Human Rights and Climate Change
M K writes :

The UN Human Rights Coun cil held a seminar in February to further clarify how climate change affects human rights. The link between the two issues is important to build a fair foundation for global action. Climate change is also a human rights issue.

Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni described the devastation caused by climate-linked disasters as a threat to its people's rights to food, water, health and housing.

The Philippines is in an equally precarious situation. Its Commissioner for Climate Change Mary Lucille Sering spoke of how many storms and floods had killed many hundreds of people last year and the country has to spend or find US $8 billion for rebuilding damaged areas and property.

The two-day meeting arose from a resolution of the Human Rights Council last September reiterating concerns on how climate change poses an immediate threat to people and has adverse implications for the full enjoyment of human rights.
A major question is how the interface between the climate issue and human rights should be framed.

For one thing climate change is a complex and multi-dimensional crisis involving environment, development and equity. It thus has to be addressed in an integrated way, as a package.

No doubt the developing countries now take the climate issue seriously. Their immediate need is to cope with climate-linked and natural disasters. The number and severity of extreme weather events, such as heavy rainfall, flooding, storms and hurricanes have risen in recent years, affecting millions of people and causing damage worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

There is yet to be an adequate international system to assist countries to cope with disasters and help with rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The developing countries have many difficulties and dilemmas. They need to divert increasing resources to climate adaptation which includes disaster preparedness and management and coping with extensive damage.

They also need to deliver social and economic development, which is necessary if their citizens are to realise their human rights to food, water, health and development.

And they also need to contribute to the global mitigation effort by taking anti-emission measures such as conserving forests, phasing in renewable energy as well as reforming industry and transport.

The developing countries face the dilemma of having to meet all these competing needs and imperatives, while not having enough resources.

There is competition for scarce government funds, while private firms need support if they are to switch successfully to low-emission production methods.

Between 1850 and 2010, about 1,300 giga tonnes (Gton) of carbon dioxide equivalent were emitted.

Future emissions need to be limited to around 750 Gton of emissions, if people are to have a reasonable chance of keeping global temperature rise to 2°C. Or else a climate calamity is expected.

Since emissions are rising by 40 Gton a year, the carbon space in the atmosphere will be used up within two decades, at the current level and rate of growth of emissions.

In this nightmare world, each country and person will fight only for their own narrow interests, in a mad scramble for survival where the rich and powerful have the advantage and the weak and poor will be pushed aside.

It is important that those involved in protecting human rights join forces with those fighting for justice in climate change so that the first scenario of cooperation and solidarity wins over the second scenario of climate chaos and the law of the jungle.

Vol. 45, No. 3,Aug 5-11, 2012