Reality Check: Human Rights and Climate Change

10 December 2014

Today, on Human Rights Day, nearly 250 civil society organizations and 76 independent experts of the UN Human Rights Council are calling for human rights to be reflected in the UNFCCC process.

With human beings increasingly impacted by both the causes and the consequences of climate change, it’s obvious that human rights are critical to an effective global solution for the current climate crisis. Yet Parties refuse to grasp what’s needed to effectively protect
human rights and achieve climate justice.

All Parties have existing obligations to protect human rights in the context of climate change and thus have duties to prevent further harm from climate change. This can only be done by applying a rights-based approach which ensures that human rights are taken into account in the development and implementation of
climate policies, mechanisms and institutions.

Parties must also ensure civil society participation in the negotiating process, the development of national commitments and other national level policies, and the development and implementation of climate policies on the ground. Adequate access to information and effective participation increases support for climate policies and their public ownership, and will lead to effective and sustainable outcomes at all levels.

The international community’s failure to take necessary action to mitigate climate change threatens the rights – including the right to development – of vulnerable peoples and communities who are already experiencing the adverse impacts of climate change. In addition, policies such as those governing the Clean Development Mechanism, which do not include adequate safeguards or exclusion lists, have resulted in severe human rights abuses, as evidenced in the Sasan ultra mega coal power project in India, the Barro Blanco
hydroelectric dam in Panama, and the Santa Rita hydroelectric dam in Guatemala.

To prevent further environmental and human harms, human rights must be taken into
account in the development, implementation and monitoring of climate policies. Human rights must be embedded in the architecture of the climate regime in a manner that is consistent with Parties’ existing obligations in the human rights regime. Failure to do so only undermines the quest for an effective future climate deal.

We have no time to lose: protect human rights now.

Reality Check: Human Rights and Climate Change

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