Category Archives: Human rights

Refugees gain hope from Latin American example

The UK’s new plan to control immigration has alarmed human rights groups. A Latin American example could offer hope instead.

LONDON, 31 March, 2021 − A year after Covid-19 began its devastating planetary spread, most of the world is still searching for ways to return to normality, however countries define it. A more far-sighted approach could be to rebuild better, using this global upheaval to avoid the errors of the past − including the treatment of refugees. A Latin American example could show the way.

Earlier this month the UK government unveiled its New Plan for Immigration, intended, it said, “to build a fair but firm asylum and illegal migration system”. Its proposals are novel, and not reassuring for those fleeing persecution: the Refugee Council, for example, dismissed them as “shaming Britain”.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says one per cent of the world’s population have fled their homes as a result of conflict or persecution: 79.5 million people. Among them are nearly 26 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18.

Many seek safety within more peaceful parts of their own countries. The British Red Cross says the vast majority of asylum seekers flee over their nearest border, where they’re likely to live in camps. The proportion of the British population who are refugees or asylum seekers − not the same thing − is 0.26%.

In 2015 a prominent British politician, the late (Lord) Paddy Ashdown, said the world faced a humanitarian crisis on an immense scale if millions of people had to flee the impacts of the climate crisis.

Security on offer

He told the Climate News Network: “The numbers we now have of refugees fleeing battle zones are going to be diminished into almost nothing when we see the mass movement of populations caused by global warming.”

Perhaps prophetically, Lord Ashdown, a former marine and diplomat, said: “The idea of Open Europe is now under threat. We have to discuss how we can manage the future. Can you imagine what is going to happen? The Syrian crisis is simply a dress rehearsal for an immense climate-fuelled disaster.”

Climate-induced migration is already occurring; in 2018 climate and weather-related hazards led to 16.1 million newly displaced people.

Research from the World Bank indicates that by 2050 there will be 143 million internally displaced people due to slow-onset climate impacts, if there is no significant climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

One Latin American country, though, has taken a bold step which promises limited security to those seeking safety within its borders, and which could be a model for other states thinking of following suit.

“The numbers we now have of refugees fleeing battle zones are going to be diminished into almost nothing when we see the mass movement of populations caused by global warming”

In February this year the Colombian leader, President Iván Duque, granted what is known as Temporary Protection Status to Venezuelan refugees and migrants living in Colombia, giving them a decade of legal residence.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, hailed the surprise decision, calling it “historic.” Former US president Bill Clinton said: “This decision will save lives.” But while it may prompt some of Colombia’s neighbours to follow its lead, there are fears that rising regional xenophobia could prove a deterrent to others.

Within Colombia itself, however, the decision has been broadly welcomed. Until February fewer than half of the 1.7 million Venezuelans living there had enjoyed legal status. The president’s decision offers security to refugees, including access to basic services such as education and health, as well as to Colombia’s Covid-19 vaccination plan.

The latest figures show 5.4 million Venezuelans have left their country because of political and economic instability under the authoritarian government of President Nicolás Maduro, which  has led to shortages of food, medicine, and fuel. The UNHCR calls the problem of Venezuelan migration “one of the largest displacement crises in the world.”

Colombia has set an example for how to set about defusing tensions and misinformation over the links between migration and the climate crisis something that was growing urgent in Europe well before President Duque’s move. The UK’s latest initiative shows little sign that British politicians have yet been swayed by the Latin American example they have been offered. − Climate News Network

The UK’s new plan to control immigration has alarmed human rights groups. A Latin American example could offer hope instead.

LONDON, 31 March, 2021 − A year after Covid-19 began its devastating planetary spread, most of the world is still searching for ways to return to normality, however countries define it. A more far-sighted approach could be to rebuild better, using this global upheaval to avoid the errors of the past − including the treatment of refugees. A Latin American example could show the way.

Earlier this month the UK government unveiled its New Plan for Immigration, intended, it said, “to build a fair but firm asylum and illegal migration system”. Its proposals are novel, and not reassuring for those fleeing persecution: the Refugee Council, for example, dismissed them as “shaming Britain”.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says one per cent of the world’s population have fled their homes as a result of conflict or persecution: 79.5 million people. Among them are nearly 26 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18.

Many seek safety within more peaceful parts of their own countries. The British Red Cross says the vast majority of asylum seekers flee over their nearest border, where they’re likely to live in camps. The proportion of the British population who are refugees or asylum seekers − not the same thing − is 0.26%.

In 2015 a prominent British politician, the late (Lord) Paddy Ashdown, said the world faced a humanitarian crisis on an immense scale if millions of people had to flee the impacts of the climate crisis.

Security on offer

He told the Climate News Network: “The numbers we now have of refugees fleeing battle zones are going to be diminished into almost nothing when we see the mass movement of populations caused by global warming.”

Perhaps prophetically, Lord Ashdown, a former marine and diplomat, said: “The idea of Open Europe is now under threat. We have to discuss how we can manage the future. Can you imagine what is going to happen? The Syrian crisis is simply a dress rehearsal for an immense climate-fuelled disaster.”

Climate-induced migration is already occurring; in 2018 climate and weather-related hazards led to 16.1 million newly displaced people.

Research from the World Bank indicates that by 2050 there will be 143 million internally displaced people due to slow-onset climate impacts, if there is no significant climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

One Latin American country, though, has taken a bold step which promises limited security to those seeking safety within its borders, and which could be a model for other states thinking of following suit.

“The numbers we now have of refugees fleeing battle zones are going to be diminished into almost nothing when we see the mass movement of populations caused by global warming”

In February this year the Colombian leader, President Iván Duque, granted what is known as Temporary Protection Status to Venezuelan refugees and migrants living in Colombia, giving them a decade of legal residence.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, hailed the surprise decision, calling it “historic.” Former US president Bill Clinton said: “This decision will save lives.” But while it may prompt some of Colombia’s neighbours to follow its lead, there are fears that rising regional xenophobia could prove a deterrent to others.

Within Colombia itself, however, the decision has been broadly welcomed. Until February fewer than half of the 1.7 million Venezuelans living there had enjoyed legal status. The president’s decision offers security to refugees, including access to basic services such as education and health, as well as to Colombia’s Covid-19 vaccination plan.

The latest figures show 5.4 million Venezuelans have left their country because of political and economic instability under the authoritarian government of President Nicolás Maduro, which  has led to shortages of food, medicine, and fuel. The UNHCR calls the problem of Venezuelan migration “one of the largest displacement crises in the world.”

Colombia has set an example for how to set about defusing tensions and misinformation over the links between migration and the climate crisis something that was growing urgent in Europe well before President Duque’s move. The UK’s latest initiative shows little sign that British politicians have yet been swayed by the Latin American example they have been offered. − Climate News Network

Refugees and wildlife face risk from border walls

Not only humans but four-legged migrants are at risk from  border walls. Other species can be climate refugees too.

LONDON, 17 February 2021 − Something there is, wrote the American poet Robert Frost, “that does not love a wall.” Thanks to British researchers we now know that something is the white-lipped peccary, the jaguar and the southern spotted skunk. All of them − and many other species − could be affected by border walls like that separating  the US from Mexico.

The barrier between India and Myanmar, too, creates problems for the sloth bear, the Indian pangolin and the large spotted civet. And a fence along the Sino-Russian borders could be hard on the desert hare, the Tibetan antelope, the goitered gazelle and the Tibetan fox. When things become harsh on one side of the wall, none of them can move to a better home.

Which could be bad news because, as the planet heats up, and regional climate zones begin to shift, around one in three mammals and birds could by 2070 be forced to look for more welcoming habitat in another country.

Around 3,200 kilometres of man-made barrier now extend along national boundaries, precisely to prevent the unauthorised movement of refugees. But those same barriers could create problems for some of the 700 or so mammals that may have to shift home as regional climates change, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The US-Mexican border wall alone could obstruct the migration of 122 species of four-legged animal refugee.

“If we are serious about protecting nature, reducing the impacts of border barriers on species will be really important − although there’s no substitute for tackling the greenhouse gas emissions at the root of the issue”

“Species all across the planet are on the move as they respond to a changing climate. Our findings show how important it is that species can move across national boundaries through connected habitats in order to cope with this change,” said Stephen Willis of Durham University in the UK.

“Borders that are fortified with walls and fences pose a serious threat to any species that can’t get across them. If we are serious about protecting nature, expanding transboundary conservation initiatives and reducing the impacts of border barriers on species will be really important − although there’s no substitute for tackling the greenhouse gas emissions at the root of the issue.”

Professor Willis and his colleagues started from the premise that the effectiveness of conservation action is not separable from what they call “underlying sociopolitical factors.”

There has, for more than a decade, been serious concern that climate change and human population expansion could ultimately lead to a mass extinction of wild creatures.

But mathematical models of the natural niches occupied by birds and mammals worldwide show that the biggest losses of native species will be in those countries with weaker governance and lower Gross Domestic Product.

No justice

And the disappearance of mammals in particular will be in those countries with the lowest levels of the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change.

To survive, many of those species will have to migrate − and at that point, walls and fences designed to exclude human migrants will become major obstacles to the conservation of the wild things. The margay and the common opossum, the Mexican wolf and that wild cat the jaguarundi could all be turned back, along with hungry and near-desperate families, at the US-Mexican border.

“The stark inequities between those who contributed most to climate change and those who will be most impacted raise really important questions of international justice,” said Mark Titley, a researcher at Durham who led the study.

