29 March 2019
H.E. Mr. António Guterres
Secretary-General of the United Nations
Executive Office of the Secretary-General
S-3800, United Nations Secretariat Building
New York, NY 10017
H.E. Amb. Luis Alfonso de Alba
Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2019 Climate Summit
New York, NY 10017
Re: Call to Ensure the inclusion of Loss and Damages (L&D) in the resilience and adaptation, and the climate finance action portfolio at the UN Climate Summit 2019
As the world spirals deep into catastrophic impacts of climate change happening around us, governments still fail to acknowledge the ongoing crisis and address reparations especially in the countries of Asia and Pacific. In the South Asian floods last year that devastated Bangladesh, Nepal and India, killed over thousand people and more than 40 million people were displaced out of which 1.2 million were children. In 2013, 64 percent of those killed during Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, were women. More sources have claimed that women and children are up to 14 times more likely to die in a natural disaster. For the women in Asia and the Pacific who survive climate related disasters, both sudden and slow-onset, life goes on except their situations become even more precarious with lost and damaged income, land, resources and assets, already-strained essential public services becoming less accessible including health, education, water and sanitation and increased violence against women within family and community.
The economic hardships following disasters foster the escalation of harmful practices such as forced marriage, child marriage, forced sex work and trafficking. We have found that disasters are one of eight factors that contribute to child/early marriage in Bangladesh, where 29 per cent of girls are married before the age of 15 and 65 per cent before 18. In Myanmar, research found that “given the high level of widowers, both men and women viewed marriage as an important economic and social strategy, critical for civic rebuilding”.
Climate change is eroding communities and cultures, washing away traditional knowledge and systems that are the foundations for grassroots communities. The small island developing states (SIDS) and atoll nations of Asia and the Pacific face “a truly existential threat from sea-level rise,” with Bangladesh, China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines, making up seven out of the top ten countries which will have the most people affected by rising sea levels in the future.
The private sector is gradually being permitted an increasingly visible space and power to influence climate policies to maximise its business profits within the various climate change mechanisms which rightfully belongs to non-profit organizations and CSOs. This is resulting in these spaces becoming increasingly inaccessible to women of the Global South as we witnessed in the recent COP in Katowice, Poland. While the private sector may play a role in contributing solutions to L&D, mitigation and adaptation, it should foremost be held accountable to its historical responsibility that generated catastrophic level of climate change we are faced with. Any forms of climate finance, including blended finance structures (e.g. private-public partnerships) must not lead to conflicts of interest in favour of the corporate partner.
Governments must first and foremost meet their obligations to women’s human rights when they consider any climate actions. Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote, protect and fulfill women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms, including their obligations under the CEDAW General Recommendation 37 on gender-related dimensions of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change.
Governments must go beyond the NDCs, SDGs and work together to introduce transparent, accountable and public sources of finance (e.g.: fossil fuel extraction levy, bunkers levy, financial transaction tax, aviation levy, removal of tax incentive and exemption for multinational corporations, stop the illicit financial flows, etc.) to build a fund to specifically address loss and damage. It is a well-known fact that just 10 per cent tax of the current wealth hidden in the tax havens; or one percent of the global military spending would be more than sufficient to mobilise the resource required for the Green Climate Fund. It is time to act to reallocate this existing resources as well as new additional adequate public finance; and provide reparations to the communities who have suffered from the climate change impact that far surpasses their capacity to adapt or mitigate.
We call for a bold and decisive action from United Nations and governments to uphold the principles of international solidarity and human rights by explicitly addressing the loss and damage due to climate change in its action portfolios at the UN Climate Summit 2019. In this regard, we support the Climate Action Network’s letter sent to you as well. We trust your office will play an integral role in ensuring a successful and accountable Climate Summit that takes the global community one step closer to a fair and just future for all.
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD), Thailand