transition, one which is inclusive. We have an energy and climate plan and we are mobilizing €230 billion over the next 10 years. And we are also investing some 39% of €140 billion of our European recovery fund for environmental recovery. We also have an energy transition blueprint and this is just an example of what is being done in other countries as well.

And that is why we appeal to governments here from the PACE. It is our duty to ensure the furthest possible degree of environmental protection for our citizens because that is the right of those in the future. We need to act now.

I'd like to thank all our colleagues for their reports.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

Now I call Mr Zsolt CSENGER-ZALÁN from Hungary.


Hungary, EPP/CD


In recent years, migratory pressures, towards Europe and the United States, have become significant and permanent. The cause of the first wave was mainly the escape from armed conflicts, but a flood of economic migrants joined this process very soon. Massive numbers of migrants from the Middle East, Asia, North Africa and sub-Saharan regions are arriving at Europe's borders.

Specially at the latter group an increasingly significant cause is the impossibility of life in their homeplace place due to climate change.

Due to the extreme temperature conditions resulting from global warming and the increasing frequency of droughts, on the one hand, and due to catastrophic floods and storms, on the other hand, agricultural production is declining or, in extreme cases, completely impossible. Due to ever less rainfalls and a growing population, access to healthy, clean drinking water is also becoming increasingly difficult.

Of course, migration cannot be a solution to the climate change, as it does not address the cause, only the consequence, and on top of it, in the wrong way!

The involved countries or Europe alone have little to say. There is a need for global co-operation and co-ordinated actions. To keep global warming within manageable levels, carbon dioxide emission must be radically reduced.

Social awareness campaigns are needed against the overpopulation of developing regions, as population societies explode in these societies thanks to the degrees of child mortality and an increase in life expectancy.

Agricultural methods that adapt to the changed conditions and new irrigation techniques must be introduced. Investments and creating new jobs will help young people stay in their homelands.

Problems should not be treated symptomatically, but the causes have to be eliminated. This is especially true for migration.

Let's not leave the problem here, but bring the solution and help there.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

I call Mr Pere LÓPEZ from Andorra.

Since Mr Pere LÓPEZ is not here, the floor goes to Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA from Ukraine.


Ukraine, EPP/CD


Thank you, dear President,

Colleagues, today, we discussed a very important topic, but I don't see as many colleagues in the Hall, unfortunately, maybe more of them are online.

You know every morning when I wake up I think to myself, okay we proceed with many many laws within this honourable Hall, and today we have proven the largest majority have a concern for environmental issues.

But what do we do ourselves every day to prevent the terrible disasters which our planet will face by 2050?

Colleagues have named many disasters, such as the fact that almost 25 million people in 140 countries have changed their places of residence already in 2019. And over time climate change is expected to affect the intensity and geography of migration. So by 2050, 143 million domestic climate migrants will be registered.

Colleagues, just before coming here, on Saturday in my constituency in Ukraine, we collected 8.5 tons of trash next to a very well-known pond where many Ukrainians are hanging out during the summer.

We compared the statistics with the last year - it doubled - does it mean we are increasing our responsibilities? Definitely not.

I would like to inform you that the Ukrainian government has recently taken a very responsible decision to make a climate fund. A fund that will have money to subsidise many environmental initiatives.

I want to invite you all to a global initiative called Greening of the Planet, which Ukraine initiated two years ago. We have now managed to plant 15 million trees in 120 countries. We're very proud of that. Our mission is more ambitious - to involve 100 million people by 2023; 100 million trees and 100 million people. We are connecting the whole planet with this global initiative and the President is taking a very active role in that.

Of course, dear colleagues, we are implementing very important laws on waste management, to start recycling after the usage, of everything we consume.

We do understand that our future children of this planet have to breathe with completely different air than today.

C02 emissions have to decrease. The amazing Green Deal agreement which is voluntary to join - all of this is on our agenda, but let's remember what every one of us is doing every day for the environment.

Thank you, dear President.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now I call Mr Thomas PRINGLE from Ireland. Is he here in the hemicycle because he is not online?

Since I cannot see him, I give the floor to Ms Serap YAŞAR from Turkey.

Ms Serap YAŞAR

Turkey, NR


Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

I would like to thank all the rapporteurs for their important contribution to the debate on climate change and its adverse effects on the right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment.

Although our Assembly has addressed the issue before, we tend to overlook the impact of climate on migration. Political conflicts, civil wars and persecution have been identified as the main reasons for migration and forced displacement. However, climate change and global warming have become increasingly important factors in recent years, forcing people to migrate.

Governments, international organisations and NGOs have been working to explore solutions to slow and reverse climate change. However, we also need a practical approach to the needs of climate change victims.

Migration due to reasons directly related to the climate should be addressed in a systematic way, with solidarity and concerted actions among member States. I would like to remind you that current migration pressures place an excessive burden on some member States, while the rest of the countries are reluctant to share the burden. While addressing climate-related migration, we must bear in mind the need for equitable burden-sharing among member States.

Furthermore, the current asylum system in most member States neglects vulnerable groups. The treatment of vulnerable groups, in particular migrant and refugee children, remains problematic. The identification of vulnerable persons and the responses to their needs still need to be improved. If our goal is to adopt a systematic human rights-based approach to those who are displaced by climate change, we need to establish adequate mechanisms to protect vulnerable groups, including children.

I hope that these efforts will help build a strong and systematic approach to protecting the rights of victims.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much. [spoken in French]

Now I call Ms Liliana TANGUY from France.

Ms Liliana TANGUY

France, ALDE


Thank you, Mr President.

I wish to emphasise the need to combat inequalities in the right to a safe, healthy and clean environment, as stated by Mrs Edite ESTRELA in her report. The relationship between the exercise of human rights and the environment is becoming increasingly clear, and the right to a healthy environment is currently enshrined in more than 100 constitutions worldwide.

In this sense, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is calling for a new legally binding instrument to protect the right to a healthy, safe and clean environment. However, any new legal instrument will have to take due account of causes of inequality and discrimination. In my political family, we have been thinking about these issues, and we are seeking to focus on drafting a convention on the environment, within the framework of the Council of Europe, which is also in line with the recommendations in Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ's report for a specialised ad hoc convention - which we consider to be a pragmatic option and one that would be quicker to put into effect.

A revision of the 1978 Convention on the Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law could be a first step towards achieving tangible and concrete results for citizens.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly



I call Ms Olena KHOMENKO from Ukraine


Ukraine, EC/DA


Dear ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank Ms Edite ESTRELA for her report.

The core idea of the report deserves our unanimous support. Access to a clean, healthy and safe environment for everyone, especially vulnerable groups. The effects of climate change are putting additional pressure on our governments to commit. However, the recent experience of inequalities exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis does not leave much hope for the poor countries. We cannot turn a blind eye on families struggling beyond the poverty line, such as local Roma communities, women left without adequate medical care.

As mentioned in paragraph 7 of the draft resolution, the climate crisis will further create considerable economic damage and increase the disparities between the rich and the poor. Thus we urge our other member States to support para 12.3 on the draft resolution, "strengthening and implementing the commitment by developed countries to help developing countries inherent in the 2015 Paris agreements – in particular by implementing Article 9 of the Paris Agreement, which provides for financial support in mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, multi-source mobilisation of climate finance and regular quantitative and qualitative reporting on this action".

I would like to highlight the significance of fighting the discrimination against indigenous people, described in the report and the explanatory memorandum. The rapporteur draws our attention to the potentially disastrous consequences of climate change and industrial development on indigenous communities, especially when the said groups are excluded from the dialogue about the decisions that can affect their lands and way of living.

The Ukrainian Parliament is devoted to collaborating with the indigenous people of our country – Crimea Tatars, Khanates and Krymchaks – and has recently passed a target law that defines their unique status, recognises their representative bodies of indigenous people, safeguards their cultural heritage and provides more opportunities for education in their native languages.

Hence, we fully support the draft resolution paragraph 13.2, which calls on countries where indigenous people are living to ensure they are consulted and take part in decisions related to their lands and ways of living and, in particular, that measures taken in the name of protection of environment do not affect their lives and livelihoods.

Finally, it is important to continue gender mainstreaming in the climate crisis response as the more inclusive the decision-making process, the higher is the quality of adopted policies.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

I call Ms Marietta KARAMANLI from France who will be speaking online.


France, SOC


Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would first like to thank Ms Edite ESTRELA for her report on combating inequalities in a healthy and safe environment, and Mr Olivier BECHT, who spoke to us earlier in his report about environmental research policies.

I would like to thank all the other rapporteurs since this morning, Mr George PAPANDREOU, our colleague Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ and Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ, who spoke to us earlier, who have made a significant contribution to raising the stakes and defining a new framework for the Council of Europe's action in the field of the protection of people, the environment and the ecological transition, and this goes beyond climate change alone.

I will make two specific proposals to complement those outlined.

