Hundreds of civil society groups demand human rights are enshrined in 2015 climate agreement

For Immediate Release
December 10, 2014

More than 200 civil society organisations representing hundreds of thousands of people from 40+ countries, and 76 leading human rights experts, are calling on ministers meeting in Lima to enshrine ‘human rights for all’ in the next year’s global climate agreement.

In the letter to top decision-makers published today, individuals and organisations including CARE International, AIDA, CIEL, WWF, 350.org, the World Council of Churches, Greenpeace, Fiji Women’s rights movement, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts plus many others, warn that “a safe climate is critical to the full enjoyment of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water, adequate housing, and self-determination.”

Yet, the groups warn, there is also increasing recognition by the UN Human Rights Council and others that “climate change and certain actions being taken to address climate change interfere with the enjoyment of human rights protected under international law.”

With negotiations for the 2015 Paris agreement underway, now is the time to fully integrate rights protections into the foundations of the new treaty, the groups say. They call on ministers to:

  • Recognise the adverse effects of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights, and to adopt urgent and ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures to prevent further harm.
  • Include language in the 2015 climate agreement that provides that the Parties shall, in all climate change related actions, respect, protect, promote, and fulfill human rights for all.
  • Launch a new UNCCC ‘work programme’ to ensure that human rights are integrated into all aspects of climate actions.

Kit Vaughan, Director of Climate Change at leading development organisation CARE International says: “Climate change is a global injustice and one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time. At CARE, we are deeply concerned about the devastation that climate change is already causing, its disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest people, and on the environments on which we all depend. We are standing with civil society to call for human rights to be the basis for an effective and trusted climate deal.”

Alyssa Johl, Senior Attorney, Climate and Energy Program, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) says: “Human rights is at the core of what is being discussed here in Lima, as climate change threatens the lives and livelihoods of peoples and communities around the world. If the international community does not take action to fully consider and integrate human rights into these negotiations, we will miss a critical opportunity to achieve an effective, sustainable and just outcome next year in Paris.”

John Knox, UN-affiliated independent expert on Human Rights and the Environment, says: “Climate change cannot be effectively addressed without protecting human rights, which is why people are increasingly speaking out on this critical issue. Only yesterday, 76 human rights experts urged governments to recognise the vital importance of human rights. Until we get a signal that we are being heard, we will not stop beating the human rights drum, all the way to Paris.”

Maria Jose Veramandi, Senior Attorney and Coordinator of the Human Rights and Environment Programme at the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) says: “Rights must be respected in all climate-related actions. The Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is just one example of where things can go wrong. We have seen a growing number of rights violations as the CDM has started work, including during the construction of the Santa Rita dam in Guatemala, which has led to violence and repression against indigenous communities and the death of two children. We will not accept a climate-impacted world in which human rights are ignored.”

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

CARE International is a leading humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty and providing lifesaving assistance in emergencies. In nearly 90 countries around the world, CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to help lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. See: www.care-international.org or www.careclimatechange.org

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) works to strengthen and use international law and institutions to protect the environment, promote human health, and ensure a just and sustainable society, see http://www.ciel.org

The Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) is a nonprofit environmental law organisation that works across international borders to defend threatened ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them, see: www.aida-americas.org