Are we Leaving Disabled Persons Behind in the Climate Crisis?

3 December 2019

Today is the International Day of Disabled People, which revolves around the theme “Promoting the participation of Persons with Disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda”. The latter is an agenda that involves leaving no one behind. Yet, disabled people are already being left behind in the climate crisis and the irony of this is not lost to us.

As COP25 begins, there is no better time to recognise the rights of  the disabled – a community that needs to be at the forefront of our minds when discussing human rights under the UNFCCC process and the Paris Agreement, including, but not limited to Article 6, Loss & Damage, NDC development and implementation, COP location and relocation.

The disabled community is extremely knowledgeable and resourceful in designing adaptive solutions to complex problems: its experience and knowledge is thus extremely important as the world gathers to seek solutions to strengthen the resilience of our societies. Yet, the disabled community has no formal voices in the negotiations. 

At the national level, many of ECO’s members implore COP attendees to ensure that “disabled people cannot be the expected casualty of the climate crisis”. Thus reminding us all that “this fight belongs to disabled people too, but we don’t have a focal point.” Many disabled people are asking, and rightly so, “Will people with disabilities actually be involved in the discussion that will disproportionately affect us?”

The reality is that disabled communities are already on the front line. When disasters hit,  we are literally left behind, and it is no surprise that we are the first to die in fires, floods, heat waves, black-outs caused by climatic events and other climate impacts.

To be able to assert our leadership in climate action we need a space to participate and ensure that our rights are met within the UNFCCC. One way to address this would be to form a Disabled Persons Constituency. The disabled community is recognised as a legitimate stakeholder group in other UN processes, so why not here? The creation of such a group must be conducted in a way that ensures disability rights and disability justice that is  in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by 181 Parties to the Paris Agreement.

Disability led climate action is sorely needed if we are to be successful in staying below 1.5°C and ensuring a just transition.

To this end, we must uphold the preamble in the Paris Agreement and fight to uphold human and disability rights in these negotiations. The International Day of Disabled Persons is a great way to celebrate all that the disabled community has achieved and all that we must still fight for. We call upon our allies in other constituencies, and in COP parties to support the disabled community in establishing a Constituency so that our  voice can finally be heard in these halls, and to join us with an action today at 13.00 outside hall 10.

Nothing About, Us Without Us.

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