The first concerns the fight against ecological change. The people with the highest annual incomes are those who emit the most CO2 per year. While economic redistribution is essential, it is not enough on its own to combat climate and environmental threats. We therefore need a far-reaching collective transformation of the infrastructures on which we depend. If governments are going to invest in greener infrastructure, we must also ensure that finance is equally concerned.

As it stands, I would say that the economic impacts of global warming are not taken into account in the accounts of companies or governments. They are therefore underestimated. Only the direct and short-term financial risk is taken into account. As a result, financial institutions lend to high-carbon industries while the public discourse is that of investing in the ecological transition. This point may seem a bit technical but it is in fact political. We must therefore work towards a financial framework, and I call for further work by this house on this point.

The second proposal concerns research, particularly public research, because research and innovation are at the heart of the solutions that we can and must provide in the face of climate change and the necessary ecological protection towards which we wish to strive.

However, there is a crisis. Despite being the source of tremendous progress, there is not enough research and development to halt climate degradation. We must therefore incorporate the principle of seeking environmental progress into our public policies. We also need to set up major dedicated research programmes, evaluating their benefits in relation to those of the development of other technologies that consume more resources and have fewer socio-economic advantages.

Finally, such a choice presupposes the use of scientific knowledge, the transparency of processes, the recognition of uncertainties and the establishment of scenarios proposing options, highlighting what happens if we do or do not act.

Here again, the Council of Europe, and our Assembly in particular, can propose, guide and build with States and their civil societies objectives and methods that are useful to all.

That is what I wanted to share with you, dear colleagues, and I thank you for your attention.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

I call now Ms Larysa BILOZIR from Ukraine.


Ukraine, EPP/CD


Thank you Mr President, dear colleagues, Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO, distinguished rapporteurs,

On my behalf I would like to support and thank you for your enormous work. We indeed have had a very important historical, ecological day here in PACE. I'm sure there will be unanimous support of the resolutions this evening as there was in the first part of the sitting.

The most important decision will be to finally supplement the European Convention on Human Rights with the separate protocol on environmental human rights, that can become a real instrument to protect the environment and take real action.

We all agree that there is no higher value than life and health, because all other rights – political, civil, social – do not matter when the very fact of a person's existence, his physical and mental state is threatened.

Currently the right to a healthy environment is enshrined in the constitutions of more than 100 countries around the world. Environmental rights include the ability of a person to demand appropriate behaviour from States; the fulfilment by governments of duties to protect, preserve and restore environment.

Now in the context of the result of military conflicts on the European continent and the ruthless use of natural resources, the right to clean air and water has become more relevant for the whole of Europe. Today Russian armed aggression against Ukraine is destroying the environment in Ukraine, provoking inequality in the right to a safe, healthy and clean environment for millions of residents of the Donbas region and occupied Crimea.

Experts from the United Nations Environment Programme said that as a result of the occupation of Donbas, the ecosystem on the territory of at least half a million hectares was destroyed, including natural reserves and forests. 5,500 industrial enterprises and infrastructural facilities are concentrated in the region, which in case of damage will become a source of significant harm to the environment. A war zone including agricultural land is packed with unexploded ammunition that will take decades to eliminate. A significant problem is the lack of monitoring and access to the region in the so-called "Grey Zone" that is in the temporary occupied territory.

Underestimating the new environmental threats that have arisen due to conflicts provoked by the Russian Federation may turn to general environmental catastrophe in the near future. This situation indeed requires a deep rethinking of the importance of environmental law in constant conflict situations.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE


Mr President,

Dear colleagues,

The accumulation of extreme weather events is already impacting the whole world. However, some regions are affected significantly more than others. Although the developed countries of the West are not immune to natural disasters, the consequences for developing countries are far more devastating.

It is often the most vulnerable populations, those who are already in a precarious situation, who are hit hardest by crises. We saw this with the Covid-19 pandemic and we also see it with the climate crisis.

The second part of the World Bank's Groundswell Report, published a few weeks ago, clearly underlines the scale of the issues at stake. In many countries, climate change is associated with increasingly severe droughts, major crop losses in agriculture, shortages of drinking water, rising sea levels – in short, a gradual destruction of the foundations of all life.

In the absence of an effective global climate policy, the related environmental pressures could lead to major migratory flows. As many as 216 million people could be forced to leave their homeland by 2050.

Just as combating climate change is a responsibility of the international community, so too are efforts to mitigate its impacts. This is all the more so because the populations that suffer the most from climate change often can do the least.

