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18 April 2024 morning

2024 - Second part-session Print sitting

Sitting video(s) 1 / 1

Opening of the sitting num 12

Mr Theodoros ROUSOPOULOS

Greece, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:10:27

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

It is now my honour to welcome among us in this Chamber H.S.H. Hereditary Prince ALOIS VON UND ZU LIECHTENSTEIN, as well as H.R.H. Hereditary Princess SOPHIE OF LIECHTENSTEIN.

Your Serene Highness, your presence today, as your country is so successfully chairing the Committee of Ministers for the third time since its accession to the Council of Europe in 1987, is a clear symbol of your deep attachment to our European fundamental values and principles, and a gesture for which I would like to sincerely thank you.

Guided by the motto "united by our values towards a better future for the needs of all", the priorities chosen by the Presidency of Liechtenstein, are clearly in line with the core values of the Council of Europe: Protecting and promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law, strengthening the European Court of Human Rights, and providing support for Ukraine, but also implementing the decisions taken at the 4th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe.

These are challenging goals on which you can rest assured that the Parliamentary Assembly stands together with your country.

Your venue coincides with important anniversaries. The year 2024 marks the 75th anniversary of the Council of Europe, and the first anniversary of the Reykjavík Summit, where historic decisions were taken by our heads of states and governments.

This is a time to draw lessons and a time to look forward to the future.

Without further ado, I have the honour, your Serene Highness, to give you the floor.

Address of H.S.H. Hereditary Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein

H.S.H. Hereditary Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein

10:12:50

Dear President of the Parliamentary Assembly, thank you very much for your kind words of introduction.

Dear Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Dear Secretary General of the Council of Europe,

Dear members of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Excellencies,

It is my pleasure to address your Assembly here today.

Liechtenstein has long attached great importance to its membership in the Council of Europe.

It is, therefore, not only a challenge, but also a privilege to hold this office of Presidency in the Committee of Ministers in these turbulent times.

The multilateral system faces multiple threats. The core values of the Council of Europe, human rights, democracy and the rule of law, are increasingly challenged.

The present seems to be characterised by aggressive power politics, anti-democratic tendencies, growing nationalism, and disregard for the rule of law and the rules based international order.

Throughout history, we have repetitively learned that these developments have the potential to lead to destruction and human suffering.

The Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine sadly serves as yet another example for the culmination of these elements.

Particularly in times like these, multilateral fora, such as the Council of Europe and United Nations, prove all the more important.

Once again, it has become apparent that our security can only be ensured by the unconditional respect for the rules-based international order.

In these turbulent times, we are reminded that the inclusive and defective functioning of multilateral organisations, as the Council of Europe and United Nations, plays a critical role to uphold peace and stability.

Aggressive power politics must not prevail. Those challenging our common commitments to the rules based order must be held accountable.

With the establishment of the Register of Damages, the Council of Europe has taken an important first step towards ensuring accountability for the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

On the way forward, it remains of critical importance that the crime of aggression be investigated and prosecuted, and that all those responsible be held accountable. There will be no peace without justice.

Initiatives like these underline the importance of mutual co-operation once again. It is critical to strength these platforms and to equip them with the necessary means to ensure effective continuation of their work for the years to come.

Multilateral fora need to be fit for the future, and more importantly, be able to adapt to changing circumstances in order to overcome future challenges.

Nevertheless, we are witnessing a trend in the opposite direction. With the return of rising nationalism, global decision-making processes seem increasingly to migrate from inclusive multilateral fora to alternative forms dominated only or predominantly buy large powers.

The inclusive nature of multilateral organisations is lost, and the perspectives of small states are under-represented.

Small states make up the majority of the international community. The effective global implementation of rules, therefore, depends just as much on their feasibility in small states as on the will of the more influential powers to take the initiative.

Without involvement of small states in decision-making processes, however, this may prove difficult.

Multilateral co-operation through organisations such as the Council of Europe or the United Nations, therefore, offer a critical opportunity for inclusive processes.

Multilateral organisations' greatest assets are their member states. Each of them offers a unique set of best practices that may also assist reform processes within international organisations to ensure their future orientated functioning.

The Council of Europe can also benefit from such processes. For example, it is not only crucial for the success of companies, but also for states and international organisations, that they constantly develop further. In particular, it helps to regularly scrutinise their core competences and tasks, and to review where the focus should lie in the future, and where the increasingly limited resources are best deployed.

Small states specifically bring important perspectives to the table, as their ability to exert international influence outside multilateral fora is rather limited, they have to develop focus, flexibility and adaptability.

The Liechtenstein economy is a good example of this. As a consequence of our very small domestic market, we are disproportionately affected by nationalist and protectionist trading policies of our main trading partners.

At the same time, however, these challenges offer unique opportunities. They force our companies to boost innovation. With this approach, a number of Liechtenstein companies have become global market leaders in their areas of expertise.

Geographical size is also not an indicative of the impact a state can have particularly in multilateral fora. Liechtenstein has proven this time and again, be it in the Council of Europe, the UN or the European Economic Area.

Through prioritisation in specific areas of expertise, Liechtenstein has been able to set relevant standards in the past.

In 2022, for example, Liechtenstein championed the so-called "veto initiative". Following this resolution, the UN General Assembly must automatically meet with in 10 days if the veto is used in the Security Council by one of its five permanent members. This resolution establishing the veto initiative was ultimately adopted by consensus. By enhancing the role of the General Assembly, the veto initiative took an important step forward to strengthening inclusive multilateralism and the international rule of law.

Due to the size of our country, we are all the more dependent on the functioning of a rules-based international order and on good foreign policy relations. This applies both to the relations with our neighbours and to the relation with our other international partners.

For the maintenance of excellent relations with our other international partners, Liechtenstein's participation in multilateral organisations is of vital importance.

Liechtenstein's accession to the Council of Europe in 1978, has not only helped to further secure our sovereignty and to extend our international recognition as an independent state. With our membership we received a seat at the table in this European community of values.

This also offered us the opportunity to actively contribute both to the development of new European standards and to the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in all of Europe, a responsibility we take very seriously. At the same time, it allowed us to grow and progress with our own common standards.

Our Presidency in the Committee of Ministers further provides us with the opportunity to strengthen the values of this organisation and to promote the future-orientated functioning of the Council of Europe.

In these turbulent times, the Committee of Ministers is coincidentally led by a series of presidencies of small member states. Perhaps, this is exactly what is needed.

I thank you.

Joint debate: Mainstreaming the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment with the Reykjavik process / Towards Council of Europe strategies for healthy seas and oceans to counter the climate crisis

Mr Theodoros ROUSOPOULOS

Greece, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:25:15

Your Highness, on behalf of the Assembly I want to thank you most warmly for your address and for your country's so successful Presidency of the Committee of Ministers. Thank you once again.

Dear colleagues,

We now come to the joint debate on two reports from the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. The first is titled “Mainstreaming the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment with the Reykjavík process” (Document 15955), presented by Mr Simon MOUTQUIN. The second is titled “Towards Council of Europe strategies for healthy seas and oceans to counter the climate crisis” (Document 15956), presented by Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA.

We will aim to finish this item by about 12:30 p.m.

I now call the rapporteur Mr Simon MOUTQUIN to present the first report.

You have 7 minutes now and 3 minutes at the end to reply to the debate.

The floor is yours.

Mr Simon MOUTQUIN

Belgium, SOC, Rapporteur

10:26:58

Thank you very much, Mr Chairman.

Dear colleagues,

Dear members,

First of all, I would like to say that this report comes three years after a previous important report. The aim of this report is to support concrete measures to implement our Reykjavík Declaration and the Reykjavík process that flows from it. Three years ago, we unanimously voted in favor of a report calling for recognition of the right to a healthy environment in several Council of Europe instruments. Several proposals were put forward: an Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, an Additional Protocol to our organisation's Social Charter and/or a fully-fledged convention. I emphasise the "and/or", because even back then, we insisted on the complementary nature of the proposed solutions.

But since then, dear colleagues, as you know, several crises have hit our continent.

The first is the COVID crisis, which has affected many of our citizens. And then what is more than a crisis, what is an aggression, the Russian aggression against the Ukraine, the Russian aggression against Europe, which has led in particular to an energy crisis. Unfortunately, this crisis has sidelined the climate issue in our Assembly and, it has to be said, on the political and media agenda in general.

As we know, at the time, the enthusiasm was driven by young people marching for the climate; it was driven by the proliferation of climate issues, but also by the Georgian presidency of the Council of Europe and by you, dear members, whatever your political ideas. And yet, climate crises remain major issues. It's really the major crisis that leads to other crises for humanity, and it also leads to both suffering and major migratory movements. So, I think that's why the climate crisis is the major crisis.

But I'd like to remind you that the climate crisis didn't have to wait for us, our political thinking and the media to put it at the top of the agenda. In concrete terms, the climate crisis is that the last three months, ladies and gentlemen, have been the hottest three months on record.

The climate crisis is an ocean temperature – and my colleague will talk about this in a few minutes – that is only rising, and rising faster than expected. The climate crisis means that, according to reports, 260 million people will have to migrate between now and 2050, and it's this figure that is of particular concern: 12.5 million young women will no longer have access to education because of the climate crisis, which reminds us of the links between the two.

The climate crisis isn't happening tomorrow: it's happening today. It's in the minds of young people today, in the anxiety that young people have today. The climate crisis is in the hands of our farmers. It's also in the bodies of all those vulnerable people.

So why this report now?

Firstly, a political consensus has emerged in recent years. First, the United Nations: a few weeks after the adoption of our report three years ago, the United Nations publicly recognised the right to a healthy environment, and all the member states of the Council of Europe voted in favor of this recognition at the United Nations. And then the famous 4th Reykjavík Summit which, for the first time, recognised the need to bring the right to a healthy environment to member states, but which also set up a process, the Reykjavík Process, and this is indeed the subject of my report for a strategy on the environment and the feasibility of legal instruments, which is currently being analysed by the Committee of Ministers.

Then, another important event: a few days ago, the European Court of Human Rights, for the first time, found a member state guilty of lack of action to combat climate change. I'd like to take this opportunity to extend my warmest greetings to the Senior Women for Climate Protection, the elderly women in Switzerland who took this case to the Court and won a victory that I believe is historic for humanity.

I'd just like to read you a passage from the Court's ruling, which is important. The Court says: "There is a scientific, political and judicial consensus on the impact of climate change on human rights and on the urgency of combating the adverse effects of climate change and the seriousness of the consequences of this phenomenon, including the serious risk that they may reach a point of irreversibility".

So, in conclusion, one year after the 4th Summit, I'd like to offer a few thoughts on the Reykjavík Process for realising the right to a healthy environment, and finally imposing a firm regulatory advance and a responsible strategic vision.

So, legal recognition of an autonomous right: as we know, political recognition has been achieved, but the challenge today is to recognise jurisdiction in a binding form for a right to a healthy environment, not just to green our rights but to define an autonomous right.

A counter-argument often put forward is that we don't have a common definition or understanding of the right to a healthy environment. In fact, this argument is irrelevant, because 80% of United Nations member states and most Council of Europe member states already recognize the right to a healthy environment. But being able to define it in standards in our Assembly, in our Organisation, would enable a better understanding of the right to a healthy environment, and the common definition of the right to a healthy environment. The Council of Europe is the best place for this.