“Fortunately, our models also show how strong and urgent emissions reductions, in line with the Paris Agreement, could greatly reduce the impacts on biodiversity and relieve the burden of such losses on less wealthy nations.”

Or, as Robert Frost put it:

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out…”

− Climate News Network

Not only humans but four-legged migrants are at risk from  border walls. Other species can be climate refugees too.

LONDON, 17 February 2021 − Something there is, wrote the American poet Robert Frost, “that does not love a wall.” Thanks to British researchers we now know that something is the white-lipped peccary, the jaguar and the southern spotted skunk. All of them − and many other species − could be affected by border walls like that separating  the US from Mexico.

The barrier between India and Myanmar, too, creates problems for the sloth bear, the Indian pangolin and the large spotted civet. And a fence along the Sino-Russian borders could be hard on the desert hare, the Tibetan antelope, the goitered gazelle and the Tibetan fox. When things become harsh on one side of the wall, none of them can move to a better home.

Which could be bad news because, as the planet heats up, and regional climate zones begin to shift, around one in three mammals and birds could by 2070 be forced to look for more welcoming habitat in another country.

Around 3,200 kilometres of man-made barrier now extend along national boundaries, precisely to prevent the unauthorised movement of refugees. But those same barriers could create problems for some of the 700 or so mammals that may have to shift home as regional climates change, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The US-Mexican border wall alone could obstruct the migration of 122 species of four-legged animal refugee.

“If we are serious about protecting nature, reducing the impacts of border barriers on species will be really important − although there’s no substitute for tackling the greenhouse gas emissions at the root of the issue”

“Species all across the planet are on the move as they respond to a changing climate. Our findings show how important it is that species can move across national boundaries through connected habitats in order to cope with this change,” said Stephen Willis of Durham University in the UK.

“Borders that are fortified with walls and fences pose a serious threat to any species that can’t get across them. If we are serious about protecting nature, expanding transboundary conservation initiatives and reducing the impacts of border barriers on species will be really important − although there’s no substitute for tackling the greenhouse gas emissions at the root of the issue.”

Professor Willis and his colleagues started from the premise that the effectiveness of conservation action is not separable from what they call “underlying sociopolitical factors.”

There has, for more than a decade, been serious concern that climate change and human population expansion could ultimately lead to a mass extinction of wild creatures.

But mathematical models of the natural niches occupied by birds and mammals worldwide show that the biggest losses of native species will be in those countries with weaker governance and lower Gross Domestic Product.

No justice

And the disappearance of mammals in particular will be in those countries with the lowest levels of the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change.

To survive, many of those species will have to migrate − and at that point, walls and fences designed to exclude human migrants will become major obstacles to the conservation of the wild things. The margay and the common opossum, the Mexican wolf and that wild cat the jaguarundi could all be turned back, along with hungry and near-desperate families, at the US-Mexican border.

“The stark inequities between those who contributed most to climate change and those who will be most impacted raise really important questions of international justice,” said Mark Titley, a researcher at Durham who led the study.

“Fortunately, our models also show how strong and urgent emissions reductions, in line with the Paris Agreement, could greatly reduce the impacts on biodiversity and relieve the burden of such losses on less wealthy nations.”

Or, as Robert Frost put it:

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out…”

− Climate News Network

Solar power’s future could soon be overshadowed

Despite its recent runaway success, solar power’s future as a key way to counter climate chaos could soon be at risk.

LONDON, 12 February, 2021– As more households and industries have opted to harness the sun’s energy, a small but definite shadow is nagging at the many manufacturers who have put their faith in solar power’s future.

Prices have fallen dramatically: according to the International Energy Agency, the cost of producing electricity from solar energy dropped 80% over the past decade. But a mix of international economic rivalries and human rights issues could hamper the onward expansion of solar around the world.

Up till 15 years ago companies in Europe and Japan dominated the solar manufacturing industry. That has all changed: as with so many manufactured products, China now accounts for the bulk of solar equipment produced globally, with about a 70% share.

China itself is also by far the world’s biggest market for solar: about half of all solar power installed round the globe is in China.

China-based companies have invested heavily in sophisticated manufacturing facilities and in research and development. The country’s dominance of the solar manufacturing sector has caused concern in some countries.

“We’ve been telling all solar companies operating in the Xinjiang region to immediately move their supply chains. We’d ask all solar companies to immediately leave the region”

Manufacturers of photovoltaic panels and other solar products in East Asia, the US and Europe have alleged that cheaper, state-subsidised goods from China have hampered development of home-grown solar industries.

The former Trump administration in the US voiced increasingly strident opposition to what it saw as unfair trading practices by China: in early 2018 Washington slapped a 30% tariff on solar imports from China.

The resulting setback for the US solar market – and China’s exporters – was only temporary. The appetite in the US and elsewhere for solar power continues to grow.

