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Human Rights and Climate Change

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A presentation for Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand regarding climate change and its possible impacts on human rights globally.

A presentation for Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand regarding climate change and its possible impacts on human rights globally.

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  • 1. Human Rights and the Environment In the face of climate change Stefanie Rixecker Chair, GT AIANZ
  • 2. PART ONE: THE ENVIRONMENT ©CSIRO
  • 3. Systems & connections…
    • Everything is connected
    • Environment depends upon relationships
    • Relationships require feedback (communication)
    • Feedback can be linear effects, cumulative & synergistic
    • No ‘free lunch’
  • 4. Humans as part of nature…
    • Work within its limits or carrying capacity
    • Seek to sustain the environment in order to sustain life
    • A healthy environment is a healthy people
    • Often deemed a ‘traditional’ or ‘indigenous’ paradigm
    All living beings are kin. Chief Oren Lyons, Onondaga Nation
  • 5. Humans as separate from nature…
    • Control over the environment
    • Technology can solve ecological problems
    • Limits exist only in the mind
    • Today is everything
    • Short-term gains over long-term consequences
  • 6. When the environment is a resource -
    • Humans extract raw materials, e.g., oil, trees, fish
    • Humans use water & air as sinks, i.e., pollution
    • Humans maximise for current generations
    • Humans ‘externalise’ the costs of natural resource exploitation
  • 7. Environmental policy developments
    • 1972: UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference)
    • “ Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he [sic] bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.”
    • Recommended creation of UNEP, instrumental in developing over 30 international and regional treaties
    • PRINCIPLES :
    • Cooperation in addressing adverse environmental effects
    • Inter-generational equity in exploitation of natural resources
    • Inclusion of environmental considerations in economic development
    • Need to reduce environmental pollution
    • Correlation between environmental pollution & threats to health
    • State responsibility for activities within their jurisdiction or control
    • The obligation to compensate victims of pollution and other environmental damage
  • 8. PART TWO: HR FRAMEWORKS
  • 9. UDHR – Article 1
    • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
    © Carter Centre
  • 10. UDHR – key principles
    • A declaration, not a treaty
    • Duties owed to fellow human beings, not the state
    • Highlights the universality and indivisibility of human rights
    Children in Newtok, Alaska © Brian Adams
  • 11. UDHR Core Rights
    • Civil & Political
      • Life, Liberty & Security of Person
    • Economic & Social
      • Adequate standard of living
  • 12.
    • “ The destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our communities.”
      • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • 13. Environment & HR
    • Environment is the one area not explicitly noted in the UDHR
    • Yet, war, torture, and grave abuses of human rights are directly linked with natural resource exploitation
  • 14. Right to Quality Environment?
    • The ‘right to environment’ has NOT been articulated in the UDHR or the international Bill of Rights
    • Only other aligned international law, Humanitarian Law, highlights:
      • “ It is prohibited to employ methods of warfare which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment.”
        • Protocol 1, Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949
  • 15. Links with other conventions
    • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
      • Article 24 (2)(c)--“through the adequate provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking water, taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution”
    • UN Convention on Biological Diversity (1993)
    • UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1994)
  • 16. Further developments included
    • UNEP draft Principles (1978)
    • World Conservation Strategy (1980)
    • Montevideo Programme (1981)
    • World Charter for Nature (1982)
    • World Commission on Environment and Development – Brundtland Report (1987)
    • UN Conference on Environment and Development – Rio Conference (1992)
  • 17. Powerful international initiatives…
    • International Labour Organisation’s No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ILO169, 1989)
      • Emphasised need for special measures to protect environment &
      • Indigenous Peoples’ involvement in formulating national & regional decisions
    • Hague Declaration on the Environment (1989)
      • “ The right to live is the right from which all other rights stem. Guaranteeing this right is the paramount duty of those in charge of all States throughout the world.”
  • 18. Regional options?
    • No regional instruments applicable in the Asia Pacific Region wrt ‘right to environment’
    • 2x conventions that do so elsewhere are:
      • African Banjul Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights 1981
      • American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social & Cultural Rights
    Bhopal women’s march, 2007
  • 19. Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (1998)
    • Developed through the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) – Aarhus Convention
    • Regarded as a ‘new’ kind of environmental agreement, linking environmental rights & human rights
    • Every person has the right “to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being”
    • Critical aspect – participatory decision-making
  • 20. Right derived from custom?
