Key ESG Developments – October 2021
7th session of the OEIGWG on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights
The 7th session of the open-ended intergovernmantal working group (OEIGWG) on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights took place between 25 and 29th October 2021. Discussions focused mainly on the third revised draft of the legally binding instrument which was released in August 2021 by the Permanent Mission of Ecuador, on behalf of the Chairmanship of the OEIGWG. The report of the session is available here.
Financing a Just Transition releases a report on the role of financial institutions in a Just Transition
Financing a Just Transition, a UK-based coalition of more than 40 banks, investors and other financial institutions published a report titled Just Zero focused on the role of leading financial institutions in the UK in achieving a just transition and system-wide change. Key messages from the report include the need to reallocate capital to achieve a net-zero economy and its implications for better-quality jobs, integrating the social and environmental dimensions of the transition into the decisions and policies of financial institutions and an analysis of policy frameworks needed to deliver the systemic change needed for a just transition.
The 15th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) took place from the 3rd to the 7th of October between Barbados and Geneva under the theme “From inequality and vulnerability to prosperity for all”. A great emphasis was put on the Covid-19 recovery and the need for greater multilateralism and regional integration to improve developing countries economic resilience. The meeting also comprised a three-day “World Leaders Summit” with three dialogues: “Global Vulnerabilities: Call from a Vulnerable Place”, “Is the COVID-19 crisis really a game-changer?” and ‘Building a more prosperou path – Matching the Scale of the Moment’.
COP OF THE AARHUS Convention establishes a special rapporteur on environmental defenders
The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) has deliberated on the 21st of October on the creation of a Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) for the protection of environmental defenders that generated the mandate of an independent Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders. The decision comes after a report from the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor pointing that 50% of the human rights defenders killed in 2019 were working around issues of land, environment, business activity, poverty and lives of indigenous people, Afro-descendants and other minorities..
UK Government commits to approving mandatory disclosure of climate-related financial information for companies and financial institutions
The UK government announced plans to make disclosure of climate-related financial information for companies and financial institutions mandatory by April 2022. The law should only apply to large companies registered in the UK and trading on a UK registered market and comes in the context of the country’s Net Zero strategy. According to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen this legislation will “ not only help tackle greenwashing but also enable investors and businesses to align their long-term strategies with the UK’s net zero commitments.”
French Government is condemned by the Administrative Court of Paris for its to meet national commitments related to climate change
On October 14, 2021 the administrative court of Paris condemned the State of France to compensate 62 million extra tons of emissions of greenhouse gases from 2015-2018 and to take concrete and immediate measures to comply with its commitments to reduce emissions by December 31, 2022. The lawsuit was brought in 2019 by four nonprofit organizations (Foundation pour la Nature et L’Homme, Greenpeace France, Notre Affaire à Tous and Oxfam France) who alleged the government was in breach of a statutory duty to act based on its failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as defined in their own goals. The Court was initially asked to order France to take appropriate measures to meet national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protect citizens lives by mitigating the effects of climate change and pay a symbolic sum of 1 euro for moral damages. The plaintiffs invoked a statutory duty to act, the French Charter for the Environment, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the principle of law entailing the right of every person to live in a preserved climate system.
The Human Rights Council recognizes the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment
The Human Rights Council recognized on the 8th of October for the first time that clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right, with 43 votes for, 4 abstentions (China, India, Japan and Russia) and 0 votes against. In a second resolution, the council decided on the establishment of a dedicated Special Rapporteur to the protection of human rights in the context of climate change. This landmark decision comes after years of pressure from stakeholders, with the right being already recognized in different terms in the law of more than 150 states and in a growing body of national and international case law. The resolution, although not legally binding, may strengthen efforts for the recognition of the right to clean, healthy and sustainable environment by other important players such as the UN General Assembly or the Council of Europe.
Authors: Ana Carina Duarte, Rafaela Oliveira and Mariana Ferreira