At a time when all countries around the world are working tirelessly in response to the unprecedented coronavirus crisis, the Environmental Education Collaborative (EEC) which is a cooperative that serves San Bernardino & Riverside Counties in the inland region of Southern California, USA; is holding a digital symposium from February 25 to 28, 2021 to familiarize participants with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG).
The symposium will take place parallel to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) which is the world’s highest decision-making body on the environment that focuses on the role nature plays in sustainable development and how strategic green COVID-19 recovery plans can accelerate the transition to an inclusive, prosperous, low carbon and healthier future.
The UN General Assembly proclaimed 2021 as the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. Accordingly, the EEC’s 7th annual digital Environmental Education Symposium offers classes in arts, law and environmental education via hands-on activities that build knowledge and skills in several core disciplines while familiarizing students with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and all of their interconnections.
Topics to be covered during the symposium include the sustainable use of resources; environmental justice; and climate change to create a sustainable and just future through environmental learning experiences for all. These classes aim to raise climate change awareness; promote cooperation and networking; encourage sharing best practices and experiences; enhance human resource capacity, and promote an enabling environment for creative expression at all levels.
Courts became a new frontier in the crusade against climate change
For the UN, the pursuit of social justice for all is at the core of its global mission to promote development and human dignity for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) expects climate litigation to increase. Because
“Climate litigation is a key lever for keeping governments and corporations on task in the fight to combat climate change”,
explained Michael Burger, Executive Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change at Columbia Law School.
“Courts can equalize the power imbalances in society and give force to the rule of law.”
According to a recent report entitled Global Climate Litigation Report – 2020 Status Review from UNEP and the Sabin Centre for Climate Change at Columbia University, people, including children and indigenous communities, are increasingly turning to the courts to compel governments and businesses to respect and accelerate commitments on climate change.
The number of climate change litigation cases has surged in the last four years and now stands at 1,550 in 38 countries (39 including the courts of the European Union). As of 1 July 2020, some 1,200 of these cases were filed in the United States and 350 in all other countries combined. This was almost double the number identified in an inaugural 2017 UNEP report on the subject. That document listed 884 cases in some 24 countries, of which 654 were in the United States and 230 in other nations.
“This tidal wave of climate cases is driving much-needed change,”
“The report shows how climate litigation is compelling governments and corporate actors to pursue more ambitious climate change mitigation and adaptation goals.”
For example, in Colombia, a group of young plaintiffs successfully sued the government, winning a supreme court judgement that forced the state to develop a plan to halt the deforestation of the Amazon. In the case, Future Generations v. Ministry of the Environment and Others, the court recognized the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to life, health, subsistence, freedom and human dignity, which it said were linked to the state of the Amazon.
“Children and youth are demanding a safe climate and are forcing positive change, helping demonstrate that climate change is at the forefront of a global environmental rights movement,”
“And – as illustrated by this report – judiciaries around the world are increasingly playing a critical role in addressing climate change” she added.
Most of the legal actions have been launched against governments, including both national and local authorities. However, companies are also being targeted for failing to incorporate climate change into their decision making and for not disclosing climate-related risks to their shareholders. (see mutual connection between taxes and environmental problems). Litigation is being used to force companies to disclose climate-related risks and end “corporate greenwashing”, the practice of making inflated sustainability claims to distract from a questionable environmental record, particularly in light of the global pandemic. Because climate change has played an undeniable role in the unprecedented wildfires raging across the world and especially across California last year smashing last year’s records for CO2 emissions, according to scientists at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. Meanwhile, these fires have also aggravated respiratory ailments amid the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic — the most devastating plague to ravage humankind this century.
The International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development
The COVID-19 pandemic has devasted live audience-based entertainment industries, tourism-based heritage and crafts businesses, and other creative products due to lockdown and social distancing measures.
Accordingly, the UN declared 2021 the Year of Creative Economy to acknowledge the role of creative industries in supporting entrepreneurship, stimulating innovation and empowering people, including young people and women, while preserving and promoting cultural heritage and diversity to accomplish the UN SDG Agenda 2030.
“The creative industries are critical to the sustainable development agenda. They stimulate innovation and diversification, are an important factor in the burgeoning services sector, support entrepreneurship, and contribute to cultural diversity,”
said UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Isabelle Durant. The digital-based creative industries have seen a significant increase in work thereby have been playing a major role in mediating the global digital transformation.
The six climate change and corona themed digital art shows curated by the author of this article will be at display at the EEC’s 7th annual digital Environmental Education Symposium. These art shows contain artwork that has been acknowledged in 13 international art contests. They were registered events at London Climate Action Week, UN’s World Environment, Oceans, Desertification, Clean Air for Blue Skies, International Mountain, World Wetland Days. And they have been published by the United Nations SDG Helpdesk, the Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change – Hong Kong; Climate Change Museum – UK; Berkshire Museum, MA; Philip and Patricia Frost Science Museum, FL; as well as CIMUSET-International Committee for Museums of Science & Technology.