The CDDH-ENV has spent the last three years examining the question of what concrete instrument could be used to implement the right to a healthy environment, and the various instruments proposed by our Assembly have been analysed: an additional protocol to the Charter, an additional protocol to the Convention, or even a new autonomous convention.

Our Assembly must continue to favor an approach based on human rights, calling for recognition of another reality: the right to a healthy environment is unique and transcends all individual rights. It is not only for today's generation, but also for future generations.

So, we won't be starting from a blank page. In fact, our Organisation has countless conventions that already deal with certain aspects of the right to a healthy environment, or certain aspects, in any case, of the right to the environment. I'm thinking, for example, of the Bern Convention. So we need to capitalise on these various instruments.

Now, how can we organise the Reykjavík Process? How can we concretely advance the right to a healthy environment? The aim of this report is to re-specify objectives that may be more rapidly attainable.

The first thing is to have high standards of responsibility that include transparency, ethics, accessibility, accountability and efficiency. Then, how do we manage this? What we are proposing is an intergovernmental committee, which is essential today to coordinate and make concrete progress in this recognition of the right to a healthy environment. Centres of environmental expertise are very important, as is the recognition of the protection of environmental defenders.

I think – we think – that we need a complaints mechanism, to monitor environmental complaints, and we have the proposal, for example, of a Special Representative to the Secretary General to examine complaints and reinforce the Organisation's visibility.

And to conclude this introduction, I would like to remind you of the importance of including young people and vulnerable groups in this process. A few weeks ago, we were in Bagnolet with the Social Issues Committee: we met some incredible young people who, believe me, sometimes know more about environmental issues than we do. They have things to say, they have things to contribute, and the ecological transition – and these ecological issues – will not be achieved without young people, who are the first to be affected, and without the most vulnerable groups, who are unfortunately the first to be affected by problematic disruption.

Thank you very much.

Mr Theodoros ROUSOPOULOS

Greece, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:34:51

I now call Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA, rapporteur, to present the second report.

You have 7 minutes now and 3 minutes at the end to reply to the debate. 

You have the floor.

Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA

Ukraine, ALDE, Rapporteur

10:35:09

Thank you very much.

Dear Mister Chairman, dear ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

The Council of Europe was the first international organisation that recognised the right to a safe and healthy environment as an integral part of human rights both by its decision, by its resolution and debates. All together, we are pushing forward both in the legal and social aspects, raising awareness and matching the scientific justification with political solutions.

Following the Reykjavík process in the Summit of Heads of States and Government of the Council of Europe, political recognition of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment paves the way to better protection and the full exercise of the human rights of current and future generations.

It is well known that seas and oceans serve as vital components of the Earth's ecosystem, contributing significantly to this sustenance of life and the planet. Oceans and seas regulate the chemistry and global climate on the planet. They play an essential role for life, for the economy, for transportation; nevertheless, they are under threat.

It is timely to consider it is our heritage, its condition, its role, its future. Acknowledging the role of healthy seas and oceans in mitigating crises, the Reykjavík process and this resolution emphasises the responsibility of the Council of Europe member states in realising Sustainable Development Goal 14. This goal aims at conserving and sustainably using the oceans, sea and maritime resources to address a host of direct and indirect threats including plastic and other marine pollution, ocean warming, eutrophication, acidification, and the collapse of fisheries and biodiversity.

We are fortunate as well, because inside of our organisation, nature-based tools such as the Bern Convention the Landscape Convention and others, to tell the truth, they are really unique, we must combat the collapse of biodiversity. This instrument provides the necessary framework to protect effectively and efficiently at least 30% of our seas and oceans. We must repair our maritime domain, too.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, today, I am speaking not only as a parliamentarian but also as an environmental researcher as well. This resolution is grounded on the latest scientific facts and findings. Numerous expert discussions and wide consultation with the key stakeholders in these area, of course, including the International Maritime Organization. I am confident that the recommendation translated into action by both the members states and the Council of Europe can make a difference as well as lead to significant changes.

First, this can be the rule of the national parliaments and the Council of Europe to underscore the importance of international treaties and conventions in protecting marine life and biodiversity, as well as to push forward their ratification and implementation. For example, the United Nations High Seas Treaty, adopted in 2023, recognised the High Seas as a global public good. Moreover, I believe that the Reykjavík process will strengthen the link between the environmental and human rights, as well as enhance the tool available to the Council of Europe for environmental protection including necessary resources.

Secondly, member and non-members states are urged to enhance the initial legislation on protected and restoring marine areas, as well as to support major international treaties in the strengthening of environmental rights. Measures to combat overfishing and illegal fishing and plastic pollution are highlighted along with the promotion of ecocide legislation and legal recognition of ecocide.

Third, to ensure good governance in marine resources. The resolution recommends the creation of a network of marine protected areas and improving data sharing and reporting mechanisms. Additionally, it suggests strengthening co-operation with the International Maritime Organization, the UN, and expert organisations, of course, with researchers. So, the International Maritime Organization is the main organisation providing a framework for oceans and seas where the Council of Europe has held an observer status since 1974. I welcome the opportunity that put into efforts what the two organisations will bring.

The resolution encourages member states to consider the Environmental Compact, an initiative for addressing how the environmental damage affects the Black Sea and Azov Sea due to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. We have discussed in our Assembly the environmental consequences of the war, its terrible regional and global impact, but more action is needed.

After all, dear colleagues, I enjoyed working on this report for two years. I had an opportunity to work with amazing professionals, maritime researchers, expert high-level international organisations. Let me thank, first of all, the Secretariat of Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. We started our report with Mr Guillaume Parent and we continued and finished the report with Ms Aiste RAMANAUSKAITE. Thank you very much.

Professor Bayram Öztürk from Istanbul University, Professor Pavel Gol'din from the Institute of Zoology and my expert team.

Let us join forces and take action together. Let us look up to and treat oceans and seas with respect by considering them as the fragile and delicate entities they are. I call you to support the draft resolution.

Thank you very much. Thank you, rapporteur, as well; we go together every time. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Mr Theodoros ROUSOPOULOS

Greece, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:41:16

Thank you, Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA. 

We now go to the speakers on behalf of the political groups. I first give the floor to Lord Richard KEEN on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance. 

Lord Richard KEEN, you have the floor.

Lord Richard KEEN

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

10:41:31

Thank you, President and colleagues.

I wish to distinguish two separate and distinct issues.

First, the nature of the risk and challenges presented by anthropogenic climate change.

Second, the competence of the Council of Europe under the Convention with respect to the contracting parties.

I shall begin with the first.

The Reykjavík Declaration referred to the triple planetary crisis of pollution, climate change, and loss of biodiversity.

The European environment agency climate risk assessment published on 11 March of this year highlighted two critical findings.

First, the human-induced climate change is affecting the planet and, second, that Europe is the fastest warming continent in the world.

At this time, I do not require to dispute those findings, which highlight a number of challenges.

First, the need for action, second, and more importantly, the complexity of the challenges climate change poses, in legal, political, practical and logistical terms.

That brings me to the second distinct issue. What competence if any does the Council of Europe have in terms of the Convention to direct contracting parties as to how they must address these challenges?

There is a very compelling argument that the Council of Europe has no such competence under the Convention.

Over the past 20 years, our Court of Human Rights has repeatedly stressed that there is no article of the Convention designed to provide general protection of the environment.

In Jugheli and Georgia in 2017 the Court reiterated that there is no explicit right in the Convention to a clean and quiet environment.

In the case of Kyrtatos and Greece, the Court pointed out that the Convention is not specifically designed to provide general protection of the environment.

Of course, in response to the foregoing, this Parliamentary Assembly has repeatedly recommended that the Convention should encompass a competence in relation to the environment. That's Recommendation 1431 of 1999 on Environmental Protection, and Recommendation 1885 of 2009 on the Right to a Healthy Environment.

But, and this matters, none of the recommendations from this Parliamentary Assembly to provide a protocol to Convention giving competence in relation to the environment has been accepted and approved by the contracting parties to the Convention.

Consequently, that urgent issue remains one for other international instruments and domestic legislation and is not one for the Convention, and consequently, not one for the Council of Europe.

Thank you.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:44:53

Thank you, Lord Richard KEEN.

I now give the floor to Ms Liliana TANGUY on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Ms Liliana TANGUY

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

10:45:05

Thank you, Madam Chairman.

Dear colleagues,

The record temperatures recorded worldwide in 2023 are a reminder of the urgent need to make further efforts to protect the planet from the irreversible consequences of climate change. The repercussions of climate disruption on oceans and seas are also cause for concern. Rising sea temperatures are having a cascading effect on marine biodiversity and human societies, and threaten the survival of our maritime heritage.

This joint debate is, therefore, an opportunity to address the issue of the right to a healthy, safe and sustainable environment on the basis of two very rich reports, accompanied by a set of particularly interesting recommendations, which call on the Council of Europe to establish a global strategy for environmental governance as part of the Reykjavík process launched at the end of the Organisation's 4th Summit in May 2023.

For several years now, our group has been working alongside the Assembly to anchor recognition of the right to a healthy environment within the Council of Europe. In September 2021, under the chairmanship of Mr Rik DAEMS, an important debate was held with the ambition of consolidating this right in legislation, policy, practice, and public consciousness. Our group broadly supported the adoption of Recommendation 2211 (2021), which called for the introduction of Additional Protocols to the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter on a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. In 2022, following this debate, a parliamentary reference network for a healthy environment, of which I am a member, was created.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe shares the conclusions of the two rapporteurs and will lend its support. It welcomes the initiative of the Reykjavík process, which underlines a significant awareness among heads of state and government in favour of co-ordinated measures to counter the impact of the triple planetary crisis linked to pollution, climate change, and the loss of biodiversity.

MP Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA reminds us that the seas and oceans must not be left out of this strategic reflection by the Council of Europe. As a Member of Parliament for a coastal constituency in Brittany, I measure the impact of global warming on marine biodiversity and heritage on a daily basis. In this respect, the conclusion of the High Seas Treaty in 2023 is to be welcomed as it not only helps to fill the legal void but also guarantees better protection of biodiversity in international waters. Let's not forget that the oceans and seas are both the lungs and the planet's primary carbon sink. It is therefore essential, as my colleague recommends, that the Council of Europe support the implementation of international treaties that promote the protection of seas and oceans, and strengthens its participation in the activities of the International Maritime Organization.

I would also like to thank my Ukrainian colleague for having mentioned the Berne Convention in her work. I was behind a motion for a resolution aimed at strengthening the financial and institutional stability of this Convention, which, may I remind you, is the first international treaty devoted to the protection of wild fauna and flora in Europe and beyond.

We must also welcome the creation [the President asks her to conclude] of an inter-secretariat working group which will be responsible for drawing up the inter-sectoral action plan on which the Council of Europe's future global environmental strategy should be based, and encourage member states to support the establishment of an ad hoc intergovernmental committee [the President takes her up again] on the environment and human rights, the Reykjavík Committee.

I hope [the President indicates that her time is up] that we will have bold instruments to combat global warming effectively.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:48:45

Thank you, Madam Liliana TANGUY.

Now I give the floor to Ms Anne STAMBACH-TERRENOIR.

You have 3 minutes.

Ms Anne STAMBACH-TERRENOIR

France, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

10:48:57

Thank you, Madam Chairman.

