Loss and Damage from Climate Change-A human rights perspective

~graham reeder

While climate change negotiations have stagnated over time due to a lack of political will, many are arguing that the diplomatic approach that the UNFCCC has taken to arriving at agreement—one where treaties and agreements are built out of what parties are willing to contribute or concede—does not do justice to the urgency and potency of the issues at hand. Some lawyers are arguing that a human rights based approach could benefit the process in that it gives the international community increased power to intervene and combat the defence of state’s sovereign rights to act as they wish within their own borders. While the rights based approach is multi-faceted and impact a number of different elements of UNFCCC negotiations, one element of human rights law stands out in terms of informing current climate negotiations: that of addressing liability for impacts, loss, and damage due to climate change.

There are a number of international treaties that elaborate human rights that are threaned by climate change, these rights include the right to life, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to housing, the right to food, the right to health, and the right to self-determination; the treaties include the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (MWC). Many of the rights guaranteed in these treaties, particularly the right to life, are not to be interpreted in a restrictive manner; they require positive measures to be taken by states to protect them. The Human Rights Committee noted that states are responsible for preventing acts of mass violence causing arbitrary loss of life, which some have argued could include climate change. Preventing and minimising loss of life from natural disasters and other climate related events is an obligation of states who are parties to the aforementioned conventions.

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Cross-post from the Washington Spectator: New Voices-Climate Change Adaptation

This blog was originally published on the Washington Spectator's website, check out their blog at  http://washingtonspectator.org/index.php/Blog/latest.html

New Voices: On Climate Change Adaptation

The author acting as a youth delegate at the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban.New Voices is The Washington Spectator's blog series by guest writers under age 25. The series spotlights a diversity of perspectives from students, journalists, artists, and activists. Interested in writing for this series? E-mail inquiries to comments@washingtonspectator.org.

Given this year of bizzare weather events in the U.S.—including Hurricane Sandy and a summer of deadly heat waves, wildfires and storms—many in the U.S. are finally opening their eyes to what scientists have been telling them for years: Climate change is real, but not only that, it is happening now.

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Adaptation in Bangladesh: closer look at NAPA

by nathan thanki (Nov 2010)

Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation, if not our species. The six billion and counting human inhabitants of the earth will soon be coming up against the full force of this change and the question they will ask is not ‘how can we stop it?’ but rather ‘how can we survive it?’ How can societies adapt themselves in order to be able to limit the negative impacts climate change will have on them? Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ‘less developed’ countries of the world have begun planning for the necessary adaptations. This plan comes in the form of a National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA). In this paper I will be focusing on the NAPA of Bangladesh and more specifically on the one project therein which has received funding and has begun to be implemented.


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Financing Adaptation: Who Will Pay?

[images from BBC]

by Nathan Thanki and Graham Reeder

Given that we’re now experiencing another summer of bizarre weather events, including deadly heat waves, wildfires, and storms in the US, and increased chances of another El Nino year, many in the US are finally opening their eyes to what scientists have been telling them for years: climate change is real, but not only that, it is happening now. Climate change is no longer a theoretical danger, it is a tangible phenomenon that is striking worldwide. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of climate change lies in the fact that it affects first and foremost the world’s most vulnerable people, usually those who have done the least to cause climate change.

Hopefully that knowledge will lead us to conclude that adaptation to climate change is something that should be developed, studied, and supported with finance, technology, and capacity. Depending on the resilience of a community, people will adapt to climate change when driven to in a variety of different ways. This is why it is important to support adaptation proactively, not as a last minute band-aid solution. Building strong and resilient communities that are informed about and prepared for the challenges they will face is the only way to avoid catastrophe when the challenges of climate change hit; this became all too clear in the US during Hurricane Katrina, when careless and underfunded disaster management led to tragedy on a totally unnecessary scale.

From that we should probably conclude that adaptation to climate change is something that should be developed, studied, and supported with finance, technology, and capacity. But if one looks into the history of the concept of adaptation, we see that not everyone has reached such obvious conclusions. Initially it seemed that to prioritise adaptation was 'defeatist' – a sort of acceptance that climate change was happening already which would allow big emitters to say "well hang about, it's already happening and it aint so bad, let's keep going here." For years the fight was meant to be on how to stop these emitters from business as usual: the mitigation battle. It turns out that mitigation can be a money spinner for some, and as the carbon markets and their various complexities were born and grew up into the evil bastard children they now are (just google REDD+ human rights violations for a whole litany of errors), the adaptation element was banished to more obscure corners of academia and activism. There is good work being done on adaptation, but it has largely been done in universities and scientific agencies or with smaller NGOs. The most high profile adaptation planning is done by developed world governments who are investing in their own adaptation planning and implementation, while doing very little at the multilateral level beyond giving encouraging words of support to those doing further research.

In Durban everyone was interested in the Green Climate Fund. One of the big demands from civil society was that this new tool in the already cluttered climate finance toolbox would address the adaptation gap by specifying that at least 50% of funds should be for adaptation projects. Closing the “adaptation gap” has long been a priority of developing countries, and in the discussions surrounding the GCF it was clear that it had become a priority for much of civil society too. For good reason: the report from the GEF to the Conference shows that some $3 billion have been doled out for mitigation projects, compared to a measly $300 million for adaptation.

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