Saturday, January 9, 2016, Poush 26, 1422 BS, Rabiul Awal 27, 1437 Hijri


Climate Change & Human Rights
Impacts of Climate Change on the Enjoyment of Human Rights
Imtiaz Ahmed Sajal
Published :Saturday, 9 January, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 96
Climate change is a global concern. Countries that are responsible for global climate change are the developed countries and low laying countries like Bangladesh have fallen victims of climate change. Risks from climate change have adversely affected lives and livelihoods of millions of people. The UN Human Rights Council in its Resolution No.8/22, in September 2011 has stated that "climate change poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has adverse implications for the full enjoyment of human rights." The 5th assessment report (AR5) of the IPCC published in 2014 brings into sharp focus the grave harm that climate change is already causing, and will continue to cause, to the environment on which we all depend. On the basis of AR5 the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) made a report on the effects of climate change on human rights. This December 2015 is important for the integration of human rights and climate change as this is 50th anniversary of the two International Covenants on Human Rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December 1966. On 12 December 2015 a historic agreement to combat climate change and unleash actions and investment towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future was agreed by 195 nations in Paris. Let's see the adverse impacts of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights:
Right to Life
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that everyone has the right to life, and Article 6 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that "Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life." This is the "supreme right" and no derogation of this right is permitted even in time of public emergency. IPCC AR5 projects with high confidence an increase in people suffering from death, disease and injury from climate change induced heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts. Equally, climate change will affect the right to life through an increase in hunger and malnutrition and related disorders impacting on child growth and development; cardiorespiratory morbidity and mortality related to ground-level ozone. Climate change will exacerbate weather-related disasters which already have devastating effects on people and their enjoyment of the right to life, particularly in the developing world. Tropical cyclone hazards, affecting approximately 120 million people annually, killed an estimated 250,000 people from 1980 to 2000.
Right to Health
Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognizes "the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health," and states that the steps to be taken by the States Parties to achieve the full realization of the right shall include those necessary for the "improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene." The right to heath extends to the underlying determinants of health, such as access to safe and potable water and adequate sanitation, an adequate supply of safe food, nutrition and housing, healthy occupational and environmental conditions, and access to health-related education and information. The effects of climate change on the full enjoyment of the right to health will be profound. IPCC AR5 states that "climate change may affect the future social and environmental determinants of health, including clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food, and secure shelter." It states with high confidence that "throughout the 21st century, climate change is expected to lead to increases in ill-health in many regions and especially in developing countries with low income, as compared to a baseline without climate change."
Right to Food
Article 11(1) of the ICESCR provides that "States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food." All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability. According to the IPCC AR5 "for the major crops (wheat, rice, and maize) in tropical and temperate regions, climate change without adaptation will negatively impact production for local temperature increases of 2?C or more above late-20th-century levels, although individual locations may benefit." After 2050, the risks of more severe impacts increase. Global temperature increases of 4?C or more above late-20th-century levels, combined with increasing food demand, would pose large risks to food security globally and regionally.
Right to Water and Sanitation
The right to water and sanitation falls within the rights indispensable for the realization of the right to an adequate standard of living under Article 11 of the ICESCR. The 2014 OHCHR report, drawing on IPCC AR5, described a range of effects of climate change on the enjoyment of the right to water. It stated: loss of glaciers and reductions in snow cover are projected to increase and to negatively affect water availability for more than one-sixth of the world's population supplied by melt water from mountain ranges. Weather extremes, such as drought and flooding, will also impact on water supplies. Climate change will thus exacerbate existing stresses on water resources and compound the problem of access to safe drinking water, currently denied to an estimated 1.1billion people globally and a major cause of morbidity and disease. Climate change will increase rates of water pollution and salinization, and this decline in water quality will reduce the availability of potable drinking water.
The traditional approach to climate change remains environmental one, which views climate change as an environmental, indeed ecological problem of polluting the environment, of degrading the ecosystem. But human rights based approach posits that climate change is also a human welfare and security problem, which needs to be resolved from broader socio-economic perspective. As a holistic strategy of climate change, the Paris Agreement- 2015 at first acknowledged the human rights issue in the regulatory regime of global climate change in its Preamble: "that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity".
The writer is a human rights activist











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