First of all, on behalf of my group, I would like to thank the rapporteurs for their work in the general interest, because, dear colleagues, our house is on fire. According to IPBES, 75% of the planet's surface has been significantly damaged by human activities; a million species are threatened with extinction and 85% of wetlands; and their rich and precious ecosystems are at risk of disappearing.

We are living through the sixth extinction, a thousand times faster than previous ones, and six out of ten planetary limits have already been exceeded. The consequences of global warming are increasingly violent, and the first victims are always the most fragile among us. Consequently, the right to a healthy environment is a necessity, a fundamental right already recognised as a fully-fledged human right by the UN via its historic resolution of October 8, 2021.

The Council of Europe can no longer remain the only regional human rights system not to have formally recognised this right. All the more so since last week, the European Court of Human Rights handed down a landmark ruling condemning Switzerland for its inaction in compensating for global warming.

The right to a healthy environment must be the bridge between human rights and the preservation and restoration of nature. I agree with the rapporteur, Mr Simon MOUTQUIN, that we are not experiencing a crisis, as the Reykjavík Declaration states. Climate change is the consequence of a lack of structural and sustainable action. I would go even further. It is caused by the destructive logic of the profit motive driven by capitalist ideology, because it leads to the reign of the short term over the long term of economic profitability as the only horizon and against all rationality and, in fine, against living beings and the preservation of our conditions of survival.

It's no coincidence that this morning we're also debating Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA's report, which links preservation of the seas and oceans to the right to a healthy environment. Every second breath we take comes from the ocean, since 50% of our oxygen comes from phytoplankton.

To preserve this common asset of humankind, the marine protected area system could be a crucial lever. But how can we speak of marine protected areas when the activity that has most affected marine ecosystems, industrial fishing, is authorised there? In 2023, trawling will have screwed into over 60% of Europe's marine protected areas, and the 18 European factory ships over 80 meters in length will all, without exception, be operating in European marine protected areas.

In France, we are particularly sensitive to this issue as the most trawled marine protected area in Europe is the Bay of Biscay slope. The enshrinement of the right to a healthy environment must, therefore, enable a clear definition of these protected areas, excluding all extractive activities such as industrial fishing, in line with the recommendations of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Time is running out. After the poles, Europe is the fastest-warming continent. A few days ago, a study in the journal Nature showed that ocean warming and acidification are twice as great as estimated.

The process set in motion in Reykjavík must lead as soon as possible to a new binding right in the European Convention on Human Rights, via an Additional Protocol, so that the Court has jurisdiction over all disputes relating to the protection of this fundamental right. This demand is also being made by a group of NGOs at international level.

We expect the Committee of Ministers and the future Secretary General of the Council of Europe to live up to history's expectations, for as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, "We do not inherit the earth from our parents. We borrow it from our children".

Thank you.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:52:15

Thank you, Madam Anne STAMBACH-TERRENOIR.

She spoke on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Now I give the floor to Madam Petra BAYR on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Please, Madam BAYR, the floor is yours.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

10:52:32

Thank you very much.

Who ignore the evidence of climate catastrophe and that it is made by men, by us, that ignores the responsibility to act, to act to safeguard our future and the future of the next generations. And we have to take influence, we have to take measures.

And one of the ways, I think that's the best one, is the way to human rights, to a safe and healthy and sustainable environment, and everything else will mean an end of civilisation, as we know it probably, and end of humanity and human kind.

And the way forward is with a law, a robust law that also includes the oceans, because oceans are really key for that, and since September last year the Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ Agreement) is open for signatures and we all hope that it will be effective in 2025.

We have to be prepared for that, to really have a quick ratification, and it will bring very important steps for a safe ocean, for instance that really the maritime source of protein is there that we have sustainable fishery and extended, large extensions of marine protected areas, but also that we maintain the oceans, a healthy ocean both as a CO2 sink, but also as a producer of oxygen. Every second breath we take everyday comes from the ocean, statistically.

But what is not tackled neither in the BBNJ nor in the report on the oceans, which I very welcome, is the question of deep seabed mining, and let me throw your attention on that topic as well. It's a very pressing issue. We know more about the surface of the moon than we know about the deep seabed, and in the realm of resources and accepting that they are finite on this Earth, enterprises are looking for new regions for mining resources, and there is the idea that big harvest machines go over the deep seabed and harvest resources, harvest deep sea nodules and destroy everything else that comes into their way.

We do not know what exactly will come into their way, but we can estimate that it's very important for the balance, the biological balance, not only in the seas but also for the whole Earth, also for us as human beings.

So there is a parliamentary initiative on a call for a moratorium for deep seabed mining. And as long as we do not know about the consequences and how they can handle that, and I would like to call to all on you do hold your governments responsible, accountable for that at the next meeting, the next session of the deep seabed authorities in July.

Please, be there. Please, raise your voice. Even landlocked countries have a voice and we have to save our planet.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:55:54

Thank you, Madam Petra BAYR.

I now give the floor to Ms Andrea EDER-GITSCHTHALER, on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Please, the floor is yours.

Ms Andrea EDER-GITSCHTHALER

Austria, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

10:56:11

Thank you very much, Madam Chairwoman,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank the rapporteur for his report. I think that, especially in times like these, it is good to focus on climate protection, because we are all affected by climate change. I believe that anyone who denies this is living on a different planet.

In Austria, for example, we've had problems with the snow in our ski resorts in winter. We all know that it's a matter of survival. We have already heard that if we carry on like this, 72 million people will be forced to emigrate by 2050. It is very good that we are dealing with this issue today and specifically addressing the health of the oceans.

I am particularly pleased about this historic success of the Swiss climate activists, who are apparently here today. A warm welcome from me too, because this is the first time that we have recognised that climate protection is also a human right and that is important and necessary for our future actions. Because the rapporteur has already alluded to this, senior citizens in particular are a crucial factor when it comes to vulnerable people, not just young people. As a representative of senior citizens, I would like to reiterate this explicitly. That's why I'm very grateful to the Swiss senior citizens for sticking to their guns.

On the subject of the oceans, the health of the oceans plays a very important role, regardless of which country we live in. I live in a landlocked country, in Austria, but we are also affected. We also have river port facilities on the Danube. The Danube drains into the sea, so we are also affected by pollution and we have to make sure that we keep the Danube really clean. Some 70% of the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere is produced in the sea and 90% of the excess heat and 25% of the excess carbon dioxide is stored in the oceans. So, the oceans are really important for us and vital for the survival of us all. That is why it was an important step to launch this UN High Seas Treaty and why we are discussing this report here today, and thus also launching explicit measures.

We in the Group of the European People's Party can only support this. After all, this is about our survival and the survival of our children, our children's children, about all our lives. I ask you all. Let's start working together on this survival strategy, thinking together every day. What can we do? We are parliamentarians and it is up to us to define our framework conditions, so let's do it now, today and immediately.

Thank you very much.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:59:27

Thank you, Madam Andrea EDER-GITSCHTHALER.

Now I give the floor to Ms Aurora FLORIDIA.

You have 3 minutes.

Ms Aurora FLORIDIA

Italy, SOC

10:59:40

Thank you, Madam President.

I'll speak in Italian.

I thank my fellow rapporteurs for their excellent report, which highlights the urgent need to implement, also within the Council of Europe, an innovative and robust environmental strategy that can help to counter the devastating effects resulting from the triple planetary crisis induced by pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss.

This is a central goal that must always be borne in mind in our parliamentary work, both at the national level and here at the Council of Europe, a place entrusted par excellence to guarantee respect for human rights, pluralistic democracy and the rule of law, and which is now also called upon to respond to the problems caused by the climate crisis and the related demands for protection that entire communities of citizens have been demanding for far too long now.

Because of the important political role that this institution plays, it is therefore all the more essential than ever to intensify the debate on the impact of climate change on human rights here as well.

Formalising within the Council of Europe the right, still in its early stages, to a healthy environment is a political and moral duty as urgent as ever, which we cannot and must not shirk.

Strengthening the legal framework associated with everyone's right to live in a healthy environment is crucial to ensuring for present and future generations a more sustainable present and future.

The Reykjavík Declaration itself recommends, by the way, building a strategic, strong, concrete European environmental governance with a special intergovernmental committee.

I would like to conclude my brief remarks by recalling the historic ruling issued on 9 April by the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of the Swiss association of elderly women "KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz," where the Court found a violation by the state of its obligations related to the adoption of appropriate measures to combat climate change.

With this landmark ruling, for the first time the European Court also included, as covered by the Convention, the right of each of us to effective protection by states against the serious adverse effects of climate change on our lives, health, well-being, and quality of life.

This is a momentous turning point that we welcome with immense satisfaction and that traces a further courageous step toward achieving a sustainable future in a healthy and liveable environment for all and all of us, enabling us both as representatives and as citizens, to achieve with tenacity and commitment all the projects and dreams we deserve to achieve in today's world and society of tomorrow.

Thank you.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:02:50

Grazie, Madam Aurora FLORIDIA.

In the debate, I call next Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER.

The floor is yours for 3 minutes.

Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER

Germany, EC/DA

11:03:02

Thanks.

Should the right to a healthy environment be recognised in law as an autonomous human right?

I'm firmly convinced it should not be.

The reasoning behind it is already very flawed. The first paragraph of the report says that climate change is the greatest existential emergency for humankind and that this emergency is mainly due to the lack of long-lasting structural action.

Wait a minute. The state of emergency is normally marked by the fact that governments lift or wave human rights, not that they create new human rights. Human rights are usually defensive rights, defensive rights of a citizen against an overacting sovereign.

How can human rights be directed against inaction? Unlike torture or imprisonment, climate change is not a sovereign action. The government does not order heat or flooding to happen. So, the very concept of human rights is actually not applicable to this issue.

A lot of people have referenced the court decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of the Climate Seniors against Switzerland, and that is actually a low point in this organisation. The Court has ruled that the Swiss have to introduce, basically, a CO2 budget or CO2 reforms even though the Swiss in a referendum in 2021 had decided they do not want that. They had a referendum on the issue. They voted "no", and now they have to introduce it nevertheless.

That ruling is directed against democracy.

We are here to protect democracy. We cannot allow judges to overrule democratic decisions.

Where is the division of power here? Where is the role of legislative power here?

We're responsible as representatives to actually make politics and make policy the way we think is right. Then the judges can control us.

The major problem of a right to a healthy environment is that it actually enters into conflict with other human rights.

What is the relation of this new human right that you're suggesting to, for instance, the right to property, to the right to private life, to the right to life even.

Does that mean that for the environment I can be legally disowned? Does it mean that for the sake of a healthy environment or a fight against climate change I can be evicted from my home, for instance, because it's gas powered? Does it mean that if I am sick, I'm in a coma, I'm only emitting CO2 emissions and not contributing to society, I can be killed?

What, dear colleagues, is the relation of this new human right to other human rights?

You will have to answer this question before suggesting to introduce that as a human right.

You may regulate action on climate change, but you should never ever open the door for environmental human rights.

Thank you.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:06:15

Thank you, colleague.

I now give the floor to Mr Thomas HASLER.

You have 3 minutes.

Mr Thomas HASLER

Liechtenstein, ALDE

11:06:23

Thank you, Madam Chairwoman,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start by thanking the rapporteur for producing this important report.

