Climate change and Human Rights

Geneva, 17 March 2011- Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Center for International Environment Law,  Earthjustice and WaterLex led a side event at Room XXV, Palais des Nations on the topic “Climate Change and Human Rights.”  The panel was composed of Joshua Cooper (University of Hawaii), Alyssa Johl (Center for International Environment Law), Yves Lador (Earthjustice) and Maria Francisca Ize-Charin (WaterLex). Felix Kirchmeier (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung) acted as the moderator.

In view of the perceived inadequacy of the establishment of United Nations Framework on Climate Change (“UNFCC”) to fully address the issue of climate change, the side event sought to  take stock of current developments under the UNFCC from a human rights perspective and encourage debate on what will be necessary in achieving greater coherence of actions. Pertinently, the side event sought to answer the questions:  (1) Would the establishment of the Special Rapportuer on Climate Change and Human Rights a promising avenue; and (2) Could such procedure consolidate voices of the human rights system, clarify legal issues and undertake fact finding mission into concrete violations?
Madame Ize-Charrin gave a clear response.  She said that the establishment of a Special Rapporteur is urgent and highly recommended to have a global and coherent policy to deal with the effects of climate change.  As one of the proponents of WaterLex, she was greatly concerned on the issue of climate change since it can over all affect the quality of water that is vital to humanity’s survival.  She enumerated the four (4) direct effects of climate change, namely: (1) rise of sea level, (2) temperature change, (3) extreme weather condition, and (4) changes in precipitation patterns.
The panellists endeavoured to foster a united action to protect human rights in the midst of globalization.  Negotiations among nations must not only consider the aspect of climate change but must indispensably consider human rights. Among the most disadvantaged groups identified at the side event are the indigenous peoples, children and women.  Another issue raised was the possible, but not yet clearly identified, association of poverty to climate change.
Other pressing matters were brought in the side event such as (1) the United State’s obligations on large emission of green house gases, (2) the clear evidence of adverse effects of climate change on the ground with particular mention on Maldives, and (3) the need to strictly monitor oil producing companies.
In conclusion, the panellist emphasized that combating climate change by immediate and drastic emissions reductions and dealing with its existing and future effects represents one of the most urgent challenges for the international community. This cannot be solved at the national level alone, but only by the cooperation of the industrialised countries, together with the emerging and the developing countries.