Human rights must be central to the way the Paris climate change agreement is put into practice, a group of UN specialists has urged ahead of a major global conference.
The implementation guidelines for the COP 21 deal should also focus heavily on sustainable development, said the experts, as UN agencies, governments and civil society groups prepare to meet in Bonn from 6-17 November for the COP 23 climate change conference, which will work on guidelines for how the deal will be implemented.
The UN experts are Mr John Knox, Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment ; Ms Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing; Mr Obiora C. Okafor, the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Mr Felipe Gonzalez Morales, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; and Mr Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development .
“The Paris Agreement marked an important global recognition of the devastating human rights impacts of climate change and the key importance of human rights in addressing this global challenge,” said the experts.
“It is crucial that this recognition is carried forward as the world works together to implement the plan and to create a sustainable shared future.”
They added: “All of us – from Governments and groups to communities and individuals – should come together in a spirit of cooperation, solidarity, creativity and determination to build on the Paris agreement, to shape a safe, healthy and sustainable world where all human rights and fundamental freedoms are realized.”
The COP 23 conference will discuss financing climate action, enabling countries to cooperate, adapt and build resilience, reporting progress, and creating an enabling environment for sustainable development.
“Each of these issues has a human rights dimension that must not be ignored,” the experts stressed. “The world must move forward to address climate change using the long-established principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
“The needs of the most vulnerable must always be at the forefront as climate finance and adaptation, prevention and resilience measures are decided. The world must also meet its obligations to cooperate across borders and to mobilize all available resources to progressively realize economic, social and cultural rights, and to advance civil and political rights and the right to development.”
The experts also emphasized the relationship between climate change and other major human rights challenges.
“We have already seen the very real effects that climate change has on people’s homes and livelihoods, on their rights to health, housing, food, water and sanitation, development and many others,” they said.
“The international community needs to respond in a way that safeguards the human rights of individuals and communities, especially migrants and refugees, indigenous peoples, children and people with disabilities.
“We must work for a global commitment to sustainability and shared prosperity, cooperating across borders to enable States to grow in new ways that respect human rights and meet people’s needs while guaranteeing a safe and healthy future for our environment and for present and future generations.”
The implementation guidelines discussed in Bonn should respect key human rights principles such as transparency, accountability, inclusiveness, meaningful and informed public participation, access to justice, and equality and non-discrimination, the experts said.
Particular attention should be paid to the gender dimensions of climate change and to inter-generational equity, they added, and implementation should complement other important global processes such as the Global Compact for Migration, the Global Compact for Refugees, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The experts said they embraced the Fijian Presidency’s vision of infusing the COP 23 with the Fijian “Bula Spirit” of inclusiveness, friendliness and solidarity.