Yes, the so-called triple planetary crisis, environmental pollution, climate change and the loss of biodiversity, is undoubtedly one of the most acute problems facing our world.

More than almost any other crisis, it highlights the fact that crises do not stop at national borders. We must, therefore, solve them through co-ordinated multilateral co-operation. Liechtenstein is one of the countries that has so far recognised the right to a safe, clean and healthy environment politically, but not legally. However, we are closely following the discussion on the formal recognition of the right as well as the remaining definitional challenges and unresolved issues.

Reports such as the one we have received today are a great help to us.

Thank you very much.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:07:43

Thank you, Mister Thomas HASLER.

I now give the floor to Ms Saskia KLUIT.

The floor is yours for 3 minutes.

Ms Saskia KLUIT

Netherlands, SOC

11:07:52

Thank you, Mister President.

I want to thank both rapporteurs for the really great reports and recommendations.

With your work, you deepen how we think about human rights and how we think beyond human rights. You try to fortify the situation.

I speak from a country that has a right, already, for a clean and liveable environment. I can tell the worried colleagues that we are having a thriving economy and attracting really competitive companies due to a good liveable situation.

We talk about human rights. Let me tell a little bit about the human rights of the children in my area, where I live.

When I came to live there, my son had asthma. The clean air situation was really bad. A lot of children had the same problem. They were not able to go to school, because they were sick. Every winter they had pneumonia, and they had to stay home. Their families had to make high costs to pay for the medicine, and they also lost working days because they had to take care of their children.

If you live in an unclean, unhealthy situation, your human rights are fundamentally targeted.

I'm very happy that we speak about a binding right. Because what happened in my city, when a judge said it was not good enough, it's that they started to take measures.

Nobody was expropriated. We built a really good clean, healthy city.

Now our children can go to school, and the parents can go to work. We don't need to make unnecessary costs.

This right makes a more equal and more liveable society possible. That is so very important, because we all can escape the situation. But people with a low income, they are very often forced to live in areas where they are already living. That makes them vulnerable for unclean health situations and everything that comes from that.

It was also important for the future generations, because we have very limited time to achieve what we bound ourselves by when we all signed the Paris Agreement, including Switzerland.

By signing the Paris Agreement, we said we would do all we can do to prevent critical climate change. The Court has not said what measures you need to take, the Court said do take all necessary measures.

This right is of the greatest importance. I fully support the work of my colleagues, and I hope we will give a positive sign from the Council of Europe on this work.

Thank you.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:10:35

Thank you, Madam KLUIT.

In the debate I call next Mr Alain CADEC.

Please, the floor is yours for 3 minutes.

Mr Alain CADEC

France, EPP/CD

11:10:47

Madam President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank our colleagues for their reports, which we are examining at a key moment, just a few days after the judgments handed down by the European Court of Human Rights in three cases concerning climate change.

In the case concerning Switzerland, the Court ruled that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights encompasses a right for individuals to effective protection, by the state authorities, against the adverse and serious effects of climate change on their life, health, well-being and quality of life. This is a major judgment, the scope and implications of which for the public policies of our member states will have to be analysed.

For my part, I would like to emphasise the essential role played by the oceans in the fight against climate change, both as the lungs of the planet and as carbon sinks. It is estimated that the seas and oceans produce 50% of our oxygen needs, absorb 25% of CO2 emissions and capture 90% of the additional heat they generate.

Global warming threatens the regulating role of seas and oceans. It threatens marine biodiversity and fish stocks. Earlier this week, the US Oceanic and Atmospheric Observing Agency confirmed that a new global coral bleaching event has been underway since February 2023, the second episode in less than ten years.

It is therefore essential to take action to protect our seas and oceans. This subject is linked to the broader issue of the right to a safe, clean and sustainable environment advocated by our Assembly.

These issues are particularly important for France, which has the world's second largest maritime area, covering 10% of the world's coral reefs and 20% of its atolls. Nearly 10% of the world's marine species diversity can be found in France's overseas territories.

I therefore share our colleague's call for marine protected areas and measures to regulate fishery resources. As former chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries, I would like to emphasise the European Union's commitment to sustainable resource management and the good results achieved in this area.

I would also like to share with you my own experience as an elected representative of the Baie de Saint-Brieuc in Brittany, where an offshore wind farm has just been built.

Projects of this kind must take into account the specific features of the seabed and the environment in which they are located. They must be the subject of an impact study and be accompanied by genuine consultation with the main users of the maritime space concerned, in particular of course the fishermen.

Moving from general principles to concrete action in the field requires tact and know-how, as much as political will, if it is to flourish in a peaceful local democracy.

Thank you very much.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:13:54

Thank you, Alain.

And now I give the floor to Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA for 3 minutes. Please.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA

Ukraine, EPP/CD

11:14:05

Merci, Madam President. Thank you very much.

I would like to thank the Social Committee, the Chairman, and, of course, our dear colleague Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA.

If not all the members know, her background is in science, in chemistry, biology, and she was that lady who during the first days of Russian occupation, of the city of Donetsk managed to move the National University to the safe location of Central Ukraine.

Julia, I know how much of an effort it took you to draft this report.

I also want to take the some minutes of your attention, dear colleagues, because, in the very title of it, we have a very important document, which is the Reykjavík Declaration. This is thanks to you, dear colleagues. We have managed to put the point of sustainable environment, safe environment, and the basic human right for a safe environment in the Reykjavík Declaration last May in Iceland.

It is due to you that we actually had the conference in Reykjavík, only the fourth time in 75 years of the existence of this Organisation.

I also would like to pay attention that the current international armed conflicts, like the one we have of Russia against Ukraine, bring the new notions into international justice and international dimensions, such as ecocide and how we can manage to measure it with a compensation mechanism or other means of help for the people is still under the question.

I also want to pay attention, dear colleagues, to the great amendments that passed in this resolution to enhance the terms and bring the current legal instruments into action.

Of course, the environment is something that we sometimes disregard, but it paves the way to the future generation. Which planet are we leaving them? How are the current international armed conflicts affecting? How should the aggressors be responsible? How much would they pay for influence in the environment, which sometimes hits the ground for instance in Ukraine, but affects Moldova, or Poland, or Romania?

I think we are currently observing the most important challenges for us all, dear friends. I hope this important resolution will pave the way for the governments across the globe to react accordingly.

Thank you very much.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:17:09

Thank you.

I now give the floor to Ms Seda GÖREN BÖLÜK.

Please, the floor is yours for 3 minutes.

Ms Seda GÖREN BÖLÜK

Türkiye, NR

11:17:21

First of all, I would like to thank both rapporteurs for their excellent, comprehensive and detailed reports.

Following the adoption by the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council of a resolution recognising the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, we welcome the steps taken at the Reykjavík Summit in this direction.

Climate change is one of humanity's greatest existential emergencies, and this problem can only be overcome through long-term solutions. We need to develop environmentally-friendly, sustainable and global solutions that will prevent the intensive consumption of waste.

At this point, it's worth mentioning the Zero Waste Project, an exemplary project implemented in Türkiye and perhaps one of the most important contributions to humanity. The "Zero Waste" Project was launched by the Ministry of Environment, Urbanisation and Climate Change in 2017, under the aegis of Ms Emine Erdoğan, wife of our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The project has been selected as an exemplary promising project in the OECD's 2019 report. The "Zero Waste" resolution submitted by Türkiye to the United Nations as part of the fight against climate change was adopted by the General Assembly on 15 December 2022. Thanks to this resolution supported by 105 countries, 30 March each year continues to be celebrated worldwide as International Zero Waste Day. Zero waste is a goal defined as an approach to waste disposal, which includes waste prevention, more efficient use of resources, reducing the amount of waste generated, setting up an efficient collection system, and recycling waste.

Since 2017, around 30 million tonnes of paper, 3 million tonnes of glass, 8 million tonnes of plastic, 4 million tonnes of metal, and 16 million tonnes of organic waste have been recycled and returned to the ecosystem.

Thanks to this recycling, around 2.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, 819 million cubic metres of water, and 127 million barrels of oil have been saved. Around 500 million trees have been saved, and 6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have been avoided.

Dear parliamentarians,

In order to control our waste in line with the principles of sustainable development and to leave our common home, the world, clean and liveable for future generations, the zero-waste principle should be adopted and waste management should be the subject of an integrated approach.

It is important, for the sustainable management of the climate crisis, that environmentally-friendly practices such as zero waste spread throughout the world and become an integral part of our lives.

Once again, I'd like to thank all the volunteers and especially the young people who are trying to save our future with sustainable models.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:20:34

Thank you, dear colleague.

I now give the floor to Mr José María SÁNCHEZ GARCÍA.

Mr José María SÁNCHEZ GARCÍA

Spain, EC/DA

11:20:48

Thank you, Madam President. 

Fortunately, I am not in Brussels. As a result, I do not think we can expect a crazed Burgomaster to burst in and try to stop me from exercising my freedom of expression. So, I am grateful to this Assembly's hospitality for me to speak freely and with immunity, which goes with my job. 

The creation of fundamental rights brings with it a series of problems, one of them includes the very foundation of these rights. This is a serious challenge. Fundamental rights are recognised, not created. In other words, these rights exist before legislators start thinking about them. This is why we cannot make any claim to a fundamental right, because this goes against any healthy philosophy of law. We oppose the creation of a right to the environment, because we rightly oppose also this insane concept of a climatic emergency. I must say that in the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, handed down in April this year, which has been mentioned beforehand, that is based on the same principles as the Roe v. Wade from January 1969 when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on the right to abortion, the Court said that, in reality, abortion could be viewed as a manifestation as the right of privacy. This is exactly what the Court is now saying when it comes to the right to the environment, referring to this supposed right as coming under Article 8 of the Convention, that is the right to a private and family life. 

Okay, in this case, it is perhaps less serious. At least in this case, although it is an invention that has no legal basis, as I'm saying, at least it has the quality, I will not say the virtue, but the quality of not being in violent contradiction of a recognised pre-exisiting right, which is the right to life in the case of abortion as opposed to the right to life.

This is to say that it is not simply my position, nor is it either theoretical or a practical position of my group. It is exactly what the Federal Supreme Court ruled in a decision adopted in June 2023 in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. That ruling confirmed that in the Roe v. Wade ruling there was an error, because in US law there is no such thing as a fundamental right to abortion. So, let's see if we Europeans learn a bit also from what is happening across the Atlantic and stop saying such nonsense and rubbish.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:23:56

Thank you, Mr José María SÁNCHEZ-GARCÍA.

The next speaker is Mr Stefan SCHENNACH.

You have the floor, 3 minutes.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC

11:24:07

Thank you, Madam President,

In contrast to the previous speaker, for whom there is obviously no climate emergency and no climate crisis, I would really like to thank the two rapporteurs warmly, especially as a representative of a country that is still missing, sorely missing, a climate protection law even though our glaciers are melting, even though extreme weather conditions are increasing. I particularly welcome the resolution on the world's oceans, because right now we need a moratorium on deep-sea mining and the unrestrained extraction of manganese nodules, which are destroying everything.

In my capacity as chairman of the Union for the Mediterranean, we had already announced underwater nature parks between Algeria, Spain, Tunisia, and Italy over 10 years ago. Unfortunately, the march of time has not helped us here. But the Mediterranean, not an ocean, but a sea, is the busiest waterway in the world. Thanks to the French scientist Bruno Dumontet, we know that over 60% of the Mediterranean is covered in plastic. This means that we have over 60% plastic on the seabed, which in turn means that fish eat plastic plankton.

