Climate change is a policy issue that is tied to human rights. The physical impacts of climate change include water scarcity, sea-level rise, extreme weather and increased temperatures. All of which are related to the issues of poverty, discrimination and inequality.
Policy perspectives have both legal and moral implications which auger a number of important questions. On this front no concern is more pressing than the impacts of climate change on the human rights of the world’s most vulnerable populations. Those who are most at risk from climate change are the poor who live in the developing word.
The conceptual and legal framework for human rights and climate change has been employed by governments, United Nations, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, human rights and environmental advocates, and academics.
Guidance on national and international policy on climate change comes from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the core international human rights instruments. In 2008, the International Council on Human Rights also published a guide. Another useful publication is “A Moral Imperative: The Human Rights Implications of Climate Change,” by Sara C Aminzadeh.
Climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts are directly connected to human rights and related legal protections. The primary mitigation issue involves policies that contribute to reducing emissions and creating a low carbon economy. In addition to domestic adaptation efforts, related policy issues include initiatives to help the developing world. Climate assistance for poorer countries was at the center of the COP 19 climate discussions in Warsaw earlier this year. This includes climate finance, the green climate fund and loss/damage assistance.
In what is known as the Copenhagen Agreement of 2009,
countries including the US made commitments to reduce their carbon emissions. American President Barack Obama committed the US to
reduce carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, 42 percent
below 2005 levels by 2030, and 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.
Data from an April 2013 report by the Energy Information Administration
(EIA), showed a 12 percent reduction in the period between 2005 to 2012
(although much of this decline is attributable to the recession).
Legislative efforts to enact climate change policies in the US have
been mired in
partisan politics. This includes failed attempts to secure a
cap-and-trade deal. Nonetheless, in 2013, President Obama advanced a climate action plan and he has used his executive privileges to increase the federal government’s use of renewable energy and decrease their carbon footprint.
While we have yet to make the kind of progress we need, we are nonetheless moving forward on progressive climate change policies in places like Europe and to a lesser extent the US. However, much more will need to be accomplished if we are to address the challenges posed by climate change as it relates to human rights.
© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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