In Europe, recent months have seen an amplification in the number, scale and diversity of forms of public protest by environmentalists and climate activists. In France and Belgium, hundreds of people have been protesting against projects damaging the environment or climate. Other actions took place in Italy, the Netherlands and England, where protesters blocked traffic routes. Several sporting and cultural events have also been disrupted by activists.
Against this backdrop, the actions of environmental and climate activists or whistleblowers are a call to political decision-makers to urgently find solutions, but also a means of amplifying this message to a wider audience. These forms of protest tend to be disruptive but are, for the most part and with very rare exceptions, non-violent. Despite this peaceful character, the repression from public authorities is often massive, with many reported cases of heavy-handed policing, physical violence, detention and hefty fines.
The good news is that many initiatives have been recently developed to provide protection to environmental activists, climate activists and whistleblowers facing these threats. These actions aim at providing different types of safeguards, depending on the specificity of each case, with a varying geographical scope of application.
The objective of this briefing is to shed light on several of these initiatives and ensure that activists, civil society organisations and members of the public have an easy-access document to find information on the protection of environmental defenders. Most of these initiatives are NGO-led (Climate Activists Defenders, Global Climate Legal Defense and Climate Whistleblowers), but one is a public protection mechanism rooted in international law (Aarhus Convention Rapid Response Mechanism).