Concerns mount that human rights are being sidelined at the UN COP25 climate summit

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: “Indigenous people from the Brazilian and Colombian Amazon park an Extinction Rebellion sailboat outside COP25 venue demanding an end to the murders of Indigenous activists. ‘The people responsible for this genocide are inside negotiating,’ says a Colombian Indigenous leader.” – Julia Thomas

There are growing concerns that language referencing human rights is being written out the text of climate accords, that there are insufficient protection measures for the human rights defenders who oppose to climate harmful megaprojects, and about the impacts climate change itself will have on human rights.

Human rights written out

The Guardian reports, “Mary Robinson, former UN high commissioner for human rights [says] some countries were still reluctant to include the language of human rights in official UN outcomes from the [COP 25 climate] talks [in Madrid].”

Grist has noted, “When the Paris Agreement was signed, parties outlined a vision that recognized nations must respect and protect human rights [but by the time of COP24 in Poland] the latest draft of the Paris Rulebook (which outlines what countries need to do to put the accord into action) omits a human rights reference.”

And Mongabay now reports, “One specific aspect of Article 6 enshrined in the original Paris Agreement calls for guaranteeing ‘the protection of human rights’ in all aspects of [the admittedly controversial policy of] carbon trading.”

“But as [World Resources Institute senior associate Kelly] Levin noted after a revised draft of Article 6 was released late Saturday night, December 7, language ‘safeguarding human rights has disappeared from the text.’”

Protection needed for human rights defenders

The UN Human Rights Council has passed a resolution that “stresses that human rights defenders … must be ensured a safe and enabling environment … in recognition of their important role in supporting States to fulfil their obligations under the Paris Agreement.”

The Women and Gender Constituency has stated, “We want to highlight that women environmental rights defenders continue to be on the front lines to save the planet, especially indigenous, black and those from the global south, and yet are harassed, threatened and persecuted by those in authority in their own countries and elsewhere.”

And Katharina Rall from Human Rights Watch has noted, “The frequent attacks and threats against environmental rights defenders throughout the world are an example of why governments need to include protecting rights in their climate policies.”

Impacts on human rights

The Bogota Post has reported, “It is Colombia’s campesinos, who have already borne the brunt of a long conflict, who are likely to be hit hardest [by climate change].”

Furthermore, Lauren Markham has commented, “In Honduras, rainfall will be sparse in areas where it is needed, yet in other areas, floods will increase by 60%. In Guatemala, the arid regions will creep further and further into current agricultural areas, leaving farmers out to dry.”

Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, has stated, “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”

COP26 in Glasgow

National Geographic has explained, “In the 2015 Agreement (which went into effect in 2016), countries agreed to aim to cut their emissions by some self-determined amount by either 2025 or 2030, and to keep revising those goals every five years until then.”

Vox reports, “The COP in Glasgow in November 2020 will mark five years since the signing of the Paris agreement, and it’s the meeting when countries are expected to present their next round of commitments to curb their contributions to climate change.”

The task at hand

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has stated, “We call on leaders and governments to recognise that climate change and environmental degradation severely undermine the human rights of their people.”

COP26 will take place from November 9 to 19 in Glasgow, Scotland.

That will be a pivotal moment to reinsert human rights language in climate agreements, to strengthen protection measures for human rights defenders, and to commit to deeper carbon emission reductions to avoid worsening climate breakdown and the further infringement of human rights.

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