One of the most pressing issues of today is climate change, the significant increase in Earth’s overall temperature and climate.Typically, climate change is considered an environmental issue, but during her visit to the Philippines last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the Obama Administration joins the United Nations, and other world organizations in viewing climate change as both an environmental and human rights concern.
The results of climate change, which include rising ocean waters, drought, floods, and changing ecosystems restricts peoples’ access to the universally-recognized human rights of food, water, and adequate housing. Extreme climate conditions cause the spread and increased susceptibility to weather-related disease.Those who live in small island countries, women, and certain indigenous people are the most vulnerable groups.For example, the Inuit people of the Arctic regions of Russia, Greenland, Canada and the US, view climate change as an enormous impediment to their cultural survival. Dramatic changes in temperature has caused major shifts in their lands due to rapidly melting snow and ice, and has even resulted in the introduction of new animal species.Consequently, the Inuit people have lost homes, access to work, and the ability to partake in traditional activities like hunting, which is closely linked to their unique cultural identity.
In light of these issues, rethinking climate change from a human rights perspective seems to be a rightly-growing trend throughout the global community.For example, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights advocates a holistic approach to dealing with climate change, one that incorporates its human rights impact and the negative effects it has on societies around the world with the purely environmental concerns.This reasoning is based on the principle that human rights are indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated, as stated in the Vienna Declaration of Human Rights, which formally reaffirmed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Charter in 1993.
The UN Human Rights Council strengthened their approach this past March with the adoption of a resolution declaring that climate change acutely affects human rights, especially those whose cultural identities are intertwined with the environment.Discussion of climate change as a human rights issue will continue next month in Copenhagen when world leaders from over 40 countries meet for the greatly-anticipated United Nations Climate Change Conference.From December 7-18, representatives will hammer out a comprehensive international climate change agreement, using a draft negotiating text that will, for the first time, introduce the human rights aspect of climate change.
While most in the international community can agree that climate change is, at least, an environmental issue with human rights implications, others see climate change as a competing topic; one that may overshadow more “traditional” human rights issues. Others still, such as former President of Ireland and former UN Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, work to promote a “climate-justice approach,” placing human rights at the very center of the climate change debate.As Robinson wrote in her foreword for the report, Climate Change and Human Rights, “[t]he human rights framework reminds us that climate change is about suffering – about the human misery that results directly from the damage we are doing to nature… [I]f we build human rights criteria into our future planning, we will better understand who is at risk and how we should act to protect them.”
Certainly, when put in those terms, it is difficult to deny that human rights and climate change are, if nothing else, irrevocably linked.
Photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/christianrevivalnetwork
Popularity: 2% [?]