To avoid the worst, Council of Europe member States must take all necessary measures to achieve ambitious climate targets and comply with the Paris Agreement. As I have just said, the consequences of climate change are already being felt very clearly. It is therefore imperative that cooperation policies take greater account of prevention and adaptation to climate change.

Above all, we must ensure that people who are forced to move because of a collapse of their livelihoods can build a new life in dignity and respect for human rights elsewhere. Considering that the majority of migratory flows take place either within the countries concerned or towards neighbouring countries, it is these countries that we must support in receiving climate refugees and offering them the opportunities for a new life that they need.

This idea is not new. The Copenhagen Conference in 2009 already identified the need to support developing countries in the fight against climate change. Since then, however, the situation has become much more urgent, so that we are called upon to intensify our efforts. For Luxembourg, my home country, building the resilience of the population is one of the pillars of its climate strategy. Thus, the Luxembourg government has committed to providing 200 million euros for the period from 2021 to 2025.

Finally, I would like to thank all the rapporteurs for their excellent reports.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now I call Mr Gagan MOHINDRA from the UK.

Unfortunately, it seems like he's not here.

Then our next speaker is Mr Yuriy KAMELCHUK from Ukraine.


Ukraine, EPP/CD


Thank you, Mister Chairman.

Thank you, colleagues.

In the temporarily occupied territory of the Donbass, in Ukraine, there are many heavy industry enterprises, especially coal mines, which do not work and have not been brought under adequate environmental supervision. As a result, the ground water table is changing. There is a risk that whole cities could be buried at the same time, and land and air are being polluted by heavy metals, particularly radioactive ones. Due to shelling from the occupying Russian forces, water and electricity suppliers are regularly interrupted, posing a serious threat to the safety of the environment.

We call on the General Secretary of the UN and the member States of the Council of Europe to pay attention to this issue and will their political power over the Russian Federation and occupying state to urgently solve the environmental problems in the Donbass and ultimately to force Russia to pursue a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Another point that Ukraine is seriously interested in working with: hydrogen; and it has great potential to do so. We want to make Ukraine a hydrogen hub within Europe. A possible hydrogen revolution could radically reduce carbon emissions and help us achieve true carbon neutrality. Due to the scandal which has arisen around the construction of the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline and specific speculation in the global gas market inspired by Russia, gas prices have risen spectacularly. European citizens, dependent as they are on a Russian gas supply, will soon see their utility bills rise yet again, and consequently the social inequality mentioned in the report on combating inequality will only continue to deepen.

How should the Council of Europe and international society address the rise of cryptocurrencies and subsequently the growth of the use of electricity? We see have some cryptofarms use more electricity than many countries. It is fertile ground for environmental inequalities. It is still unclear how the state should correlate business interests and freedom with environmental challenges.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

And I call now Ms Martine LEGUILLE BALLOY from France.

She is not here.

Dear colleagues, that concludes the list of speakers, however, we have time to take more speakers does anybody in the Chamber, or remotely connected, wish to request the floor?

No one.

We will now have the replies to the joint debate. I call Ms Edite ESTRELA, rapporteur for the first report to reply. You have 3 minutes, please.


Portugal, SOC, Rapporteur


Thank you, Mr President.

First of all, I would like to thank the speakers for their support and comments, especially my colleague and comrade, Mr Jeremy CORBYN. 

Yes, I agree that public investment is needed to help the most disadvantaged.

Mrs Olena KHOMENKO, I agree with what you have said and you highlighted two very important points in my report. They are points 12.3 of the resolution and point 13.2, which are very important and which I hope will be approved.

Mrs TANGUY and Mrs KARAMANLI have also made some very interesting suggestions, but I do not think that this is the time to discuss them.

A few final comments. Inequalities that would have been described, even thirty years ago, as social inequalities now have a strong environmental connotation. Inequalities in exposure to pollution and in access to immunities, distributive inequalities in environmental policies, inequalities in the face of environmental impacts and inequalities in participation in public policies.

The influence of the quality of the physical, chemical and biological environment on health is becoming increasingly apparent. The air we breathe, noise pollution, and the quality of water all have a direct influence on our state of health.

Once again, I would like to thank the rapporteurs who debated this morning and my colleagues Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ and Olivier BECHT. Together, we have decided to give the climate threat the importance it deserves for our sake and that of our children.

I thank you for your attention and wish us all the best when we return to our respective parliaments. Together, we can provide the necessary answers to the climate crisis.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the support of the Chair of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, Ms Petra BAYR, the secretariat, and also the colleagues who unanimously approved my report in the Committee on Equality.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly


Does the Chairperson of the Committee Ms Petra BAYR wish to speak?

