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December 17, 2014
Addressing Climate Change Means Honoring Human Rights
    by Robert Kropp

A large coalition of civil society groups called on climate negotiators to factor human rights into agreements, but CARE concludes that the failure of governments to act leaves the world's most vulnerable people at risk.

I opened my Facebook account this morning to find that Laura Berry, the Executive Director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), had posted a link to an article on the satirical news website The Daily Current: Native American Council Offers Amnesty to 220 Million Undocumented Whites, the article's headline read.

The news story to which the article referred was, of course, President Obama's recent executive action on migration to the US, which will “provide undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship,” according to the White House.

Decorum prevents me from linking to The Daily Current's piece on right-wing pundit Ann Coulter's response to the report on CIA torture recently issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Suffice it to state that both recent news stories have elevated the profile of human rights, a development of which sustainable investors and other advocates of social justice surely approve.

With the planet on course to a global population of nine billion people in an era of growing resource scarcity, the profile for human rights will only increase in the future. And with climate change already impacting poor communities in many developing nations, the issue of migration is certain to become central to any discussion of what it means to be human. So it would seem that government-level climate change negotiations include measures to address human rights as they relate to the issue.

That was certainly the collective opinion of hundreds of civil society groups, a letter from which was delivered to government negotiators at the recent climate change talks in Lima, Peru. “Climate change is a global injustice and one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time,” the letter stated. “It has a disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.”

“Climate change threatens to undermine the protection of human rights,” the letter concluded. “The UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) has a crucial role in effectively protecting human rights for all.”

CARE, the organization behind the letter, set out the following demands for government negotiators at the climate change talks:

1. Urgently shift away from emissions-intensive development models;
2. Achieve a strong draft text for a rights-based, fair, ambitious and binding 2015 climate deal;
3. Promote gender equality in climate action;
4. Make financial and technical resources available to promote low-emission and climate-resilient development;
5. Increase financial support for national adaptation planning;
6. Develop an international mechanism to pay for loss and damage caused by climate impacts; and
7. Strengthen the food and nutrition security of poor and vulnerable people.

After decades of climate negotiations that have done little to turn the tide of climate change toward a more just and sustainable world, one need not be overly cynical to recognize that the demands of CARE and its human rights allies would not be honored. And in Lima, once again, little of lasting substance was realized. Nations agreed to set emissions reduction targets of their own choosing, an agreement that scientists argue will fail to bring the worst effects of climate change under control.

Following the conclusion of the talks, CARE issued a statement, in which it said, “The lack of ambitious action by developed countries is a disgrace and sends the wrong signal to the millions of poor and vulnerable people around the world who are already bearing the brunt of climate change impacts.”

Failures of the talks include no new emissions reduction agreements to limit global temperature increases, and no commitments from developed nations to deliver on their agreement to provide $100 for climate change mitigation in developing nations.

“Countries are stuck in silos and have shown little leadership, no give and take, nor any commitment to
agree a global deal to tackle the greatest injustice of our time,” Dr. Robert Glasser of CARE charged.


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