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Countries told to respect human rights

As millions of people face risks from rising sea levels and frequent droughts, activists have asked all countries to respect human rights, including by allowing vulnerable groups to migrate in order to survive.

Human rights activists called on negotiators in Copenhagen to integrate the climate change and human rights issues in a legally binding treaty to protect people.

They argued that any impact from human-induced climate change would certainly harm the basic rights of people across the planet as it threatened livelihoods, health, access to water and survival.

"The voice of affected communities has yet to be heard," Joseph Ole Simel, a Kenyan human rights activist, said.

"Protecting human rights must be integrated in a binding treaty on climate change with deeper emission cuts from rich nations."

Simel, who was also executive director of the Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organization advocating human rights and empowerment of marginalized pastoralist communities, added that most Kenyans experienced the impact of climate change in their daily lives from water crises, hunger and the loss of their culture.

The call to protect human rights was also made by the Australian Climate Justice Program, the Center for International Environmental Law, the Climate Law & Policy Projects, Friends of the Earth and the WWF.

The groups planned to submit their proposal to the Copenhagen climate conference on Saturday.

Global warming had been blamed for rising sea levels, extreme weather changes from short periods of rain to prolonged droughts causing water crises.

The huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions led to the atmosphere storing more heat causing an increase in average global temperatures that would lead to the melting of Arctic ice.

Scientists say a 1-meter sea level rise would displace 100 million coastal inhabitants. A sea level rise of 6 meters would force over 400 million people to migrate away from coastal areas.

At 81,000 kilometers, Indonesia has the world's second longest coastal line after Canada with millions of people living on the coast.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicted climate change was expected to place 49 million more people at risk of hunger by 2030.

Currently there are more than 1 billion people suffering from hunger in the world.

It said around 1.4 billion people lived on less than US$1.25 a day.

People living in poverty are extremely vulnerable to climate change as they have few assets to help them recover.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the world needed to cut emissions to between 25 and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and between 50 and 80 percent by 2050 to prevent average global temperatures from rising by 2 degrees Celsius, otherwise most of the polar ice would melt and led to a significant rise in sea levels.

As a native Inuit who traditionally depended on fishing for food, Shaila Watt Cloutier said the melting of Arctic ice threatened the livelihoods of indigenous people.

"Things are very dangerous now with less ice due to climate change. It is a matter of cultural survival for Inuit people," she said.

Inuit is a general term for the group of culturally indigenous people inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland and the United States.

Ambassador Rony Humeau from Seychelles, an Indian Ocean nation, warned of the serious damage from climate change, which ranged from loss of life to forced displacement.

"Small islanders have no higher or no habitable higher ground to retreat to. For us displacement or relocation means being completely uprooted from the land of our birth and of our ancestors," he said.

"It means being evacuated by boat and plane to another land across the sea, and in some cases across a vast expanse of ocean. We cannot just run for the border."

He said there should no longer be any doubt by now that climate change and human rights were connected.

"Our fear, which grows more justified by the day, is even more acute than that of communities living in other low-lying areas such as the great deltas of the world," he said.

"We began to look at the legal and human rights aspect of climate change later than we should have."

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