Biodiversity is a very important issue, and this is also linked to climate protection and the protection of the oceans. I recently picked up another one of James Cook's diaries, and it brings tears to my eyes when I see the illustrations of animals. Nine out of ten animals illustrated are extinct. This means that if we lose a gene, we lose it forever. That is the extreme drama that accompanies biodiversity.

When we also look at the island states, for example, which are really up to their necks in water and have to keep trying to give up their territory, we see the urgency here.

I can only thank the Swiss climate seniors, also as an Austrian, for bringing about this ruling by the Human Rights Court. This will, hopefully, change all of our lives for the better. Thank you to those courageous Swiss men and women who have brought this about, not only for the senior citizens, but above all for the next generation of children and grandchildren.

Thank you very much, and we will be very happy to support you.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:27:21

Thank you, Mr Stefan SCHENNACH.

The next speaker is Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK.

The floor is yours.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

11:27:31

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Dear Mr Simon MOUTQUIN, dear Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA, thank you for your tremendous work on these reports.

Indeed, the urgency of environmental degradation has never been clearer. The right to live in a healthy and safe environment is the fundamental human right.

I think it's very symbolical that today we discussed these two resolutions in this chamber with all these young people in the balconies. Be sure they will be fighting for this right. I'm sure that they are watching you and they are waiting not for the words, but for actions when you come back to your countries.

I would like to bring more attention to how the full-scale invasion of Russia to Ukraine has been not just making the life of Ukrainians unbearable, but how it influences the environment in other countries. It doesn't just kill people and destroy infrastructure, but also causes the most extensive environmental damage in decades.

During the full-scale invasion of Russia, Ukraine's environment has suffered damage worse more than 51 billion euro: 812 protected sites have been damaged, and 514 sites of the nature reserve fund remain occupied.

Russia's destruction of the Kakhovka electric power station last year led to a large scale environment disaster, and has all the features of a war crime and ecocide.

In total, 600 species of animals and 750 species of plants, including endangered, have been damaged as a result of the Russian aggression.

It is often forgotten, but military operations in the Black and Azov seas have a direct impact on the seas and the countries that are on these seas. And thank you, Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA, for addressing this issue.

I cannot agree more that it is important for the Assembly to invite member states to consider an environmental compact for Ukraine, a green future, recommendations for accountability and recovery, proposed by the High-Level Working Group on the Environmental Consequences of the War, concerning the environmental damage affecting the Black Sea.

Last but not least, I would like to talk about the demining and how Ukrainian territory is mined. This is more than 172 000 square kilometres, just like five times Belgium.

Restoration of our ecosystem and normal life in Ukraine is possible only after the demining. We would like to call on member states to help us with this process.

Also, I would like to urge you to support both resolutions and really go to our states, to our homes, and do more for securing these fundamental rights for healthy environments.

Thank you.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:30:40

Thank you, Madam KRAVCHUK.

 

The next speaker is Ms Sibel ARSLAN. The floor is yours. 3 minutes.

Ms Sibel ARSLAN

Switzerland, SOC

11:30:51

Dear Madam Chairwoman

Ladies and gentlemen,

Esteemed colleagues,

I would like to start by thanking the rapporteurs for these two important reports.

It is clear that the climate crisis is progressing inexorably and its effects are becoming ever more tangible. Recent events, from devastating heatwaves to extreme weather phenomena, leave no doubt that we need to take urgent action now. The effects are particularly difficult for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and children, but also for agriculture.

I would like to speak on behalf of my country, Switzerland. Unfortunately, Switzerland's current climate policy does not meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. In contrast, the European Union, for example, has taken ambitious climate protection measures with the Green Deal investment program and the "Fit for 55" legislative package. As a prosperous and economically strong country, we have a responsibility to show solidarity in helping to protect the climate and biodiversity. Unfortunately, however, the necessary measures are not being sufficiently pursued. The recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights, in which the climate seniors were vindicated, makes this clear. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Climate Seniors for their commitment to all of us.

And here I would ask you, Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER, for example, to point out that we perhaps need to stick to the facts, especially in this body, and perhaps take a closer look at the decisions of our institutions such as the Court of Justice, which is also based here. As decision-makers, we all have a responsibility to leave our planet a liveable foundation for future generations and to ensure that they also have these opportunities.

In order to advance effective climate policy, it is urgent and necessary to clearly and unambiguously formulate the right to a healthy environment in the Council of Europe. A legally-binding framework is needed to enshrine this right in international law and to fulfil the need to protect the right to a healthy environment as a human right in a coherent manner.

Here I would also like to refer to the oceans, which has also just been reported on here, and to the effects of plastic pollution in the oceans, which will ultimately also have consequences for us. Let's act together and take the necessary steps to protect our environment and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. Thank you very much.

Ms Elisabetta GARDINI

Italy, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:34:10

Thank you, Madam Sibel ARSLAN.

I now give the floor to the next speaker, Ms Olena KHOMENKO.

Please, Olena, the floor is yours for 3 minutes.

Ms Olena KHOMENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

11:34:25

Honourable members, today we stand at a pivotal moment not only for Europe, but for the world at large.

It is with a sense of urgency and a heavy heart that I address the environmental crisis we face. A crisis that demands immediate decisive action.

Firstly, it is imperative that within our European continent we recognise a formal autonomous right to a healthy environment. This right transcends individual liberties, safeguarding not just the present, but ensuring the sanctity of our world for future generations.

The disparity within our legal frameworks across Europe, where this fundamental right remains unanchored, is a glaring oversight we must promptly address.

Turning focus to my homeland Ukraine, we witness an egregious assault on the environment, a testament to the ravages of war.

The Russian Federation's actions have not only inflicted unspeakable human suffering, but have also perpetrated severe crimes against nature itself.

In the face of such devastation, it becomes imperative to reference the significant guiding document Environmental Compact for Ukraine, A Green Future: Recommendations for Accountability and Recovery proposed by the high-level working group on the environmental consequences of the war.

This document provides a blueprint for rectification and recovery emphasising the dire need for a comprehensive compensation mechanism. The establishment of such a mechanism, as previously discussed in this Assembly, must be our collective goal, dear colleagues. With regard to the environment, it is possible to say that it aims not only to address the immediate reparations required, but also to align with the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

By supporting this initiative, we commit to restoring nature, aiding countriesthat are war torn and in despair, and enhancing the capacity of Ukrainian authorities to manage and mitigate environmental damage.

Moreover, the timeliness of criminalising ecocide in Europe and all over the world, for instance within the Rome Statute, cannot be overstated. As we witness the degradation of our natural world, the necessity for such legislation becomes even more crucial.

This legal recognition will serve as a deterrent and the framework for accountability, ensuring that those responsible for environmental crimes face the consequences of their actions.

In the context of the Black Sea, the urgency to preserve this pristine environment while persecuting the crimes committed against it is paramount. The militarisation of this region and the illegal construction activities, notably the Kerch Bridge, have wreaked havoc on biodiversity and ecosystems.

This destruction, a clear manifestation of ecocide, demands our immediate attention and action.

In closing, I call up on this Assembly and our partners to be bold in our endeavours.

The creation of a compensation mechanism, the criminalisation of ecocide, and the intensified efforts to safeguard the Black Sea are not just aspirations, but necessities.

Let us be the architects of change, ensuring a resilient, restored and protected environment for all. Together we can forge a path towards accountability, recovery and sustainability.

Thank you, dear colleagues.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:38:24

Thank you, Madame.

Our next speaker is from Canada, Mr Brian FRANCIS.

You have the floor.

Mr Brian FRANCIS

Canada

11:38:33

Thank you, Mr President.

Honourable colleagues,

Just under a month ago we celebrated World Water Day. In less than a week we'll celebrate Earth Day.

Those anniversaries remind us of the need to celebrate our planet and its resources. But they also remind us that our planet is suffering.

Thank you, rapporteur, for highlighting the role this organisation has to play in strengthening the special link between human rights and the environment, including the seas and the oceans. For the Mi'kmaq in the Atlantic region of Canada, water is life. As such, it must be protected.

This desire to protect our resources has been passed on to us through an ancient connection. As indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, we have been the caretakers of the land and water since time immemorial.

Today, paradoxically, indigenous peoples are among the most vulnerable groups to climate change. For the Lennox Island First Nation, situated in Abegweit, where I grew up, the situation is critical. It loses more land every year due to rising sea levels.

Consequently, this morning I would like to briefly present two Mi'kmaq concepts: the concept of Netukulimk, and the concept of Two-Eyed Seeing. Because they demonstrate how indigenous and non-indigenous peoples can celebrate to fight the climate crisis: collaborating.

First, Netukulimk reminds us of our dependence with the natural world, that we are all connected, and that every relationship between people, animals, plants and the environment is reciprocal. The Netukulimk philosophy embraces cultural and spiritual connections with resource stewardship. It puts forward a state of mind according to which one is aware of one's environmental impact and the necessity that one should only consume the resources one needs.

Second, is Two-Eyed Seeing. It is a concept championed by Mi'kmaq elder Albert Marshall. He defines it as learning to see from one eye with the strength of indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strength of mainstream knowledges and the ways of knowing, and to use both these eyes together for the benefit of all.

It is both a methodological framework and guiding principle as it emphasises to need to cohabit, and take the time to learn from each other's reality in order to work together by taking the best of both Western and indigenous world views.

It is by working together and intertwining our realities that solutions and successful strategies can be implemented to protect our environment.

Wela'lin.

Thank you.

Merci.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:41:24

Thank you, Sir.

I now give the floor to Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO from Ukraine.

Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD

11:41:32

Dear colleagues, you know I am often asked as a Ukrainian when was that first moment when we crossed the border since the beginning of the war to the areas where they were no war. And, you know, surprisingly, I remember that moment a lot. Yes, there were queues of people. There were a lot of tears but there was also one thing that I remember very clearly that really broke my heart, it is the fact that the birds were singing on the border. For quite a long time, it was our first trip actually to Strasbourg when we were crossing the border with our female members of the Parliament. And I was so shocked that for all the days I did not hear nature.

And, unfortunately, that is happening in many parts of Ukraine where Russia is committing crimes every day on the environment. It can be huge crimes or it can be post factum crimes and every time when the air missile is flying to any of the towns, you know what happens in the animal shelters? Dogs have heart attacks. The same happens with cats. And every time if you ever just look at this information and you speak to people who are doing this help for animal shelters, you will know how many animals are dying. And it is not only because of the crime at the Kakhovka Dam where hundreds of thousands of animals and trees and flora and fauna are absolutely destroyed. And we will have those consequences for the generations to come, not only in Ukraine but also in other parts of the world.

And, unfortunately, every day we are getting threatened by new possible nuclear threats – at the Zaporizhzhia plant. And if we just imagine what would it be like if another big crime happens. It is going to be a big, big global disaster.

But there is some good news: when the war started, many of you stopped being dependent on Russian energy. Many of you fully stopped or reduced your dependence. And it is very good not only for the civilised choice but also for the environment. Please be creative. Do make the tools that will matter for the generations to come and do not forget that the birds should actually be singing in different parts of the world and there should be no air missiles that stop you from hearing that sound.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:44:46

Thank you, Madame.

