On 7 November, in the framework of the Peoples' Summit during the Glasgow COP26, a jury found the UNFCCC guilty of several serious charges, including failing of address the root causes of climate change. Furthermore, the UNFCCC violated the UN Charter. Therefore the jury claims wide-ranging measures of redress for the peoples of the world.
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In view of the inability or unwillingness of the UNFCCC to address the climate catastrophe, a court trial was simulated.
The Tribunal which heard a number of rapporteurs and witnesses was comprised of Ambassador Lumumba Di-Aping (former Chief Climate Negotiator for the G77 and China), Katerina Anastasiou (transform! europe), Samantha Hargreaves (WoMin African Alliance), Larry Lohmann (The Corner House), and Vijay Prashad (Tricontinental Institute).
Pablo Solon (former Chief Negotiator for Bolivia and Fundacion Solon), Ivonne Yanez (Accion Ecologica),
Lidy Nacpil (Asia Pacific Movement for Debt and Development), Shalmali Guttal (Focus on the Global South), Patrick Bond (University of Johannesburg), Mithika Mwenda (Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance),
Mitzi Jonelle Tan (Fridays for Future Philippines/International), Nick Dearden (Global Justice Now), Amantha Mason (Public and Commercial Services Union), Natalia Greene (Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature),
Siti Maimunah (Jatam Indonesia), Adrian Lahoud (Royal College of Art UK), Dorothy Guerrero (Global Justice Now), and Matthieu Essahli (ATTAC France).
There were six charges put before the Tribunal concerning the failures of the UNFCCC to:
The jury of five listened carefully to the special prosecutor, to the rapporteurs, and to the witnesses. We were unified in our conclusion that the UNFCCC, which was signed by 154 nations in 1992 and ratified by 197 countries by 1994, has utterly failed the peoples of the world and all species that rely on a healthy planet to survive by failing to stop climate change. This perilous inaction has failed to limit the increase of the average global temperature.
In its latest 2021 reports, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that the Earth has reached an average temperature increase of 1.1 degrees, whilst sub-Saharan Africa is close to breaching the ‘safe’ 1.5 degree mark.
The UNFCCC has forged an intimate partnership with the very corporations that have created the climate crisis. It has allowed powerful governments to threaten poor countries into submission, guaranteeing certain misery and death for hundreds of millions of people in the poorest parts of the world over the next two decades.
The UNFCCC’s inaction has permitted powerful oil, mining, agriculture, logging, aviation, fishing, and other corporations to continue their carbon intensive activities unfettered. This has contributed to a growing biodiversity crisis: recent estimates suggest that anywhere from 2,000 species (at the low end) to 100,000 species (at the high end) are being exterminated each year. The UNFCCC is implicated in mass extinction.
The UNFCCC has refused to democratise the process and to listen to those on the frontlines of the crisis. This includes the one billion children who live in the 33 countries that are at ‘extremely high risk’ due to the climate crisis – in other words, almost half of the world’s 2.2 children – as well as indigenous communities and working-class and peasant women from the countries and nations that bear the brunt of a crisis that they did not produce.
As the world confronts a rapidly escalating climate crisis – evidenced by flooding, droughts, cyclones, hurricanes, rising sea levels, furious fires, and new pandemics – the poorest, most vulnerable, and highly indebted nations are owed a great climate debt.
Powerful nations in the UNFCCC have forced a rollback on earlier commitments to global redress for the long history of unequal and uneven development between nations. Developed countries pledged $100 billion per year for the climate fund but they have failed to provide that money, thereby neglecting their own commitments. Instead, developed countries plough trillions of dollars into their own national efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change and support adaptation to a warming climate, whilst the poorest and most heavily indebted nations are left to fend for themselves.
We, the jury, find that the UNFCCC violated the UN Charter, which demands that UN members states ‘take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace’ (Chapter 1). The Charter charges states ‘to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems’.
The UNFCCC has also violated Chapter IX of the UN Charter, ignoring Article 55’s demand to create ‘conditions of stability and well-being’ as well as ‘economic progress and social progress’ and to promote ‘universal respect for, and observance of, human rights.’ Furthermore, the UNFCCC has violated Article 56, which enjoins member states to take ‘joint and separate action in cooperation’ with the UN.
We, the jury of the People’s Tribunal, find the UNFCCC guilty of the charges made by the special prosecutor and established by the witnesses. In light of our sentence, we claim the following measures of redress for the peoples of the world: