Working for climate justice is an ethical and spiritual imperative
Climate change is causing massive violations of human rights. This point was made at a side event on “human rights and climate change” during the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
Organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC) program for climate justice and care for creation, in collaboration with other Christian organisations, interfaith networks and civil society groups, the side event was held on Tuesday, February 26.
Rémy Pagani, mayor of Geneva, was one of the main speakers. He asked participants to “commit themselves for human rights, justice and peace as well as towards struggles for the preservation of the planet.” He cited the example of Geneva as a leading host city for dialogues on human rights and climate justice.
“We need concrete actions to address climate change and bring this cause to the human rights agenda, stressing that we cannot wait any longer,” said Dr Mariyam Shakeela, minister of environment and energy, and acting minister of gender, family and human rights in the Maldives.
Shakeela spoke about the vulnerability of the Maldives to the adverse effects of climate change. She pointed out the principles of the 1992 UN Rio Declaration, explaining the concept of common but different responsibilities and equity. “We urgently need to create an international mechanism on human rights and climate change,” she added.
The permanent representative of Bolivia to the UN in Geneva, Angélica C. Navarro Llanos, addressed the consequences of climate change.
“Climate change is affecting peoples, mother earth and the economy,” she said. “In Bolivia it has meant an increase in floods and other weather hazards, making it one of the top ten countries affected by disasters.”
Navarro Llanos said that climate change is causing massive human rights violations. Therefore, in Bolivia, she added, the Human Rights Council (HRC) should ensure better collection of data on impacts of climate change, give a stronger voice to victims of climate change, raise awareness and promote international action based on international law within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
International human rights law, she said, reinforces the commitments of the UNFCCC. The HRC should promote rights-based alternatives in climate change action to forest protection, providing an alternative to the market-based green economy.
The event was attended by more than seventy participants. It addressed the relations between climate change and economic models, the water crisis and the need for a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change.
The discussions were moderated by Dr Guillermo Kerber, WCC program executive on Care for Creation and Climate Justice. In his concluding remarks, Kerber emphasised the need for visible action to protect the most vulnerable groups and all victims of climate change.
He called action for climate justice an “ethical and spiritual imperative”. From this perspective, he said, the WCC, other faith-based organisations and a broad coalition of non-governmental organisations are calling on the HRC to establish a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change.
Other organisations which supported the event include the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Franciscans International, the International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights, International-Lawyers.org, North-South XXI, the International Youth and Student Movement for the UN, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Southern Diaspora Research and Development Centre and the Geneva Interfaith Forum on Climate Change, Environment and Human Rights.