I now give the floor to Mr George LOUCAIDES from Cyprus.

Mr George LOUCAIDES

Cyprus, UEL

11:44:58

Thank you, Mister Chair, dear colleagues.

I would like to thank our rapporteurs for their diligent work on this matter of utmost importance. The fact that this issue comes today before the Assembly, just a few weeks after the historic decision of the European Court on Human Rights is indeed a very welcome development. The Court's decision against the State of Switzerland ruled that under human rights law, member states are legally obliged to meet their climate-related targets and ensure the provision of a safe and healthy environment to their citizens.

The right to a healthy environment is, for the first time, presented as it should: a fundamental human right of access to clean water, sanitation and food, to live in a safe and sustainable environment where resources are not depleted and people's health and livelihood is not threatened by the climate crisis.

However, it will be a grave omission not to mention that securing the human right to a healthy environment should not be yet another exclusive privilege of European and Western citizens. People from developing countries, migrants and refugees, as well as minorities, bear the consequences and the burden of climate change disproportionally despite contributing minimally to its causes. Already vulnerable and exposed to multiple difficulties, these people, in fact, are faced with the imminent threat of becoming climate refugees.

Dear colleagues, we must also add to this discussion that the need to regulate the fundamental human right to a clean and healthy environment comes at a time when Israel's aerial bombardment and ground invasion in Gaza are causing an unprecedented level of environmental catastrophe and ecocide alongside the humanitarian catastrophe. Even though environmental concerns are of secondary importance in the face of the ongoing genocide, the devastating climate effects of this war can no longer be ignored. Air, water and debris pollution, malnourished and dehydrated children with no access to sanitation or health services constitute an integral part of the crimes committed right now by Israel. Along with the destruction of almost the entirety of the Palestinian territories and their human and non-human ecosystems.

States, governments and politicians must take action against the imminent threat of climate degradation and be held accountable. The Reykjavík process presents a unique opportunity to this effect. As parliamentarians, we should catalyse meaningful change through innovative legislation but let us not forget that environmental justice is intrinsically linked to social justice. We cannot achieve one without the other. In a landmark decision, the United Nations General Assembly recognised the right to a healthy environment in 2022, acknowledging the obligations of states to address the impacts of environmental degradation on humans by regulating and enforcing effective legislation for the protection of the environment and the human and non-human organisms that inhabit it. It is time that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe considers this matter a top priority and supports member states in drafting and implementing holistic, just, enriched legislative frameworks to enshrine the right to climate Justice as a fundamental human right for all.

Thank you.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:48:49

Thank you.

I now give the floor to Mr Bertrand BOUYX, who is standing in for his French colleague.

Mr Bertrand BOUYX

France, ALDE

11:48:59

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr Rapporteur,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to speak on the draft resolution "Towards Council of Europe strategies for healthy seas and oceans to counter the climate crisis", both as a coastal elected representative who is particularly sensitive to this issue, and above all because I sincerely believe that the questions of democracy and human rights that drive our institution are particularly intertwined with environmental issues. I would like to take this opportunity to join my colleagues from the French delegation here today.

Indeed, the report states that our planet's seas and oceans are complex and fragile ecosystems. Today, oceans and seas provide 50% of the oxygen necessary for life, absorb a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions and capture 90% of the excess heat they generate. What will happen tomorrow, when seas and oceans are breaking temperature records month after month, if they can no longer do this job?

Everything else, and all the other issues we discuss, will be irrelevant. The Reykjavik Summit highlighted the need for a right to a healthy environment. This right must be effective not only at the level of each member state, but also at the level of the Council of Europe, which aims to bring about the emergence of a genuine right to a healthy environment at international level, along the lines of other thematic conventions.

Our work to build an architecture of environmental rights could be facilitated by the historic agreement reached on 4 March 2023 under the auspices of the UN, which led to the adoption on 19 June 2023 of the International Treaty for the Protection of the High Seas and Marine Biodiversity. This agreement overhauls the regulation of international waters, whose protection was previously fragmented and included neither internal waters nor the territorial waters of a state, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, known as the Montego Bay Convention. The new treaty fundamentally alters governance inside and outside territorial waters. The high seas are now considered a "global public good", covering just over half the earth's surface, or 64% of the oceans. It is a quasi-recognition of the legal personality of the oceans, with rights including, first and foremost, that of maintaining a livable temperature for biodiversity and ensuring that the climate does not shift too violently.

The treaty must be signed and ratified by 60 states before it can come into force in 2025. The French government has tabled a bill authorising ratification of the treaty. It is currently being examined by the French National Assembly's Foreign Affairs Committee. I encourage all the countries on our continent to sign and ratify it as soon as possible, in accordance with their constitutional rules.

In the meantime, I shall be voting enthusiastically in favor of the draft resolution.

Thank you for your support.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:52:04

Thank you.

I now give the floor to Mrs Christiana EROTOKRITOU, from Cyprus.

Ms Christiana EROTOKRITOU

Cyprus, SOC

11:52:12

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear colleagues, dear rapporteurs,

I would like to congratulate and thank you for this excellent, excellent reports.

We are facing a full-on climate emergency with devastating consequences on every aspect of our lives. The initiatives taken, following up on the political commitments made in Reykjavík, are valuable steps forward. Nonetheless, the Council of Europe should, without delay, officially recognise the protection of the right to a healthy environment as what it is: a collective and an individual human right.

It should further proceed with strategic action plans, taking into account concrete recommendations brought forth by the Parliamentary Assembly, such as ensuring that the new notion of ecocide is a criminal offence and establishing an intergovernmental committee to assist with the implementation of relevant decisions taken.

It should also stress that all, and not almost all, of its members recognise the right to a healthy environment through pertinent national legislation.

Beyond that, it is of paramount importance that the Council of Europe urges its members to fully align with all major international treaties, conventions and multilateral agreements on protecting the environment, aspecially those that regulate human impact on our natural habitat, including the oceans and seas that bind us together.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of effectively protecting our oceans and seas in our efforts to counter the climate crisis.

One cannot stress enough their social and economic importance, not only for coastal countries.

Marine pollution, rising water temperatures, acidification, and the collapse of fish stocks and biodiversity are common challenges that demand urgent action.

In this respect, supporting global responses, such as the United Nations High Seas Treaty and the United Nations SDG 14, are significant enough, as are European-centred initiatives like turning climate-neutral by 2050.

At the same time, as long as countries that are major polluters don’t show the same commitment towards international treaties, such as the Paris Agreement or the Kyoto Protocol, we will not be able to reverse the destruction of our ecosystem and effectively address the adverse effects to human health and economic conditions, especially on vulnerable communities which we must never forget.

Dear colleagues, I come from an island country, surrounded by the Mediterranean, an enclosed sea, which connects southern Europe with northern Africa and the Middle East. It is highly contaminated by waste, especially microplastics, threatening not only the marine ecosystem but also human health.

We must accept that there is a general worldwide failure to take effective and timely action on climate change.

Now we need to take big leaps very quickly.

We must agree on the highest political level, to commit to shorter-term high-impact targets in order to even return to being optimistic about having a healthy and sustainable environment for our future generations.

I would therefore wholeheartedly support both resolutions.

Thank you.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:55:21

Thank you, Madame.

After Canada, we return to the Americas with Ms Olimpia Tamara GIRÓN HERNÁNDEZ, from Mexico.

The floor is yours.

Ms Olimpia Tamara GIRÓN HERNÁNDEZ

Mexico

11:55:38

Thank you, Mr President.

Since the Rio Summit in 1992, the international community has begun to become aware of what lies ahead. It certainly is not flattering.

As a result, agreements were signed on biodiversity and climate change, as well as the adoption of the Earth Charter and Agenda 21, which today have led to Agenda 2030, the one that has been so much attached by conspiracy theorists.

We welcome these two reports on the environment with the aim that the Council of Europe should place the issue of human right to a healthy environment within the appropriate legal framework in order to make its importance visible and effective within the framework of recognised rights.

Precisely because there are different scopes both globally and nationally, the recognition of a legal mandate applicable to all is essential in order to comply with the general principles of human rights, especially those of universality and progressiveness.

In Mexico, the right to a healthy environment has been recognised in the legal framework since 1988. Initially, in secondary legislation, and then, in 1997, it was elevated to constitutional status along with the right to integral and sustainable development.

This constitutional recognition has created not only a concurrent environmental legal framework in which the different levels of government have powers with respect to their jurisdictional scope, but also a federal law of environmental liability to prevent and punish damage caused to the environment, as well as to repair and compensate said damage, when necessary, through federal judicial procedures, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, administrative procedures, and those corresponding to the commission of crimes against the environment and environmental management.

The reasoning behind this legal idea is to protect, preserve and restore our environment and environmental balance, so as to guarantee human rights to a healthy environment for the wellbeing of all persons and the responsibility that has been generated by such harm when it is done.

We consider, however, that yet more remains to be done. The countries that pollute the most are very slow to adopt the legal measures we are talking about.

Global warming is here to stay for this generation and generations to come. The question is to know how many degrees it will rise in the next decade and what will be the real impact in this rise in temperature on children and older adults.

The widespread recognition of this right can help to limit the environmental ignorance that exists in our countries today.

We must give our environment a chance before it is too late and regret it in a decades time here in this hemicycle.

We would wish to support Amendment 8 presented by...

[interrupted by the President]

 

Thank you, President.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:59:21

Thank you, Madame.

I now give the floor to Ms Pelin YILIK from Türkiye.

You have the floor, Madam.

Ms Pelin YILIK

Türkiye, NR

11:59:38

Thank you, Mister President,

Dear colleagues,

Securing the future of seas and oceans is a very important step in developing a strategy for countering climate change. The seas and oceans play a vital role in sustaining life on Earth. According to the United Nations, oceans and seas provide 50% of the oxygen needed for life, absorb a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions and capture 90% of the excess heat from these emissions. Thus, it is vital to address the seas and oceans in the context of the climate crisis.

Oceans and seas constitute one of the world's most important and complex ecosystems. However, these precious ecosystems have faced serious threats in recent years due to increased human activities and climate change. Scientific research and evidence show that half of oceans and seas are deteriorating due to plastic pollution, water pollution, overfishing and climate change.

According to recent statistics, 8 million tonnes of plastic get into the oceans every year. For this reason, we have to take definitive safeguards and measures to prevent pollution in oceans and seas. Despite the challenges, I would also like to commend the positive initiatives undertaken by the Council of Europe in addressing this issue. After last year's Reykjavík Summit, the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment gained political recognition. This is a promising step forward. I believe that recent developments will provide ample opportunity for effective protection of the oceans and seas.

Finally, there is an urgent need for collaboration among member states in order to establish international regulations for the protection of oceans and seas. Therefore, I call on all member states to take immediate action on this issue. It is urgent that the international community come together to take decisive action to protect the central role of the seas and oceans on Earth. If the necessary steps are not taken on this issue, the climate crisis will deepen.

Thank you.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:02:07

Thank you very much, Madam.

I now give the floor to Mr Jeremy CORBYN from the United Kingdom.

Mr Jeremy CORBYN

United Kingdom, SOC

12:02:15

Thank you.

This is a obviously a crucial debate, and I welcome the reports that have been put before us, and I welcome the fact that we are having the debate at all.

