Climate justice is about human rights. A warming planet has implications for everybody but the poor are the most vulnerable. The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) in 2013 reiterated the findings of previous reports
stating with even more scientific certainty that anthropogenic climate
change will increase the frequency of extreme weather events, raise sea
levels, exacerbate droughts, increase water shortages, and accelerate
the spread of diseases.
Consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are morally and legally beholden to the world’s poor.
In an open letter to all Permanent Missions in New York and in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay emphasized the responsibilities all States have to ensure full coherence between efforts to advance the green economy, on the one hand, and their human rights obligations on the other.
The relationship between climate change and human rights was acknowledged in 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council in resolution 7/23. This resolution expressed concern that climate change, “poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the word.”
On 25 March 2009, the Council adopted resolution 10/4, which states, “climate change-related impacts have a range of implications, both direct and indirect, for the effective enjoyment of human rights …” This was then followed by a panel discussion on 15 June 2009 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva.
In 2009 the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner conducted a study that examined the relationship between climate change and human rights. This report discussed how “observed and projected impacts of climate change have implications for the enjoyment of human rights and for the obligations of States under international human rights law.”
In September 2011, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 18/22. This resolution affirmed that “human rights obligations, standards, and principles have the potential to inform and strengthen international and national policy making in the area of climate change, promoting policy coherence, legitimacy, and sustainable outcomes.”
Pursuant to resolution 18/22, a seminar was convened in 2012 to address the adverse impacts of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights, with a view to “following up on the call for respecting human rights in all climate change-related actions and policies and forging stronger cooperation between the human rights and climate change communities.”
A summary report of the seminar was presented at the 18th session of the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (COP18) in 2012.
In 2012, Rio +20 discussed how to build a green economy to lift people out of poverty without destroying the environment; and how to improve international coordination for sustainable development. This then gave way to making sustainable development goals the replacement for the millennium development goals which are due to expire in 2015.
© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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