Why the environment and human rights must be tackled together
2016 was a record-breaking year.
We saw a third year of record-high temperatures, CO2 in the atmosphere hit levels not seen in millions of years, we saw mass coral bleaching in our oceans while global fish consumption continued to push them to the brink.
For millions of people around the world, environmental degradation means hunger, poverty and vulnerability. From the loss of natural forests to the destruction of our oceans and climate change, it is the most vulnerable, marginalised and disempowered communities that bear the brunt.
Environmental security and human rights are two sides of the same coin. We cannot tackle one without tackling the other.
Whether it's the slave labourers facing violence and intimidation at the hands of vessel captains and boat owners as they prop up a seafood sector under threat from unsustainable and illegal fishing, or those forced to flee their homes because of the impacts of climate change, these communities are so often left voiceless.
And without a voice to speak up about environmental injustices and the vested interests that drive them, communities are unable to prevent further destruction being inflicted on the planet.
2017 is expected to bring even more environmental uncertainty.
Under President Trump’s leadership the US is expected to see a rollback of climate policy, in the UK and Europe greater uncertainty threatens environmental protections, and globally extreme weather events, air pollution and wildlife loss is all expected to worsen.
Failing to take urgent action could see our natural world become unrecognisable in a matter of decades.
But as environmental risks rise, some communities are finding their voice.
Despite the dangers of being an environmental activist, communities are coming together to stand up against those who plan to trash the planet, whether it is fighting illegal fishing in Sierra Leone, protecting forests in Brazil, or choosing fresh water over oil in North Dakota.
Building on the inspiring examples already set by communities across the globe, we will continue to work for, and with, those on the frontlines of its destruction, and strengthen their call for a sustainable and equitable future.
We are all dependent on our natural world. From the air we breathe and the food we eat, to our economies and livelihoods, our well-being and even our happiness, the natural environment sustains human life.
It is time we all worked together in a collective effort to protect it.
The stakes have never been higher.