UN Human Rights Council Adopts New Resolution on Climate Change

Following up on its landmark resolution of March 2008 and the 2009 report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the relationship between climate change and human rights, the UN Human Rights Council at its 18th session adopted another resolution on climate change and human rights.

In the resolution, the Council reiterates its concern 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 Council requests the OHCHR to convene a seminar on on the issue ahead of the 19th session of the Human Rights Council and invites States and other relevant stakeholders, including academic experts, civil society organizations and representatives of those segments of the population most vulnerable to climate change, to participate. The OHCHR is to invite the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to help organise the seminar. A summary report of the seminar is to be submitted to the Human Rights Council and to the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC.

The OHCHR press release notes some highlights from the Council’s discussion on the resolution. The Philippines noted that it might loose 300 of its islands within a generation due to sea-level rise. Bangladesh noted that about 10 per cent of the country would be affected by salt water with a mere 4.5 cm of sea level rise; with one meter rise, a fifth of the country would go under the sea, affecting more than 25 million people.

As I have argued here, the human rights relevance of climate change and vice versa relates not only to climate change impacts but also to emission reduction policies. The relevance is highlighted by cases like the Bajo Aguán agrofuel project in Honduras that is allegedly fueling a violent land conflict that has already led to the killing of more than 30 peasants. As EurActive reports, this project is finally drawing the attention of policy-makers to the almost total absence of human rights and other safeguards in the CDM.

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