    • In 1994, Special Rapporteur, Mrs. Fatmah Zohra Ksentini, argued that:
    • “ All persons have the right to a secure, healthy and ecologically sound environment. This right and other human rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, are universal, interdependent and indivisible .”
  • 21. Resources & Subsistence Rights: Typology of conflict…
    • Extraction of raw materials, e.g., oil, fisheries
    • Alterations of ecosystems
    • Reprogramming of nature, e.g., GMOs
    • Destabilization, e.g., climate change
    • Pollution of urban living spaces
    • Changing prices of natural resources
    • -- Wolfgang Sachs,
    • Environment & Human Rights (1993)
  • 22. PART THREE: GEOGRAPHY OF CHANGE
  • 23. Climate change?
    • Entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, spanning 1m sq km, started to melt for the 1 st time since it formed 11,000 years ago
    • By 2100, top layer of Arctic permafrost will melt, releasing vast amounts of carbon stores
    • Of the world’s 88 largest glaciers, 79 are receding
    • There is more CO 2 in the atmosphere than at any time in the last 650,000 years
  • 24. IPCC 2007…
    • A very high confidence that the globally averaged net effect of human activities since 1750 has been of warming…
    • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal…
    • Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations…
  • 25. UN Climate Change Conference 2007, Bali, Indonesia – 3 to14 December
    • “ As a global environmental hazard, climate change affects the enjoyment of human rights as a whole and therefore, it is at the core of the indivisible, interdependent and interrelated nature of each and all human rights as initially emphasized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights .”
      • OHCHR, 2007
    Oxfam at Bali Conference © IISD
  • 26. Climate Change Impacts
    • Intensified diseases
    • Weather extremes
    • Sea level rise
    • Forced migration
    • Livelihood loss
    • Cultural loss
    • Food insecurity
    • Ecosystem collapse
  • 27. The ‘Resource Curse’
  • 28. Environmental Refugees
    • No international convention addresses this refugee category
    • International infrastructure currently uses ‘environmentally displaced persons’
    • Need for a new legal architecture
  • 29. Displaced peoples & destabilization
    • 22 million people displaced due to war & persecution
    • 25 million displaced due to environmental impacts
    • By 2010, estimated 50 million displaced persons due to environmental change
      • Norman Myers, Oxford
  • 30. Face of the future?
    • Arctic & Antarctic-- ‘tip of the iceberg’
    • Greater warming at the poles, intensified consequences
    • Polar shelf melting
    • Collapse of key climate systems
    • Feedback amplified
    Photo: Polar Bear International
  • 31. Indigenous rights & climate change
    • Case from the Northern Inuit peoples (155,000)
    • Submitted a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights –7 Dec 2005
    • Rejected ‘without prejudice,’ 16 Nov 2006
    • In Feb 2007, invited to provide testimony to IACHR on Climate Change & Human Rights
    Sheila Watt-Cloutier , Chair Inuit Circumpolar Council (2002-2006) & Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, 2007
  • 32. Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s testimony
    • “… what I know best is from my own region, the Arctic….However, you can consider similar impacts on most indigenous peoples who remain integrated with their ecosystems. Inuit and other indigenous peoples continue to be an integral part, and not separate from, the ecosystems in which we live. Climate change brings into question the basic survival of indigenous people and indigenous cultures….”
      • March 2007
  • 33. Not since 1931….
    • In 2006, NZers witnessed an enormous iceberg floating alongside the South Island
    • A fleeting tourist attraction
    • Portend of things to come?
  • 34. Sink or swim?
  • 35. Tuvalu – HR & Climate Change
    • 1 Oct 2007:
      • Deputy PM of Tuvalu, Hon. Tavau Teiim, indicated need to consider serious impacts of Climate Change on Small Island States, like Tuvalu
  • 36. Tuvalu…
    • A string of 9 picturesque atolls and coral islands
    • Resides 4 metres above sea level
    • 10,500 residents remain; 4000 in New Zealand
    • NZ agrees to host 75 new migrants pa
    • One island has already ‘sunk’ due to storms in 1990s
    • Now suffer from King Tides
  • 37. Fanafuti, Wharf – Low & High Tides
  • 38. Tuvalu – aerial width…
  • 39. Kiribati in waiting
    • June 2008, President Anote Tong of Kiribati visited NZ
    • Worst case scenario, Kiribati will be submerged by end of century
    • Hosts 92,000 inhabitants
    • “ No, it’s not an issue of economic growth. It’s an issue of survival.”
  • 40. Critical rights to secure:
    • Existence of procedural rights, e.g., access to information
    • Right to participation & access to remedies (Aarhus Convention)
    • Recognition of environmental refugees
    • Environmental protection in bilateral agreements, including FTAs
  • 41. Peace in our time…
    • Evolve & strengthen humanitarian values
    • Improve domestic & regional disaster preparedness and response systems
    • Provide for health & care in the community--including cultural care of displaced persons, taking account of their human rights
    AI activism, 2006 ©Amnesty International
  • 42. At home…
    • Lobby for increased and enhanced environmental policy and legislation
    • Support environmental projects that yield improved subsistence/living standards, e.g., clean water
    • Seek answers from officials
    • Make connections!
  • 43. There is much to do…
    • Learn more at www.amnesty.org.nz
    • Write letters
    • Imagine another world…
    • Start an Amnesty Group in your community, school or church because…
  • 44. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness…