COP23 is an Opportunity to Emphasize Human Rights in Climate Action

Building on the momentum in the two years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the upcoming COP23 is an opportunity for negotiators to reiterate the importance of human rights in climate action and take concrete steps toward implementing the agreement at a global scale.

There is no doubt: climate change is a human rights issue. In the last few months, this has once again been made clear as hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding have had devastating impacts on people’s lives — particularly on the livelihoods and rights of those least responsible for climate change. Parties gathering next week for COP23, the 23rd meeting of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany, should keep this in mind as they return to the negotiating table.

COP23 marks the first time a small island state, Fiji, will be presiding over a COP. Fiji and the broader Pacific Islands region are some of the areas most vulnerable to climate change. By 2050, as many as 1.7 million people in the Pacific Islands could be displaced by climate change. Fiji itself is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as many of its islands are low-lying and vulnerable to cyclones and flooding. Further, Fiji and other Pacific Island nations face difficulties in fully implementing climate policies due to limited capacity. The fact that the Government of Fiji will be presiding over the COP this year should highlight the urgency of rights-based climate action.

As part of its presidency, Fiji will foster an open and inclusive Talanoa Dialogue to help bring parties together. Talanoa is a cultural process in Fiji based on mutual listening. In bringing this concept to the COP, the Fiji presidency hopes to avoid devolving into a “blame game” and instead join together to reflect candidly on the progress countries are making.

In 2018, countries will adopt a Rule Book for implementing the Paris Agreement. It is essential that these guidelines reflect not only the commitment to halt climate change but also the vision of a rights-based agreement embodied in the Agreement’s preamble — but that work can’t wait until next year.

In order to be prepared to adopt a strong, rights-based Rule Book next year and to increase the ambition of countries’ climate policies, negotiators at COP23 must:

  • Create a draft document that reflects tangible progress on the implementation of the Paris Agreement — one that reflects a strong commitment to the goals of the Agreement and places human rights at its core;
  • Provide a roadmap for a successful and participatory Talanoa Dialogue that will help increase the collective ambition of parties to fill the gap between where we are and where we need to be to stay at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming or less; and
  • Strengthen the inclusion of groups that can drive the low-carbon transition — from engaging women in meaningful participation and leadership, to facilitating an active role for indigenous peoples to shape and implement climate policy, to ensuring public participation and access to information.

CIEL will be there, equipping negotiators with recommendations on how to ensure that the Rule Book not only provides clear guidelines on implementing climate action but also incorporates adequate respect for and consideration of human rights.

Want to know how you can get involved? Sign our petition to tell big polluters to stop undermining international climate policy! Even though the US has announced its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the US delegation has continued to push the agenda of the fossil fuel industry in climate talks. With your help, we can shine a light on the influence of big polluters and stand up for climate policy that puts people first — not corporations.

By Marie Mekosh, Communications & Development Associate

Originally posted October 31, 2017