In 2010, nearly 200 nations agreed to limit global warming to below 2°C as a goal in addressing climate change. But the impacts of 2°C degrees of warming are still devastating; many are calling for a 1.5°C limit, as two degrees of warming will negatively affect the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights. In December 2015, governments will meet in Paris to agree to a new climate agreement that will dictate the future of climate action.
To be effective, countries must agree to a deal that addresses the human rights and equity dimensions of climate change. In other words, countries must take urgent action to reduce carbon emissions to minimize climate impacts and to integrate rights protections to prevent harms resulting from actions taken to address climate change. Ambitious climate actions that respect human rights and protect ecosystems will lead to better outcomes for all.
On the road to Paris, the Geneva session in February was a milestone and turning point in our collective efforts to integrate human rights in the climate agreement. In particular, the draft negotiating text now includes several references to rights – most notably, a paragraph calling on Parties to “respect, protect, promote, and fulfill human rights” in all climate actions.
In addition to long-term climate action, conference outcomes must also address the short-term steps. Dramatic emissions cuts need to happen now, and developed countries need to put real financial and technological support on the table.
As countries streamline the text for Paris in December, it is imperative that they explicitly recognize that human rights obligations apply when taking climate action.