The idea that it should be rejected, as some of the conservative groups seem to be saying, on the basis it's not applicable to our constitution, is both wrong, in my view, in what we're here for, but also: what answer is that to people around the world who are suffering from rising sea levels, terrible weather conditions and weather patterns, increasing levels of pollution, and loss of biodiversity, if their political representatives are not even prepared to debate the issue on the basis of some obscure view that it might not be applicable to our powers?

Surely to goodness we need to be saying to the governments of Europe, all those who are affiliated to this body, we need to put into law the right to clean air, clean water, and a clean sustainable environment. We already voted last year on ecocide. Surely we can go a bit further today. And I absolutely welcome the basis on which these reports have been done.

The rising sea levels, climate change, and loss of biodiversity are all brought about by our disregard for the natural world and nature and our allowance of greed to take over. Human beings cannot live without nature, but nature can live without human beings.

We need to have a much more comprehensive and coherent view of how we adapt our economies and our lives in order to live on a sustainable planet and live in a sustainable environment.

At the moment it's the poorest people in the poorest countries and the poorest people in the poorest cities that breathe the worst air, eat the worst food, and drink the worst water. And it is farmers all over the world that suffer as a result of that.

We've allowed greed to take over in so many areas. I give an example: the river qualities, all over the United Kingdom, are getting worse and worse. The levels of pollution of the seas around Britain are getting worse and worse. And there is a direct thread between this and the privatisation of our water services in 1989 and 1990. Massive profits have been taken out of the water industry and, as a result, we have worse water quality and worse sea quality.

In the last six months alone, Thames Water, the largest of water companies, took out 166 million GBP in profit. They spent 30 years paying massive dividends and running up debt to pay dividends, whilst at the same time wasting water, polluting our rivers, and damaging the seas all around Britain. And of course pollution knows no boundaries, pollution from one country leads to another.

Let's support this report. Let's support the principles behind it, but, above all, say that decent environment, decent quality of life is a human right.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:05:28

I now give the floor to Ms Edite ESTRELA from Portugal.

Ms Edite ESTRELA

Portugal, SOC

12:05:36

Thank you, Chairman.

 

I start by thanking Mr Simon MOUTQUIN and Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA for their excellent, timely and inspiring reports which contribute to the implementation of the Reykjavìk process through concrete and realistic proposals.

The report highlights the urgent need to formalise the right to a healthy environment within the Council of Europe.

The right to a healthy environment should be recognised in law as an autonomous human right in each member state. At the Council of Europe level, this right can be achieved through an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights or an autonomous convention.

Due to its history and its objectives, our Assembly must be an example for the world in defending fundamental rights. We must be ambitious.

In my report on climate crisis and rule of law approved by this Assembly in 2021, I proposed to create a network of contact parliamentarians for a healthy environment, that represents an important step towards involving parliamentarians in defending a healthy environment.

We were ambitious and we are now working together for a healthy environment.

The report stresses the importance of capitalising on existing Council of Europe standards and developing strategic environmental governance, including a special intergovernmental committee and a monitoring mechanism. It calls for concrete and concerted action to prevent the Council of Europe from losing its credibility in environmental action.

Dear colleagues, do you know that it has been more than 15 years since Al Gore, former Vice President of the US, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, alerted the world to “An Inconvenient Truth” and warned us that climate change threatens future generations?

The most inconvenient truth is that we are doing too little and too slowly, and if we continue down this path, we could finish, not with the planet, but with life on Earth.

Experts claim that the climate crisis threatens all the progress made after the Second World War.

The Reykjavìk Declaration is clear: it highlights the urgency of additional efforts to protect the environment, as well as to combat the impact of pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

Human Rights are at stake.

The first of these is the right to survival.

The right of young people to a future.

This is up to me. This is up to you. This is up to us.

Thank you very much.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:09:10

The last speaker in this debate will be Mr Miloš KONATAR from Montenegro.

You have the floor.

Mr Miloš KONATAR

Montenegro, SOC

12:09:25

Distinguished Chair,

Dear colleagues,

Also, dear visitors,

First of all, I would like to thank the rapporteurs for their tremendous work and devotion to the topics that we are addressing today. In my opinion, we have in front of us two pressing issues that are intertwined in their urgency and significance.

I want to use this opportunity to strongly support the formalisation and recognition of the right to a healthy environment as a human right within the Council of Europe.

The challenge of climate change is our reality and the greatest existential emergency for humankind. Our response must be urgent, bold and common in achieving additional efforts to protect the environment. We, as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, must look to the future and set direction and standards in protecting the environment which will be held accountable for decades to come.

As noted at the Summit in Reykjavík, the triple planetary crisis of pollution, climate change and loss of biodiversity affect human rights, democracy and the rule of law on a global scale. Furthermore, it has profound implications for the rights of future generations, as it jeopardises the ability of current generations to meet their needs without compromising the ability of future ones to do the same.

As a representative from Montenegro, that adopted the Declaration on the Ecological State 33 years ago, and put ecology as a priority in its constitution, I strongly support all the initiatives that will protect and promote human rights to a healthy environment.

The Council of Europe is an organisation recognised for its values and focused on respecting and protecting the human rights of every individual. I also believe that the Reykjavík process stands as a cornerstone and guideline to a progress in our collective pursuit of environmental justice.

We all have the additional responsibility to recognise the fundamental right of every individual to live in a clean and healthy environment and to integrate environmental considerations into all aspects of policy making, ensuring that environmental protection becomes not just a goal, but a guiding principle in governance.

To conclude, mainstreaming the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is not only a moral imperative but also a practical necessity in our fight against the climate crisis.

We have an opportunity not only to mitigate the impact of climate change but also to safeguard the well-being of future generations.

Let us seize the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to environmental justice and take bold and decisive action to create a sustainable and equitable world for all.

 

Thank you.

Ms Olena MOSHENETS

Ukraine, ALDE

12:36:54

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

We thank Mr. Moutquin for highlighting the necessity of formalisation of the right to a healthy environment with the Reykjavik Process, that, in turn, plays a crucial role in enabling the Council of Europe to step up its environmental activities. We also thank Ms. Ovchynnykova for emphasizing seas and oceans conditions.

The themes addressed in the resolutions are closely intertwined with the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war. While we advocate for the right to a sustainable environment, the Russian Federation deprives millions of individuals of this right on a daily basis.

Air pollution emerges as a particularly acute environmental challenge. In just one year alone, greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the full-scale war started by Russia amounted to 120 million tons of CO2. This is the same amount generated by the whole Belgium over the same period.

Furthermore, Ukraine's water resources are significantly damaged. The attacks carried out by Russian military forces on port infrastructure along the Black and Azov Seas have resulted in water pollution and the dissemination of hazardous compounds, including oil products.

Moreover, the Black Sea is turning into a minefield. We express our gratitude to Bulgaria, Romania, and Türkiye for their initiative to conduct joint patrols and demining operations in the Black Sea. This undertaking will contribute to enhancing security within territorial waters, as well as facilitating grain exports from Ukraine.

Occupied marine ecosystems are subject to systematic deterioration through anthropogenic activities. A notable example is the construction of the Crimean Bridge. This project has not only resulted in the destruction of the unique ecosystems of Tuzla Island but has also disrupted the migration patterns of fish and cetaceans within the Kerch Strait.

The destruction of the Kakhovka HPP in June 2023 by the Russian Federation has resulted in the flooding of up to 80 settlements and incurred losses of nearly $14 billion upon Ukraine. Furthermore, the Kakhovka Reservoir itself is undergoing desertification, and the restoration of flora and fauna within the surrounding national parks is expected to require several decades. In March, 2024, a further attack was launched against the Dnipro HPP, rendering it critically damaged. This serves as yet another illustration of the Russian Federation's disregard for internationally established norms, standards, and regulations.

The Russian Federation is committing a crime not only against humanity, but also against nature, therefore posing a grave threat to the ecological well-being of the entire world.

Thank you.

Ms Agnes Sirkka PRAMMER

Austria, SOC

12:36:57

Speech not pronounced (Rules of Procedure, Art. 31.2), only available in German

Ms Wanda NOWICKA

Poland, SOC

12:37:00

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

I would like to express my personal strong support for the full recognition of the right to healthy environment as a human right in its entirety by the Council of Europe.

It is disappointing that despite the numerous efforts, initiatives of last years, including by the civil society, as well as the Reykjavik governmental Summit recommendations, the right to save, clean, healthy and sustainable environment has not been formally recognized.

Nobody can doubt climate change, global warming and its impact on the life of societies and nature around us including all waters and oceans, bring more and more challenges to life conditions, health and security. The response of humankind to these environmental threats should be quicker, systematic and more decisive. We owe this to young generations and those to come to secure their survival and the quality of life.

In order to achieve these goals we need strategy which would set policy standards leading towards safe environment, on the one hand, as well as strengthen and speed up the process leading to the development and adoption of legal binding human rights instrument recognizing the autonomous right to healthy environment.

I am looking forward to new policies of my home country Poland concerning right to safe and healthy environment after years of lack of visible progress in this regard despite the fact that it is estimated that 70 thousand of persons are yearly dying due to air pollution.

The new government of Poland recognizes that living in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, directly and positively impacts full enjoyment of human rights such as the right to life or the right to health.

Protecting human rights and environment can certainly work in synergy, leading to reinforcement of each other.

I conclusion I would like to reemphasize that human right to safe and healthy environment should be fully recognized by the Council of Europe and at the national levels, including my country.

Ms Larysa BILOZIR

Ukraine, ALDE

12:37:02

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to express my gratitude to rapporteurs Mr Simon MOUTQUIN and Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA for thorough reports, which highlight the urgent need to protect the right to a healthy environment. I fully agree that the acknowledgment of such right has become an undeniable imperative on the political stage.

What sets the right to a healthy environment apart is its intergenerational dimension. Reykjavik Declaration adopted at the 4th Council of Europe Summit was a major step forward. We should seek to advocate for a strategy that is ambitious and engages youth and civil society. Because it is the youth that will keep implementing our strategy.

Now I bring to your attention a matter that demands our collective action. The militarization of the Azov and Black Sea, attack on Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam have led to a significant ecological crisis. Russia is willing to use massive environmental damage as a tactic in its war against Ukraine. The environmental crisis has worsened due to military operations conducted in and around the seas. Thousands of marine mammals are perishing, not only along the Ukrainian coast but also near Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. At least 50 thousand Black Sea dolphins died during the active phase of the war, with even more left with contusion. The powerful signals of military sonars destroy the dolphin's acoustic system, and it becomes completely "blind", unable to find food, which leads to it dying. This constitutes nothing else but ecocide.

Oil spills from ships, downed aircraft and other military equipment, sea pollution from missiles and explosions are The most harmful things for the sea. But what makes it worse is that there is the physical destruction of marine and coastal habitats, caused by movement of equipment and the construction of fortifications in areas where many nature conservation sites are located.

It is very difficult to talk about the scale of this impact. Almost 80 years have passed since WW2, but there are regions in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean where sunken ships still lie, poisoning the marine environment. Can you imagine how much damage has been caused after 10 years of russo-Ukrainian war?

Today, we witness severe ecocide. We must change our attitude and finally take action. And, last but not least, we must support the Council of Europe's leadership in environmental protection and to engage in innovative projects aimed at transforming environmental governance.

