Ischia Landslide is the Latest Example of Climate Rights being Denied
Europe and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
On Saturday, November 26th, Italy's southern island of Ischia was hit by a tragedy. Eight people (thus far), including a three-week-old baby and a pair of young siblings, are the victims of a landslide that sent mud and debris from Monte Epomeo – a 789-meter peak – into the port of Casamicciola Terme (AFP, 2022).
On Monday, the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine' SIMA' claimed that the heavy rains that triggered the landslide on the island were an example of a climate-related extreme weather event. SIMA reported that 130 exceptional weather phenomena were registered in Italy in 2022, the highest annual average in the last decade. Claiming that the rainstorm that hit Ischia is an example of the disastrous effects of climate change (Hughes, 2022).
Climate change activists and Italians alike are calling for more action from the Italian government in responding to a changing climate. The environmental association Legambiente told Euronews, "The climate is changing, it is now a fact, yet Italy continues to be unprepared, and citizens are often left alone to deal with the impacts." (Hughes, 2022).
This landslide comes less than six months after the United Nations General Assembly ratified the human right to a healthy environment (UNEP, 2022). This ratification, along with the UN Human Rights Council's decision to uphold the human right to a clean environment, has come into place as more and more climate campaigners have been using the law to force countries to address pressing environmental problems like climate change. The Ischia landslide is the latest example of the government's failure to protect and uphold Italians' right to a safe, healthy environment.
The Italian constitution protects the right to a healthy environment using the interpretation of Article 32 on the right to health (Tigre, 2022). This allows Italians to challenge environmentally destructive policies under human rights legislation, including the lack of infrastructure and reaction to a changing climate, which ultimately led to the deadly landslide in Ischia. When asked how he felt about the passing of the UN Human Rights to a Clean Environment, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment stated:
"These resolutions may seem abstract, but they are a catalyst for action, and they empower ordinary people to hold their governments accountable in a way that is very powerful." (UNEP , 2022)
Sources and further reading:
AFP with Euronews. (2022, November 28). Ischia mudslide: Eight dead and four missing after torrents of mud sweep through Italian town. Euronews. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://www.euronews.com/2022/11/27/ischia-landslide-rescuers-search-for-up-to-a-dozen-missing-after-italian-island-disaster
Hughes, R. (2022, November 28). Deadly Ischia landslide was caused by climate change and illegal construction, experts say. Euronews. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/11/28/deadly-ischia-landslide-was-caused-by-climate-change-and-illegal-construction-experts-say
UNEP. (2022, July 28). In historic move, UN declares healthy environment a human right. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/historic-move-un-declares-healthy-environment-human-right
Tigre, M. (2022, April 8). Climate law blog. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://blogs.law.columbia.edu/climatechange/2022/04/08/guest-commentary-new-italian-constitutional-reform-what-it-means-for-environmental-protection-future-generations-climate-litigation/#:~:text=The%20right%20to%20a%20healthy,the%20field%20of%20environmental%20protection