The following comments were in response to the moderator’s question of whether and why it is so important to do more to link human rights and climate change:
What we are trying to bring about is a two-way process: first, trying to integrate human rights into environmental processes and climate action; and second also the other way around, to integrate the environment and climate change into the human rights way of thinking. And I will be one of many people today to thank Costa Rica because in both fields - human rights and the environment – this country has provided incredibly helpful global leadership.
Both movements have historically had a relationship that is rather “siloed” and separate, and sometimes even in opposition to one another. There is a clear need to break down the walls between them. I’m happy to say that there has been some progress in this regard, but far more needs to be done.
Let us take, for example, the riots in Paris of the “gilets jaunes”. The rioters are claiming, incredibly for us, that environmentalism is somehow for the “elites” and not an issue of concern for the “people”. Similarly, in some countries of Latin America, because indigenous peoples have not been sufficiently consulted and invited to participate in discussions, there have been instances where they have opposed renewable energy projects since they have not been properly informed about what is being planned in their territories.
These examples show to me that environmental and human rights messages are not always getting through to the people who are most affected: the poorest countries and the poorest communities in the richest countries.
After all, as UN High Commissioner Bachelet said at the Human Rights Council last month, climate change is the greatest threat of all time to all human rights. Not only to economic and social rights – such as food, housing and livelihoods – but also civil and political rights, because if there is a state of climate emergency declared, it will be very important to avoid a situation where human rights and the rule of law are set aside. That is a very important point to bear in mind.
All of us working on this issue – whether in the human rights or the environmental movements, in governments, or in the private sector – everybody working to combat climate change needs to do two things:
First of all, to provide better protection to the incredibly brave environmental human rights defenders, indigenous and land rights defenders who are under threat and attack more than ever before. Secondly, to devise much more effective ways of ensuring participation of indigenous peoples, women and youth in climate actions. This includes implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, namely ways to ensure that the stakeholders participate and that mechanisms ate set up to address grievances.