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination


Yes, of course.

I want to applaud Ms Edite ESTRELA for her farsightedness, for her vision, her and also the Committee of Ministers, to have the idea to transform the human rights to a healthy environment into international hard law.

I assume that some decades ago in this Assembly, in this hemicycle, there was somebody who wrote a report about the violence against women. Maybe she had the vision that in some decades that could become a convention, an international convention to combat violence against women. I want to draw some parallels because I think to fight femisides, to prevent violence against women, there are some parallels with the fight against ecosides. The violence against the environment is as important, as timely, as the fight against violence. As I know, that Edite is comes from Lisbon, I have also a vision. I have the vision that maybe in a decade, we will be standing here and debating about how can we find more countries ratifying the Lisbon Convention on a human right to a healthy environment.

I really want to congratulate all the rapporteurs of today's reports. I think we really make a tremendous important step into the right direction.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

I call Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ, the rapporteur for the second report, to reply. You have 3 minutes, please.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, Rapporteur


Thank you, Mister Vice-President.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much to all the speakers and congratulations to my colleagues for their very relevant reports. I would like to take the liberty of responding to a few points that have, in fact, been made in the debate.

I would first like to welcome the position and proposals of Mr Theodoros ROUSOPOULOS, from Greece, who insisted on respect for human rights – this is fundamental to the issue of climate migration, as it is to many other issues – and also on the desire to combat the smuggling system. That is why we need to secure the arrival routes to Europe.

I would also like to welcome the words of Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA, who spoke about a climate fund in Ukraine. We should plant many more in the Sahel. So, there too, I very much welcome this proposal.

Ms Serap YAŞAR spoke of a problem that was recurrent in the committee: the fact that the effort towards migration was not shared. There are countries at the front line – including Turkey, but there are others – that make the bulk of the effort. It is really important that the whole of Europe gets organised so that this effort is shared, because what Turkey, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain do is out of all proportion to what other countries do.

Three members of parliament made similar comments: Ms Dubravka FILIPOVSKI from Serbia, Mr Zsolt CSENGER-ZALÁN  from Hungary and Mr Gusty GRAASs from Luxembourg, who spoke about what I mentioned in the report, namely the importance of creating the conditions for resilience on the ground, and therefore, of creating the means for people to withstand the harmful consequences of global warming so that they can stay in their original homeland and live there as best they can. I fully agree with these proposals, but I would not like to see these proposals being made in opposition to the fact that some people will have to migrate. It is true that the ports of Europe will have to open up for some of these populations who will not be able to achieve this resilience in the face of the scale of the problems. Once again, I think that the boat is not full in Europe. We can accept migrants, we must do so, for demographic reasons and also out of pure humanity.

I would really like to thank all the speakers and, indeed, today we are dealing with a fundamental problem for the future of our countries, for the future of the planet, for the future of our youth. As a grandfather, I would like it to work. Thank you.

I would just like to point out again that as I am the chairman of the committee, there will be no further interventions on migration.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly


I call Mr Olivier BECHT who is connecting remotely. The rapporteur for the third report to reply; you have 3 minutes, Mr Olivier BECHT, please.

Mr Olivier BECHT

France, ALDE, Rapporteur


Good evening, Mr President.

First of all, I would like to thank all of those who spoke in the debate. 

I  have a nine-year-old son and we are all committed to leaving our children a planet that will still be liveable.

We must not simply make grand declarations and laws: we must act. I believe that the Council of Europe can do that. The Council of Europe, together with all 47 member states, has a role to play, in doing what we have done with other partial agreements, in the field of research into renewable energies and energies of the future. Looking at drugs, for instance, when we were able to co-operate together and to achieve something significant.

When it comes to raw materials, we know that there´s a lot at stake, but we also know that renewable energy is something new - it cannot be stored in the way other kinds of fuel have previously been stored. We know it will require batteries that will require raw materials: cobalt, nickel, rare earths, lithium, and so on, which will become as valuable in the future as oil is today. And so, what I am proposing to you today is that we start research into this and that we also start building up some kind of raw materials bank, which would guarantee that there can be a renewable energy future for Europe. And in doing that, we are enabled to respect the Paris Agreement.

I thank you once again for your attention and for the confidence of the committee, which adopted this report unanimously. I believe that it is now time for all countries to act. 

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Does Mr Roberto RAMPI, the Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, wish to speak?

Mr Roberto RAMPI

Italy, SOC, First Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media