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Goal 13
"Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts"

Climate change is affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and weather events are becoming more extreme. If nothing is done, sea temperatures are expected to rise above 3 degrees on average this century. This has the greatest impact on the poor and vulnerable to risk.

By looking for economical and scalable solutions, a state can leap into an economy with more integrity and resilience. The pace of change is accelerating as more people seek ways to use renewable energy, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt. However, climate change is a cross-border global challenge. International-level improvements are needed to help developing countries move toward low-carbon economies.

The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In April 2018, 175 countries ratified the Paris Agreement, and 10 developing countries submitted national Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the first time.

13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries

13.2 Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning

13.3 Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning

13.a Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible

13.b Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities; Acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change

SDG 13 and the UN Human Rights Mechanisms

      1st UPR Cycle

      2nd UPR Cycle

      3rd UPR Cycle

Recommending State
Take measures to ensure international humanitarian aid reaches the most vulnerable and needy
Continue to take measures for the sustainable economic, social and cultural development in the rural areas
Share with others the country's experiences in disaster risk management
Provide information on the steps taken to ensure that those most vulnerable to climate change are included in domestic measures to address the causes and effects of climate change
Ensure that a human rights-based approach is incorporated into the implementation of the Law on Disaster Prevention, Relief and Recovery and the Law on Environmental Protection
Enable greater inclusion and participation of women, children, persons with disabilities, and indigenous and other marginalized communities in devising holistic strategies towards managing climate change and its impact on livelihoods
Recommending State
Continue its cooperation with the international community in solving humanitarian issues of mutual concern
Viet Nam
Continue to cooperate with the United Nations, other international organizations and the world community to settle all the humanitarian issues
Lao People's Democratic Republic

SDG 13 and the North Korean Government

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The DPRK reported on its progress and challenges related to SDG 13 at the North-East Asia Multi-stakeholder Forum in 2019, where it stated that the “effect of climate change to the DPRK is very negative, resulting reduction in agriculture production, destruction of infrastructure, degradation of soil and water resources.” In the face of the frequent flooding and natural disasters that take place in North Korea, the DPRK reported in its letter to the UNFCCC that it had “formulated the National Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy 2019-2030 and the National Environment Protection Strategy 2019-2030.”

During the Multi-stakeholder Forum, the DPRK also stated that the consumption of ozone depleting substances reduced significantly, which had been a pledge made in its report to the UNFCCC in 2016 in which the DPRK stated that it “will reduce GHG emissions by 8.0% compared to BAU scenario, by 2030 with domestic resources.”

The DPRK has stated in order to combat climate change and its impacts, it has plans to “implement the National Disaster Reduction Strategy (NDRS), National Environmental protection Strategy (NEPS), National GHG Emission Reduction Plan, National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, build capacity to adapt climate change, and update the National Communications on Climate Change (NCCC) to the UNFCCC.” In its report to the UNFCCC, the DPRK listed 22 laws and mid-or long-term strategies which have been strengthened through national legal and policy frameworks to respond to climate change, including the Law on Environment Protection, Law on Environment Impact Assessment, Law on Air Pollution Protection, and others.

As part of its efforts to combat climate change, the DPRK has stated that it will “strengthen propagation campaign[s] for public awareness and education of climate change mitigation” through “all-inclusive mass movement of planting trees” and “afforestation activities.” When reporting, the DPRK stated that “in the first phase of the Forest Campaign from 2015 to 2017, 603,000 hectares have already been reforested in the DPRK and more than 1,000,000 hectares of mountain areas are planned to be forested and reforested by 2024.” Moreover, awareness-raising activities can be seen in the state media, in which the country’s membership to conventions combatting climate change such as the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer are propagated.

With regards to target 13.a of committing to jointly mobilizing $100 billion annually, the DPRK stated that it does not have the domestic resources to contribute to the global response to climate change. Yet, it has publicly announced through several avenues including the Rodong Sinmun that the government will actively join in the international efforts for environmental protection.

SDG 13 and North Korean Escapees

“The statistics here (in South Korea) are accurate. [..] But not in North Korea. [The government authorities] use the numbers to gain control [over people]. There are no measures for the benefit of the population. Earlier in the same year that we left (North Korea), there was a great flood, one of the kind of floods that only happens once every hundred years. The entire village was gone, and a lot of people died. We asked a Ministry of State Security official. I heard about a thousand people had died in our area so we asked him about the number of people who were dead. He made a gesture with his hand to hush us and asked us ‘Even if you know, what are you going to do?’ […] We were not allowed to speak about the people who died. Entire families were dead and we could not speak about it. The people’s unit did not us to talk about it as it could lead to people complaining, so everything was kept a secret.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2019 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“We received education about climate change. I remember being taught about the icebergs melting or something like that.”

[2020 NKDB 인터뷰 (NKDB 통합 인권 DB)]

“I’m not sure about climate change education, but I heard a lot about global warming (in North Korea). There are educational TV programs in North Korea that show news about other countries in the world.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2020 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“Climate change? I learnt about it. I learned about the tropical climate change at school. Things about temperate and tropical climates.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2020 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“There was always a big flood at least once every two years […] Due to the lack of trees on the mountains so there was always flood damage whenever there were heavy rainfalls. That is the reason why we had to build embankments every two years. So every workplace was told to build a certain amount of embankments but the Women’s Union gave instructions to build this much.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2018 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)] 

SDG 13 and the International Community

Naturally, the DPRK is not exempt to the effects of climate change and recent years have shown that climate change is exposing and hitting some of North Korea’s weakest sectors. The severe droughts and damaging floods from heavy rainfall due to typhoons are all a result of changing weather patterns caused by global warming, which in turn leads to increased food insecurity. The UN Country Team reported that Tropical Cyclone Lingling in 2019 flooded 75,226 hectares of farmland and caused 60% loss in a soya bean production in Chongdan, one of the key agricultural counties in North Korea.

North Korea experienced one of its most disastrous floods in the summer of 2016 which affected the Northern provinces of the country. NKDB’s research among North Koreans who left the DPRK in 2018 found that the government made nation-wide efforts for ‘greentrification,’ in which organisations were given orders to plant trees in the mountains. Forests in mountainous areas were originally cleared to grow more crops after the great famine in the 1990s, which contributed to further soil erosion and river silting. Consequently, the government decided to tackle the problem by planting more trees on the mountainside. This decision has meant that citizens who had been using the land to grow their own crops were now prevented from doing so and were ordered to plant new trees. However, research and testimonies have shown that the planted trees are unable to survive the poor soil conditions in North Korea and are unable to grow in the absence of proper care. Furthermore, these state efforts have violated the right to food of those residing in rural areas who are wholly dependent on personal crops gathered from personal plots on mountainsides. Testimonies were gathered by NKDB, which detailed citizens in North Hamgyong Province being prevented from farming food for their own livelihood in the summer of 2017. The information providers claimed that the food situation has become even more difficult than before.

Reforestation and afforestation activities, while important, not only affect the right to food but also violate labour rights as it is often the most vulnerable groups who are mobilised to participate in nation-wide tree planting schemes.

In the DMZ forum, it was announced that despite the government’s reports that it has made efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the DPRK uses coal to produce much of its electricity. As a result, the air quality near power plants and industrial sites periodically exceeds national environmental standards.

However, the Hanns Seidel Foundation has reported that the North Korean government has made efforts to increase awareness on nature conservation through public education. The Foundation also noticed an increase in environmental awareness amongst their partners in projects that the organisation carries out in North Korea.

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