June 29, 2017

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Climate Change is a human rights threat

  • Dr. Khine Khine Win

Now a day’s climate change is affecting every country on every continent. As emphasized by the United Nations Human Rights Council in its resolution 26/27 “Climate change is an urgent global problem requiring a global solution”. The relevance of human rights to climate change is now universally recognized. It is one of the greatest threats to human rights and a major threat to agriculture and as a consequence food security for people is at risk. And also infrastructure and transportation are at risk too. No doubt, climate change is poised to become the most massive human rights violation in the world.
According to Male Declaration, “climate change has clear and immediate implications for the full enjoyments of human rights”. Which human rights are most affected by climate change? Climate change negatively affects directly or indirectly on a wide variety of human rights including right to life, right to food, right to water, right to health, right to an adequate standard of living, right to development etc of individuals or communities. Let me give some examples, climate change reduces freshwater availability in arid regions that are already suffering from severe water shortages and drought which affect right to water and sanitation. The effects of climate change on crop and terrestrial food production are already evident in several regions of the world which affect right to food. Climate related hazards affect people livelihoods directly through impacts such as losses in homes and properties which affect right to an adequate standard of living and right to security. Indeed there may be health problems in some regions caused by climate change. The major health impacts which include greater risk of injury, disease etc which affects right to health and right to life of individual. Moreover, climate change presents the single biggest threat to development, and its widespread, impacts disproportionately burden the poorest and most vulnerable.
The UN member States have formally recognized the importance of climate change in advancing the global advancement by putting the goal 13 in SDGs: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. World leaders committed to implement all 17 sustainable development goals by 2030 including goal 13. If we are talking about climate change, we have to know Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement builds upon the Convention and – for the first time – brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. On 5 October 2016, the threshold for entry into force of the Paris Agreement was achieved. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016. Myanmar is signatory to the Paris Agreement. As State parties scale up climate change action, enhanced cooperation, capacity-building and access to financial and technical support will be needed.
OHCHR’s key message on human rights and climate change highlight the essential obligations and responsibilities of States and other duty-bearers (including businesses) and their implications for climate change-related agreements, policies, and actions. States are obligated to protect, respect and full fill the human rights of her citizens. State (duty-bearers) has the core obligation to take measure to preserve and protect the environment which includes combating the effects of global warming and to ensure that all people (right-holders) have the necessary capacity to adapt to the climate crisis. Government’s ability to respond to future threats of climate change is essential. And to ensure that there is an accountability and effective remedy for human rights harm caused by climate change.
Human rights can be integrated in climate-change related actions by applying right-based approach to policy and development. A right-based approach analysis obligations, inequalities, vulnerabilities and seeks to redress discriminatory practices and unjust distribution of power. A human rights-based approach also calls for accountability and transparency. It is not only States that must be held accountable for their contributions to climate change but also businesses which have the responsibility to respect human rights and do no harm in the course of their activities. If there is a program and policies formulated, the main objective should be to fulfill human rights. A right-based response should maximize inclusion, participation and equality. Climate change therefore requires global right-based response.
For the sake of our next generation, let’s do more to combat climate change with right-based approach.

Reference: Climate Change and Human Rights, UNEP
https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg13
http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php

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