Environmental professionals flag up human cost of climate change

Climate change is violating the fundamental human right to a safe, secure and sustainable environment and the effects are falling disproportionately on developing countries.

As governments will gather in Copenhagen over the UN’s Human Rights Day, CIWEM demands that the international community consider the human rights dimension of climate change.

Climate change poses a direct threat to a wide range of universally recognised fundamental rights, such as the right to life, food, adequate housing, health and water.

The poorest countries in the world, which have contributed the least to human-induced climate change, are being hit hardest, and vulnerability due to geography is compounded by a lack of resources to cope with the adverse effects of climate change.

Most of the work related to climate change has so far focused on the development and implementation of mitigation and adaptation strategies.

However, CIWEM believes that any sustainable solution to climate change must take into account its human impact.

Plans for climate change equity must be part of a global framework of commitments to social, economic and political change around the world.

Policy makers must ensure that human rights impacts of policies and measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change are properly assessed.

CIWEM believes that ‘contraction and convergence’ offers an effective model for the delivery of equity in mitigation, however climate adaptation will require the development of more financial and political infrastructure.

In a recent response to the All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group consultation on climate change equity, CIWEM argues that it will be difficult to achieve because of the existence of too many vested interests on the part of developed countries, combined with rhetoric and political posturing that undermines progress.

It is often assumed that there would be one standard for industrialised countries and another for developing countries. However to tackle the climate change problem fairly and effectively, CIWEM believes we must get beyond these simple divisions and agree upon a sound and constructive framework.

CIWEM’s response says: “Plans to achieve global equity are unlikely to succeed where the political will and infrastructure is not only missing but actually works against the possibility of achieving it.

“The re-distribution of wealth and power is an essential pre-requisite to climate change equity. Yet in this respect consumer-led democracies appear to have a vested interest in maintaining the hierarchy of rich and poor, and likewise with those equipped to adapt to climate change and those who are not.

“The underlying notion that GDP and large populations are measures of success or the mark of civil societies cannot continue. To do so shows a disregard for the goal of fairness and a sustainable world.

“A change in priorities is now required so that the measure of a successful society is one that meets robust tests of equity, sustainability and human wellbeing.”

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