In many countries solar energy is out-competing fossil fuels on price. Meanwhile new technologies and more efficient batteries mean large amounts of solar power can be stored for use in periods when the sun doesn’t shine.

Waiting for Biden

In 2019 there was a 24% increase in the number of solar installations in the US, with utility companies, particularly in sunnier and more environmentally progressive states such as California, leading the solar surge.

Whether or not the new Biden administration in the US will soften the hard line taken on China by former President Trump is uncertain.

Some feel that, while Biden might seek to ease trade tensions, there could be more emphasis on human rights issues, particularly in relation to the widely reported actions taken by Beijing against the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the north-western province of Xinjiang.

This could have serious implications for the solar industry, not only in China but worldwide. A number of China’s big solar manufacturers, some in partnership with foreign companies, have concentrated their operations in Xinjiang. The province accounts for the bulk of China’s production of polysilicon, one of the most important base materials for solar panels.

There have been reports not only about Uighurs and other groups in Xinjiang being forcibly herded into so-called re-education camps, but also of local people being used as forced labour in solar and other industries.

Human rights concern

Reacting to reports of widespread repression in the region, the US recently banned the import of tomatoes and cotton from Xinjiang.

The US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) – a trade body representing the US solar industry and a sector employing an estimated 250,000 people – said it was taking the reports very seriously.

“Forced labour has no place in the solar industry”, said the SEIA. “Since the fall we’ve been proactively telling all solar companies operating in the Xinjiang region to immediately move their supply chains. We’d like to reiterate this call to action and ask all solar companies to immediately leave the region.”

Beijing has described the reports of forced labour in the province as “the biggest lie of the century”. – Climate News Network

Despite its recent runaway success, solar power’s future as a key way to counter climate chaos could soon be at risk.

LONDON, 12 February, 2021– As more households and industries have opted to harness the sun’s energy, a small but definite shadow is nagging at the many manufacturers who have put their faith in solar power’s future.

Prices have fallen dramatically: according to the International Energy Agency, the cost of producing electricity from solar energy dropped 80% over the past decade. But a mix of international economic rivalries and human rights issues could hamper the onward expansion of solar around the world.

Up till 15 years ago companies in Europe and Japan dominated the solar manufacturing industry. That has all changed: as with so many manufactured products, China now accounts for the bulk of solar equipment produced globally, with about a 70% share.

China itself is also by far the world’s biggest market for solar: about half of all solar power installed round the globe is in China.

China-based companies have invested heavily in sophisticated manufacturing facilities and in research and development. The country’s dominance of the solar manufacturing sector has caused concern in some countries.

“We’ve been telling all solar companies operating in the Xinjiang region to immediately move their supply chains. We’d ask all solar companies to immediately leave the region”

Manufacturers of photovoltaic panels and other solar products in East Asia, the US and Europe have alleged that cheaper, state-subsidised goods from China have hampered development of home-grown solar industries.

The former Trump administration in the US voiced increasingly strident opposition to what it saw as unfair trading practices by China: in early 2018 Washington slapped a 30% tariff on solar imports from China.

The resulting setback for the US solar market – and China’s exporters – was only temporary. The appetite in the US and elsewhere for solar power continues to grow.

In many countries solar energy is out-competing fossil fuels on price. Meanwhile new technologies and more efficient batteries mean large amounts of solar power can be stored for use in periods when the sun doesn’t shine.

Waiting for Biden

In 2019 there was a 24% increase in the number of solar installations in the US, with utility companies, particularly in sunnier and more environmentally progressive states such as California, leading the solar surge.

Whether or not the new Biden administration in the US will soften the hard line taken on China by former President Trump is uncertain.

Some feel that, while Biden might seek to ease trade tensions, there could be more emphasis on human rights issues, particularly in relation to the widely reported actions taken by Beijing against the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the north-western province of Xinjiang.

This could have serious implications for the solar industry, not only in China but worldwide. A number of China’s big solar manufacturers, some in partnership with foreign companies, have concentrated their operations in Xinjiang. The province accounts for the bulk of China’s production of polysilicon, one of the most important base materials for solar panels.

There have been reports not only about Uighurs and other groups in Xinjiang being forcibly herded into so-called re-education camps, but also of local people being used as forced labour in solar and other industries.

Human rights concern

Reacting to reports of widespread repression in the region, the US recently banned the import of tomatoes and cotton from Xinjiang.

The US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) – a trade body representing the US solar industry and a sector employing an estimated 250,000 people – said it was taking the reports very seriously.

“Forced labour has no place in the solar industry”, said the SEIA. “Since the fall we’ve been proactively telling all solar companies operating in the Xinjiang region to immediately move their supply chains. We’d like to reiterate this call to action and ask all solar companies to immediately leave the region.”

Beijing has described the reports of forced labour in the province as “the biggest lie of the century”. – Climate News Network