WorldThe most urgent law in the world

The most urgent law in the world

The UN Human Rights Council recognized in early October that having a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a fundamental human right. With the decision, the Council asked States around the world to work together and with other partners to implement this new recognized right. In Brazil, the right to an ecologically balanced environment is already included in our Major Law. However, the challenge of the climate issue does not appear in it explicitly.

Also this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that climate change is the biggest threat to human health. On the same day, an article published in Nature Climate Change revealed that 85% of the population is already affected by human-induced climate change. The 6th report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released last August, was even more alarming that climate change and its impacts are already affecting everyone across the planet.

Although climate change is currently the biggest environmental threat and the Government can do a lot to ensure climate security for citizens, the word “climate” does not appear in the Federal Constitution. It explains: the Constitution dates from 1988 and the climate change convention was signed four years later, at Rio 92. This does not mean that it is acceptable: this absence allows Governments to act against the best interest of their citizens in this issue — like, for example, in the weak fight against deforestation, which not only boosts national emissions of greenhouse gases, but is already affecting the water regime on which our energy, water and food security depend. To make matters worse, economic activities that are highly emitting of greenhouse gases and harmful to health still receive many tax incentives.

The commitments that Brazil assumed under the Paris climate agreement —our NDC— put us on the path of an average increase in global temperature of 2.5ºC to 3.0ºC by the end of the century, which would expose the country to very serious impacts. Some of them are already starting to be felt because we are very close to the 1.5C limit, which could be exceeded within the next decade. This means that we will have more frequent and severe droughts. The greater irregularity and reduced rainfall directly affects the reservoirs that supply the country with water and electricity. Water is also a strategic input for agriculture. And it affects everyone, but especially the poorest populations in the urban peripheries and rural corners that benefit from little or nothing from investments in adaptations to climate change.

Increasingly frequent and intense heat waves will have serious consequences for public health. There is also the risk posed by extreme weather events that cause flooding and landslides. The consequences are often fatal. Along our extensive coastline are populated cities that will lose area due to rising sea levels. The increase in sea temperature and changes in ocean salinity, in turn, affect fishing. Sea level rise will affect port logistics, with impacts on the export and commodity sector. Adaptations to the infrastructure will be inevitable. Whichever way you look at it, the risks are considerable and can no longer be ignored.

This is the context of the draft Constitutional Amendment Proposal (PEC) for the insertion of climate security. Not by chance, it is being called the Most Urgent Law in the World. It proposes the inclusion of climate security expressly in three structuring provisions of our Constitution: in Article 5 — stone clause, as a Fundamental Human Right; in article 170 – principle of the National Economic and Financial Order; and in article 225 — essential core of the Right to an ecologically balanced Environment.

The objective is to ensure that the Brazilian State, regardless of the Government in force, works to mitigate climate risk. By being integrated into the Constitution, in the three pillars mentioned, it will also serve to safeguard the country and its biomes from the excesses of governors, Presidents and Ministers of the Environment that may be adverse to the theme and to preservation, as we had in recent years, and still see in the nowadays.

In an issue that unfortunately suffers from the radicalization of ideological extremes, it is auspicious that this proposal has been developed by a group of deputies who are members of the Environmentalist Parliamentary Front, but also from various political fields from the right to the left, with the support of civil society, environmentalists and researchers. More than 100 deputies already support its process, but we still need 71 more for it to be formally processed by the Chamber. In the Senate, a similar PEC is unfortunately paralyzed in the Constitution and Justice Committee (PEC 233/2019).

On the eve of the Climate Conference, it is urgent for the National Congress to vote on the law that imposes on the Brazilian State the guarantee of climate security to its citizens and ecosystems, along with other fundamental rights, such as the right to life, the dignity of person and health. Without a safe climate, there is no ecologically balanced environment, health and a decent life.

Carlota Aquino is executive director of the IDEC-Institute for Consumer Defense

Paula Johns is director general of ACT Health Promotion

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