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Climate change is a global threat to human rights, UN experts warn States involved in climate negotiations

GENEVA (17 October 2014) – Climate change interferes with the enjoyment of human rights recognised and protected by international law, said a group of United Nations independent experts in an open letter* to all Governments involved in the current round of climate negotiations.

The human rights expert calls comes ahead of next week’s meeting in Bonn (20-25 October) of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, to discuss the application of the Climate Change Convention principles, as well as measures for mitigation of, and adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

“We call on the State Parties to include language in the 2015 climate agreement that provides that the Parties shall, in all climate change related actions, respect, protect, promote, and fulfil human rights for all. And we urge the State Parties at COP 20 in Lima to launch a work program to ensure that human rights are integrated into all aspects of climate actions,” they stated.

“We urge the State Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to recognise the adverse effects of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights, and to adopt urgent and ambitious mitigation and adaptation to prevent further harm,” they said.

The experts called on the State Parties to the UNFCCC “to ensure full coherence between their solemn human rights obligations and their efforts to address climate change, one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time.”

They also drew special attention to the unequal impacts of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights worldwide, and particularly the disproportionate effects of climate change on the vulnerable. “Particular care must be taken to anticipate, prevent and remedy negative effects on persons living in poverty, which may include indigenous peoples, minorities, migrants and displaced persons, older persons, persons with disabilities, and children, as well as to empower and protect the rights of women,” they said.

Furthermore, the experts noted, the State has the responsibility to ensure the protection of human rights defenders against any violence, threats, retaliation, discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate activities, including in relation to climate change.

“The responsibilities of the State Parties in all of the above respects should not be viewed as stopping at their borders,” they stressed. “Climate change is a global threat to human rights that requires global cooperation to solve, in accordance with the principle of international cooperation firmly entrenched in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a host of human rights treaties and declarations. States must work together in good faith to protect the environment that supports and enables the full enjoyment of our human rights.”

The experts underscored the need for urgency in addressing this topic due to the approaching deadlines for the climate negotiations to reach a concrete solution. Following the ADP meeting in Bonn, the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC meets this December in Lima (COP 20), with the goal of adopting a new legal instrument at its next meeting, in Paris in December 2015 (COP 21).

(*) Read the open letter signed by 28 UN human rights experts: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/SP/SP_To_UNFCCC.pdf

The UN human rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
For further information log onto: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

For enquiries and media requests, please contact Melinda Ching Simon (+41 22 917 9113 mchingsimon@ohchr.org) or write to ieenvironment@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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