21st Informal ASEM [Asia-Europe Meeting] Seminar on Human Rights
‘Human Rights and Climate Change:
Defining opportunities and prospects for joint action in Asia and Europe’
Remarks by Eamon Gilmore at the Closing Discussion
Friday 18 March 2022
Watch the video recording here.
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It is a privilege to be have been invited to deliver remarks at this, the closing discussion of the 21st ASEM Seminar on Human Rights.
Here in Europe, the world as we know it has changed dramatically over the course of the last few weeks. The events in Ukraine took many by surprise; and a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes. While the situation in Ukraine will continue to be our primary focus over the course of the next few weeks and months, the climate crisis has not gone away.
There is no doubt that we are in the middle of an unprecedented environmental crisis with climate change affecting every region across the globe, in Asia, Europe and elsewhere.
Climate change and environmental degradation has and will continue to have an adverse impact on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to life, the right to health, the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, the right to food, to adequate housing and standard of living.
The European Union recognises this, and has made climate change a central element in its policies both internally and externally.
The European Green Deal, adopted in 2019, sets out a roadmap for a climate neutral continent by 2050. It identifies biodiversity conservation as an essential objective for sustainable development at the European and at the global level, and aims to protect the health and wellbeing of people from environmental related risks and impacts.
The EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy [2020 – 2024], firmly establishes the EU’s commitment to supporting measures to address the high risks of environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and water scarcity on the exercise of human rights.
We are implementing this Action Plan, mainly through our 143 EU Delegations and the hundreds of Member State embassies across the world, including in the Asia Pacific region.
The strength of our policies lies in our ability to cooperate with partners both at the bilateral and multilateral level.
Many actions are based on cooperation and partnership and we need to listen and work closely with other stakeholders, the UN, regional organisations, civil society organisations, and of course our Asian partners, to improve and to address our common problems.
Respect for human rights is already an important part of the ASEM partnership, with leaders of ASEM countries across Asia and Europe reasserting the universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated nature of human rights at their Summit last November.
I am glad that ASEM has also become an active forum for discussions on climate change. Asia is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions when it comes to global warming and natural disasters and is the source of over half of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, with its global share having grown since 2000, accounting for almost all of the global increase in the last two decades.
The theme of this year’s 21st Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights – human rights and climate change – shows that both human rights and climate change, are an important aspect of our partnership.
Last September, the European Union adopted the Indo-Pacific Strategy. Through the Indo-Pacific Strategy, the EU intends to increase its engagement with the region to build partnerships that reinforce the rules-based international order, address global challenges, and lay the foundations for a rapid, just and sustainable economic recovery that creates long-term prosperity for us all.
Our engagement will be based on promoting democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and universally agreed commitments such as the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The Indo-Pacific region is home to three-fifths of the world’s population, produces 60% of global GDP, contributed two-thirds of pre-pandemic global economic growth and is at the forefront of the digital economy. The EU is the world’s largest trading bloc with transparent rules and regulations. The futures of the EU and the Indo-Pacific are inextricably linked given the interdependence of our economies and our common global challenges.
Our approach to the Indo-Pacific region is one of cooperation and partnership. The EU’s renewed commitment to the region is inclusive of all partners wishing to cooperate with the EU. We will adapt this cooperation according to specific areas where partners share principles, values or mutual interest. The Strategy is an invitation to our partners in the region to dialogue and to address the issues at stake, upholding international law and defending values and principles to which we are committed, with democracy and human rights at the forefront.
The EU Indo-Pacific Strategy highlights concrete actions in seven priority areas, one of which focuses on green transition. As part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, we will conclude Green Alliances with like-minded partners that have signed up to the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 and other ambitious climate and environmental objectives. Last May for example, we signed the first such Green Alliance with Japan.
Europe and Asia have a common responsibility for translating our climate change commitments into reality and helping the most vulnerable. Addressing the human cost of climate change and integrating human rights into our actions implies higher levels of ambition from all of us.
It is only by doing so that we’ll be able to fulfil our responsibilities towards our planet, and towards present and future generations.
I hope that today’s discussion, and indeed the discussions which have taken place over the course of the last few days, will contribute to enhancing the partnership between Asian and European countries when it comes to the addressing the impact of climate change on human rights.