Congresswomen Escobar and Torres Lead Letter Urging Treasury and State Departments to Impose Targeted Sanctions Against Individuals Responsible for Human Rights Abuses of Environmental Defenders
Washington, D.C., October 22, 2021
Tags: Environment and Energy
Congresswomen Veronica Escobar (TX-16) and Norma Torres (CA-35) led a group of lawmakers in sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken urging them to use existing authorities to impose targeted sanctions against individuals responsible for human rights abuses of indigenous and local environmental activists – often referred to as “environmental defenders” – and corruption relating to climate-impacting industries.
Congresswomen Veronica Escobar (TX-16) and Norma J. Torres (CA-35) led a group of lawmakers in sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken urging them to use existing authorities to impose targeted sanctions against individuals responsible for human rights abuses of indigenous and local environmental activists – often referred to as “environmental defenders” – and corruption relating to climate-impacting industries.
The letter, which was co-signed by ten lawmakers, highlights the findings and examples of a Global Witness’ report which found that since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, an average of four environmental defenders have been killed every week and even more have been targeted by physical assaults, death threats, sexual violence, arrest and detention without cause, and retaliatory lawsuits.
The lawmakers continued, “While the violence, harassment, and treatment of environmental defenders represent serious human rights abuses on their own, the impact of such events extends far beyond the countries where abuses occur: the destruction of habitat and deforestation that often accompanies these human rights violations releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, threatens biodiversity, and impedes local and international efforts to protect ecosystems, sequester carbon, and fight the climate crisis. Furthermore, the lack of accountability emboldens perpetrators to continue human rights abuses, pursue additional corrupt dealings, and engage in further destructive climate actions.”
The lawmakers requested the Department of Treasury and the Department of State to utilize sanctions as a core part of the Biden-Harris administration’s climate change strategy and to consider additional actions, including:
The lawmakers concluded the letter by urging the administration to send a clear message that the United States is committed to protecting indigenous rights, dedicated to preserving climate-critical ecosystems, and determined to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and corruption resulting in destructive climate outcomes.
“Indigenous and local communities are leading the global effort to fight climate change, often at great personal risk and sacrifice. Thus, doing what we can to defend them from human rights abuses and destructive climate actions should be at the forefront of American foreign policy efforts to tackle climate change,” concluded the lawmakers.
Led by Congresswomen Escobar and Torres, the letter was also co-signed by U.S. Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Dina Titus (NV-01), and Juan Vargas (CA-51).
Full text of the letter can be found here.