Mr José Luis PECH VÁRGUEZ

Mexico

12:37:04

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Ladies and gentlemen:

Your Honors:

 

To care about the seas and oceans is to care about life itself.

I live in the state of Quintana Roo in south-eastern Mexico. There, coral reefs represent living jewels of nature because it is home to an incredible marine biodiversity. However, in recent decades, we have witnessed an alarming phenomenon: coral bleaching.

Rising water temperatures due to global warming cause corals to expel the symbiotic algae that give them color and nutrients, leaving them pale and vulnerable to disease. As a result, coral reefs bleach and become unable to sustain the marine life that depends on them.

The impact of this bleaching goes far beyond the corals themselves. Coral reefs are vital ecosystems that provide shelter and food for countless species of fish, crustaceans and other marine organisms. When corals die, this entire food chain is affected, resulting in declining fish populations, loss of livelihoods for coastal communities that depend on tourism and fishing, and a negative impact on global food security.

My region includes tourist destinations such as Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel, Tulum, and more than half of the hotels in this region are owned by European tourism companies. Unfortunately, the technologies they use for their intensive activities do not allow for sustainable development. Their cooling systems throw too much heat into an already warm environment and represent a large consumption of fossil fuels, making them a double burden for climate change.

The world belongs to everyone, and it is important to join efforts to create public policies that strengthen and encourage our international companies to use environmentally friendly designs and technologies to reduce their negative impact. The common home that is our planet has no future if actions are taken in some parts of the house that are contrary to the well-being of others who inhabit it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the bleaching of coral reefs is an urgent wake-up call that we cannot ignore. We must act now to save these precious ecosystems before it is too late. Our future and that of future generations depends on it.

 

Thank you!

Mr Stéphane BERGERON

Canada

12:37:09

Speech not pronounced (Rules of Procedure, Art. 31.2), only available in French

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:12:42

Thank you for your attention.

We must now interrupt the hearing of speakers.

Registered speakers who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may submit their typed statements to the Session Office within 4 hours, for publication in the minutes. This text must not exceed 400 words and must be transmitted electronically.

I now call for the Committee's reply.

We'll start with Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA.

You have the floor, Madam, for 3 minutes.

Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA

Ukraine, ALDE, Rapporteur

12:13:16

Thank you, Mr Chair.

First of all I'd like to sincerely thank you for this emotional debate and your contributions, comments, and real care for maritime heritage and environmental safety for us and for our future generation.

I'm very happy that there are really a lot of young people here. I'm absolutely sure that it is our future, it is really for our young generation.

So thank you for addressing major problem areas linked in the marine and warming ocean temperature, the fishing industry, exploitation of mineral resources in the sea bed, in particular deep sea mining.

Yes, as you know that in our report will include the situation in no way, because we have signed with the European Parliament, with parliamentarians of all countries. Pay attention on these issues, it is really very important. Protection of coastal populations, biodiversity, plastic waste and chemical problems as well.

Really, I'm deeply touched as well that today we had voices from all the globe, not only from European countries, but from Canada, from Mexico. It's really very, very, very important that indeed, water is life, for all of us. It's not a metaphor.

Global solidarity and urgent action are highly needed today. If we want to pass our planet in a liveable condition, we necessarily need to do all the best for this.

Thank you for your contribution, for your professional comments. I hope we are together and do the best in order to protect the environment and to recognise ecocide, and to work together to protect the right to health and a safe environment.

Thank you.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:15:08

Thank you, Madame.

It's now Mr Simon MOUTQUIN's turn.

You have the floor for 3 minutes.

Mr Simon MOUTQUIN

Belgium, SOC, Rapporteur

12:15:14

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

I have many things to say to you.

First, I'd like to thank you for your contributions. I'd like to thank a few specific speakers.

Firstly, to our Ukrainian colleagues, to show our solidarity with all of them for this crime of ecocide that is taking place. The crime of ecocide is not just, and you're right to mention this, about biodiversity. It also has an impact on future generations, particularly in terms of cancers. Bombing causes cancer, even malformations, so I think we really need to be aware of the impact on war. In fact, we had a report on this voted.

I'd also like to say, whatever our opinion, and we'll have a debate this afternoon, that today, 98% of Gaza's water table is polluted. Once again, whatever our opinion on this conflict, we must recognise that wars have an impact on the environment, and we must remember this.

I'd like to salute our colleagues from Canada and Mexico. Their speeches are a reminder that climate change knows no borders. Two or three years ago, we remember summers in Canada, with 52°C in a village that literally melted away. I'd like to say hello to our colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic.

I'd also like to salute our colleagues from Türkiye, two of whom spoke. Why do I say this? Because we are on the sad anniversary, or at least a few weeks after, of an earthquake that claimed tens of thousands of lives. This also points to the importance of the right to a healthy environment: the right to a safe, healthy, clean and sustainable environment. The word "safe" is important in environmental law. We need to protect the safety of our citizens. That's also what fighting climate change is all about.

Unfortunately, as we've heard today, climate scepticism is not an endangered ideology, unlike 69% of the planet's biodiversity. It still exists, completely disconnected and completely out of touch with the reality of the young people you have in the audience today. Some of you criticise the Court's decision, denouncing a government of judges. Dear colleagues, this is exactly the purpose of our work. The purpose of our work today, as legislators, is to define a framework for a healthy environment, so that judges have a definition decided by the legislator. In fact, it's the exact opposite of your argument to criticise a decision made by the judges, when today I call you legislating as representatives of the people. That's a shame. That's the raison d'être of our Assembly, I'd like to remind you.

Then someone said, "Oh, we don't need any new rights to a healthy environment". I'm glad that after the Second World War, some people had the courage to create the European Convention on Human Rights and recognise the rights of individuals. Today, we must recognise the rights of future generations.

To those who are against such recognition, I suggest you look young people in the eye and tell them that their future is not important to you, that their right to live in a clean environment and in a clean future is not important to you. I advise you to look at women, the first victims of climate disruption, particularly in terms of the increase in the number of cancers. I advise you to look at farmers who can no longer grow crops because of the reality of their soils. Talk to these people and assume that you don't want to recognise their right to a healthy environment.

Today, I believe we are at a crucial stage. The credibility of our Assembly is at stake. We must recognise and the Committee of Ministers must listen to us on the recognition of a right to a healthy environment.

Let me conclude, dear colleagues, by saying that our actions today define the degree of happiness or suffering of future generations. This is what we are doing. If we continue to remain silent about the recognition of the right to a healthy environment, we'll be imposing a degree of suffering on future generations that will really be there.

I believe that, ultimately, this is our role as politicians: to guarantee a future, to guarantee a future for future generations, to guarantee a just future, a green future.

I'd like to thank you. I'd also like to thank the secretariat. I'd like to thank Mr Guillaume PARENT who is here with us, who has worked on this project, but especially Ms Claire DUBOIS who, for her first report, has done an incredible and invaluable job. Thanks to her for her work.

Thanks to all of you.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:19:08

Thank you, Mr MOUTQUIN.

I now give the floor to Mr Armen GEVORGYAN, Vice-President of the Committee, who will speak on behalf of the Committee.

You have the floor, for 3 minutes.

Mr Armen GEVORGYAN

Armenia, EC/DA, Second Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

12:19:23

Dear colleagues, 

This Assembly has constantly pleaded for the strengthening of the Council of Europe's action to effectively protect human rights to a healthy environment. In Reykjavík last year, the heads of state and government endorsed the political commitment to defend this right and to make it a visible priority for the Council of Europe's work.

The two reports we have just debated call for action. We must move from words to deeds so that the right to a healthy environment takes shape and becomes a reality for legal instruments and action plans at both European and national levels.

I should recall that the United Nations recognised this right as a human right first in 2021 through a resolution of the Human Rights Council and then in 2022 through a resolution of the UN General Assembly, with the Council of Europe member states voting in favour.

The European Court of Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights have developed a case law to protect the environment and the right to a healthy environment indirectly. However, as we have seen last week, from the freed landmark judgment delivered by the Court in climate cases, there are systemic limitations that need to be overcome.

The right to a healthy environment needs to be translated into actionable legal tools and mechanisms of the Council of Europe, as it is an autonomous right for the international community, it has to be considered as such, also at the European level. We are part of the international community and we have to be more ambitious and coherent in our engagement to protect all human rights.

I wish to thank our rapporteurs for the tremendous work they have done and all those who have participated in this debate, as well as the members of our wonderful Secretariat.

I trust that we can endorse the texts put forward for adoption and send a strong signal to our member states. Mister Chairman, I would like to inform you that the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development rejected the nine amendments tabled to the draft resolution on Mainstreaming the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment with the Reykjavík process.

Thank you for your attention.

Vote: Mainstreaming the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment with the Reykjavik process / Towards Council of Europe strategies for healthy seas and oceans to counter the climate crisis

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:21:50

Thank you, Mister Vice-Chairman.

The general discussion is now closed.

We now come to the examination of the first report entitled "Realising the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment through the Reykjavík process" (Doc. 15955).

The Social, Health and Sustainable Development Committee has presented a draft resolution to which 9 amendments have been tabled, and a draft recommendation to which no amendments have been tabled (Doc. 15955).

We shall now begin our examination of the draft resolution.

I have been informed, as you have just repeated, by the Vice-Chairman of the Social, Health and Sustainable Development Committee, that all the amendments were rejected by the Committee by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast.

Is this the case, Mister Armen GEVORGYAN?

Mr Armen GEVORGYAN

Armenia, EC/DA, Second Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

12:22:50

That's the case.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:22:53

Thank you.

If no one objects, I consider these amendments definitively rejected. If there is an objection, we'll have to check that it has the required support of 10 people. Are there any objections?

There are no objections.

 

All amendments to the draft resolution are therefore rejected and will not be called.

 

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Doc. 15955 [unamended] entitled "Realising the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment through the Reykjavík process". I therefore remind you that a simple majority is required.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

 

The draft resolution contained in Doc. 15955 is adopted.

Congratulations on your vote.

 

We will now examine the draft recommendation (Doc. 15955).

As no amendments have been tabled, we shall proceed directly to the vote on the draft recommendation contained in Doc. 15955. I remind you that the majority required is two-thirds of the votes cast.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

 

The draft recommendation contained in Doc. 15955 is adopted, as it requires a two-thirds majority.

Congratulations on your vote.

 

We now come to the second report entitled "Towards Council of Europe strategies for healthy seas and oceans to counter the climate crisis" (Doc. 15956).

The Social, Health and Sustainable Development Committee has presented a draft resolution and a draft recommendation, to which no amendments have been tabled (Doc. 15956).

As no amendments have been tabled, we shall proceed directly to the vote on the draft resolution and then on the draft recommendation.

 

We will start with the vote on the draft resolution contained in Doc. 15956. I remind you that a simple majority is required.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

 

The draft resolution contained in Doc. 15956 is adopted.

 

We shall now proceed to vote on the draft recommendation contained in Doc. 15956. I remind you that the required majority is two-thirds of the votes cast.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

 

The draft recommendation contained in Doc. 15956 is adopted, as the two-thirds majority is obtained.

Congratulations on your vote.

 

This brings us to the end of our debates.

The next meeting will take place this afternoon at 3:30 p.m., in accordance with the agenda for this part-session.

The meeting is now adjourned. Enjoy your meal!

The sitting is closed at 12:30 p.m.

Next sitting at 3:30 p.m.