The movement to save the planet was born 50 years ago today by gathering in Stockholm for the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. Which made the environment a pressing global issue for the first time and brought The right to a healthy environment agenda to the UN negotiating table. The Stockholm+50 is beginning in Sweden today (June 2) to commemorated the 50th anniversary of that conference. Just like in 1972, the Stockholm+ 50 conference could change the scenario of world politics to create a unified tone of global cooperation for climate, environment and development for the benefit of humankind and the world. This conference could be the horizon for us to redefine our relationship with nature, the environment, biodiversity and climate and move towards a brighter future. While celebrating progress in a few areas, we must acknowledge that the current global system isn't living up to its promise of a sustainable future. World leaders have failed to stay up to their promises made at the 1972 Stockholm Conference. In the same way, world leaders have repeatedly failed to properly deal with the 3 predominant man-made crises we currently face withinside the environment, climate change and biodiversity loss.
Half a century has passed since the Stockholm Conference, however, the world remains as it was before. Rather the crisis has intensified. There have been successful picnics and festivals with environmental protection issues. However, the rising tide of horrific greenhouse fuel line emissions couldn't be stopped. Even the polluters couldn't ensure justice for the sufferers of climate change by paying costs. The point is, without strong political will, effective action and climate reparation, all climate and environmental meetings are meaningless and fruitless!
Now let's talk about the beginning of the Stockholm conference. In 1982, delegates from 122 countries rewrote how the global environmental challenge was addressed, called the Stockholm Declaration and the Action Plan for the Human Environment. One of the largest outcomes of the conference was the establishment of the United Nations Environment Program. It is at this conference, however, that states gain "freedom, equality and adequate access to life, in an environment in which dignity and well-being are recognized as fundamental rights." The Earth Summit was held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the 20th anniversary of the Stockholm Environment Conference. The conference was attended by 2,400 delegates from 182 countries. After 12 days of discussions and debates, 26 policies were announced withinside the 'Rio Declaration. Eight-page agenda-21 was adopted. Not only that, the conference signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was adopted with the consent of 196 member states. It was further decided that a 'Conference of the Parties would be held every year to evaluate the progress of the work. The first COP became held in Berlin, Germany in 1995, 3 years after the Earth conference. In 2015, COP21 became held in Paris, France, and the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted.
After the ancient Stockholm Environment Conference and the Earth Conference, the world has witnessed 26 more summits in a row. Where millions of representatives consisting of heads of state, heads of government, environmental scientists and human rights activists have gathered. There have been discussions and debates for thousands of hours. The world leaders have given a bouquet of sweet promises to make the world 'safe and livable for future generations. Many 'historic' agreements have been signed. But the gains did nothing. The largest evidence of that is the latest UN Climate Conference COP 26 held in Glasgow, Scotland. Who is paying attention to the decision to reduce the per capita carbon emissions rate despite the strict implementation of the International Climate Agreement, Environmental Policy and National Environmental Law? By not listening to science, capitalist countries have broken their climate promises. Although it was a historical responsibility of theirs. Ignoring that obligation means organizing a crime against humanity, biodiversity and nature. Their departure has plunged our only habitable planet into a deep crisis.
Science is very clear that human civilization is on the verge of collapse. According to scientists, the average global warming increase in comparison to 1850 must be limited to 1.5 degrees. Otherwise, the destruction of the earth is almost certain. Meanwhile, a recent report by the UN Committee on the Environment states that the emission of greenhouse gases, a key component of global warming, is the highest in the history of human civilization in the last ten years. 'Earth on the Boiling Point': The Stockholm Environment Institute has published a report stating that mankind must redefine its relationship with nature. They say the world must now make "ambitious science-based decisions" to tackle climate, social and economic crises. On the other hand, according to a global assessment by the International Biodiversity and Ecology Platform Services, one million species are at risk of extinction in the world. And if we want to survive a future pandemic like Covid19, we have no choice but to save biodiversity.
Time is running out. Although we had enough, world leaders have wasted it by not the usage of it properly. But the days of broken promises with empty words are over. Because now delay means death! 'There is only one world.' If the environment here is polluted, we have no chance to go to another world. So the last chance to keep the world is the Stockholm +50 conference.
The conference is being held again for 2 days on the event of World Environment Day week after 50 years to make sure a healthy planet for the prosperity of all. In addition to the 3-level leadership dialogue on Stockholm + 50, similarly to the high-level plenary, 48,000 delegates will attend 50 side events and different events involving 200 agencies from the public and private sectors and civil society. The 3 issues of the conference are: Healthy Planet for All, Green Recovery from Covid 19 pandemic and Achieving Global Sustainable Goals. But Stockholm + 50 has to turn out to be not only another traditional international meeting but also a turning point in transforming our society into a prosperous, sustainable future. Around the summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on countries to show greater solidarity, deeper cooperation, and higher ambitions to reduce carbon emissions, more pressing initiatives and stronger leadership in tackling the climate crisis.
There is a mysterious connection between human rights and the environment. So Stockholm +50 is a powerful tool to achieve the right to a healthy environment as a basic human right. Because, in the first section of the Stockholm Declaration, a healthy environment was mentioned as a 'right to live' and a 'fundamental human right'. Unfortunately, it took the world 49 years to recognize this right as a fundamental human right.
Last year, the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution recognizing the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right. Nevertheless, most humans in the world are still deprived of their right to a safe, clean and healthy environment. Currently, 90 percent of the world's population now breathes polluted air. According to a research report entitled 'Pollution and Health: A Progress Update' published in the UK-based health journal Lancet Planetary Health, about 9 million people (1 in 6) worldwide died in 2019 due to environmental pollution. Bangladesh also tops the list of deaths because of pollution, which poses a new threat to us as well as a climate risk. According to the study report, 2 lakh 15 thousand 824 people died in Bangladesh in 2019 due to various types of pollution. Of these, a maximum of 1 lakh 73 thousand 515 people died because of air pollution alone. Water pollution is the second leading cause of loss of life because of pollutants. Every year 30,084 people die because of water pollution. According to the report of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) 2022, Dhaka is the most polluted city in the world. Where the intensity of sound is more than 100 decibels. Then the monster found out itself plastic pollution and the presence of micro plastics in the food chain.
Statistics and facts say that there is a difference between receiving rights. A terrible situation for our young people. So we've a lot to contribute to the climate and environment dialogue to guard our present and future. Our aim is to emphasize the importance of children, young people and future generations at conferences such as Stockholm +50 or the COP. However, we aren't being given the opportunity to take part effectively in the conferences. Without our voices at the negotiation table, the ambitious agenda of such meetings is certainly sweet talk. This conference can't deliver any common good to us beyond a good publicity stunt. Therefore, policymakers need to accelerate young people's representation in major political forums. They have to consider themselves as active partners, not acting like showpieces. They have to recognize youth roles and increase investment in them. We call on all governments to make a firm commitment to Stockholm+ 50, as well as to adopt action plans and engage in meaningful dialogue and decision-making with us, to ensure intergenerational justice in all environmental policies to make sure a secure future for today's young people, tomorrow's children.
However, we do not want to take part in the Stockholm+100 conference just like the current failed leaders who're gambling tricks on the fate of their future generations. Our goal is to leave a sustainable, clean and livable environment for future generations. We are committed to turning the ambitions and sweet talk of world leaders into action and establishing the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right.
Sohanur Rahman, Executive Coordinator, YouthNet for Climate Justice and Founding Member, Fridays for future Bangladesh
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