Posted by: Dr Churchill | March 1, 2012

Human rights and climate change

In the age of climate change human rights are a constantly evolving concept, much like the changing erratic weather and the chaos caused by the constantly warming planet.

Yet where do Human Rights and the movement to adopt them for Climate Change related issues as it was pioneered by the Environmental Parliament, stands on the issue of Climate Change as it affects humans?

Nowhere yet. Because we have no human rights justice where the environment is concerned. YET…

Still this last week we had a conference in Geneva where we discussed just those issues.

And as it turns out the Peoples and the countries that historically have contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions are the most affected by global warming. The worst effects of global warming and climate change, represent  a “grave climate injustice” that highlights the link between our failures at conservation and stewardship of our Environment and common ecosystems and the trashing of human rights worldwide.

And we should remember that as we take steps to address climate change, we must not do so at the cost of the poorest, the most vulnerable and the worst discriminated against, members of the world’s communities. Of course they are the least vocal or they seem to matter the least to the world’s Media empires and to the Banksters out there, but they are just as human as you and I, and their Life has the same value as anyone else’s.

In the Human Rights and the Environment conference in Geneva last week the Environmental Parliament was well represented with both experts and MPs and it became quickly & blindingly obvious and painful how far down the wrong path we’ve all gone.

Global warming would have a harsh impact on many of the least developed countries and particularly marginalized communities, which suffer from poor resilience and inadequate ability to respond to climate change and it would have a very harsh impact on many of the least developed countries and particularly marginalized communities, which suffer from poor resilience and inadequate ability to respond to climate change.

“The worst affected areas include Central, East and West Africa, the Pacific and South Asia. Almost every sub-Saharan African country is vulnerable to a far greater degree, as are all small island states and low-lying coastal countries,” stated Mrs Moni, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh.

“Historically responsible countries must not turn a blind eye to the denial of human rights of millions affected in vulnerable countries,” Moni said.

“A principal measure of human rights obligations can be seen through assessing the harm caused to others. There are sufficient reasons to affirm that CO2 emission reduction and compensatory financing, constitute human rights obligations.”

“Current International Law states that it is the obligation of each and every state not to allow itself knowingly to be used for acts contrary to the rights of other states,” Foreign Minister Moni told the conference, adding that the dismal failure by responsible countries to take remedial action against climate change, constitutes a violation of human rights.

On the same note of high level threat warning, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, warned, that global warming would exacerbate “so-called natural disasters”, which killed approximately 296,000 people in 2010 alone, mainly in the developing world.

“Slowly and incrementally, land will become too dry to till, crops will die, rising sea levels will flood coastal dwellings and spoil freshwater, species will disappear and livelihoods will vanish. Mass migration and conflicts will result and then only gradually will these awful consequences touch upon the lifestyles and activities of those who are most responsible for global warming.”

The impact of climate change would be most acutely felt by those whose rights protections were already precarious, including the poor, migrants, the disabled, indigenous people and women.

All the scientific experts in the conference agreed, that natural disasters are already causing millions of people to leave their homes in search for survival. Migrations caused by climate change are a real threat and a trend expected to increase dramatically in the coming years, as the earth gets warmer. Just look at the Horn of Africa wholesale climate migrations today to get a glimpse of the future.

“Migrants who are compelled to leave their homes as a coping strategy will often remain in a precarious position throughout the cycle of their journey; they will be vulnerable to human rights violations as they move across borders, and will frequently be in an irregular situation,” Pillay said.

Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo said that by 2050, there would be about 200 million “climate migrants” around the world, including 20 million displaced by rising sea levels and resulting salinity, as well as storm surges and cyclones, in Bangladesh alone.

Dinah Shelton, who chairs the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said various regional treaties – to which over 100 countries are signatories – enshrine the “right to a safe and healthy environment”.

“Why take a human rights approach to climate change? First, in a rather cynical way because nothing else is working,” said Shelton, of the George Washington University Law School.

We have seen similar efforts through the environmental law, and we’ve seen now 20-25 years of sustainable development since the Brundtland Commission sustainability discussion on business and development.

But the emphasis has always been much more on ‘development’ rather than on the  ‘sustainable’ part of the equation and nowhere we sought to rescue people and ecosystems.

Because of that, the climate change situation does not seem to have improved at all. And the ravaging effects rage on.

So who is to say that the same government policies obedient to our corporate bureaucracy and method of PR sustainability will ever produce positive effects for the environment and it’s Peoples?

Because we are failing on the positive effects front dismally.

Clearly we have failed going down this path and need to change course.




The real question is:

Can a renewed focus on human rights, address these issues in a more effective manner?

I think the answer is yes, partly because of the very high place that human rights law plays in the global community.

And partly because of self interest.

Because as the tables turn the same thing could happen to us and we might become the climate refugees suddenly.

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