As climate change becomes more intense, its impact is more than rising seas and alterations in weather patterns, it is and will become a human rights issue.
Climate change is increasing inequality and impacting territorial integrity and security as well as provoking the forced displacement of people and thus seriously affecting the human rights of people all over the world.
This was the message at a recent side event to the United Nations Human Rights Council held in Geneva.
The event, called “Climate Change and Human Rights – and Ethics Perspective,” was held on 19 June and organized by the Geneva Interfaith Forum on Climate Change, Environment and Human Rights (GIFCCEHR), of which the World Council of Church (WCC) is a founder member. It was also co-sponsored by nearly a dozen civil society organizations.
The event, which gathered around forty participants, including scientists, representatives from foundations and religious leaders, stressed that climate change is and will seriously impact human rights.
Highlighting the relevance ethics have in the discussion on climate change and human rights, Dr Guillermo Kerber, programme executive of the WCC Care for Creation and Climate Justice programme, who moderated the panel, reminded the group that the GIFCCEHR together with NGOs and some states have been calling for the establishment of a Special Procedure mandate on Human Rights and Climate Change.
Dr Renate Christ, secretary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) explained how climate change is having an adverse impact on people’s most basic rights such as health and livelihoods.
Taking into account the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of IPCC, she said climate change is increasing inequality and affecting territorial integrity and security. In this context, AR5 highlights that reducing CO2 emissions continues to be crucial to effectively reduce the impacts of climate change.
Christ suggested that climate action based on science can help protect the basic human rights of individuals both in this generation and in future ones, as climate change poses questions to intergenerational justice.
Daniel Murphy of the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), showed how climate change is provoking forced displacement and thus seriously affecting the human rights of people all over the world, according to the work of the Foundation in various parts of the world.
Taking this into account, the EJF has joined others who are calling the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change.
Sister Jayanti, European director of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, shared how they are implementing concrete projects on agriculture and solar energy in India to address climate change.
She said that it is the ethics behind such initiatives – that of fairness and justice – what makes them valuable contributions. She called to bring together “head and heart” to acknowledge the spiritual consciousness and ethics we share as global family with values such as peace, love and joy.
Interventions from the floor highlighted the consequences of climate change in Papua New Guinea, the relationship between scientific evidence and responsibility of certain states on CO2 emissions, the need to engage business in addressing climate change.
The discussion on Human Rights and Climate change will continue at the Human Rights Council in the future which is discussing a new resolution on the topic.
It was further stressed at the side event, the need to link these discussions with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process and the UN Climate Summit which will take place in September 2014 in New York.