by nathan thanki
This afternoon I had the honour of delivering the following statement on behalf of the youth constituency (YOUNGO). A night’s sleep had to be given up, and many ideas, comments, concerns, and demands had to be somehow moulded into a coherent, concise statement. We worked on the assumption that, inshallah, we’d get 2 minutes after all the needless ceremony and backslapping that make up COP openings. There was difficulty getting into the plenary, more difficulty getting a seat with a microphone, and even further difficulty in cutting the speech in half to after being told very late on that the Secretariat’s time restriction was just 1 minute. However, we delivered it and afterwards were approached by Al Jazeera to provide some follow up interviews. Many thanks to the YOUNGO focal point and the people who contributed to drafting; the strength of the youth constituency comes from our ability to work together in a true spirit of compromise and trust, imbued as it is with a burning, life affirming desire for justice. Here’s to you.
Statement to COP opening plenary on behalf of YOUNGO:
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.
A brief(ish) history of the UNFCCC and a peek into the future
by nathan thanki
People ask us “what’s going to come out of Doha” as if these negotiations were disconnected from prior negotiations on climate change. A clue is in the name: it is the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18). In order to know what to expect in Doha, we must therefore see it in context; this requires both a historical understanding and an understanding of the current political landscape. Developments at COP17 last year in Durban marked a new chapter in the unfolding saga of the climate regime, and we are still trying to decipher what the long term legal and political implications could be. This blog entry will look briefly at the main ‘big picture’ developments, attempt to unpack the outcome of Durban, and offer some outlook for Doha and beyond.
If you’re really rushed for time, my basic conclusion is that while advocates of climate justice might see some wins and many losses on a more technical level in Doha, in terms of the bigger picture we are dangerously close to seeing a double travesty of justice—with not enough being done to avert a climate catastrophe AND the responsibility for that inaction being handed off to the developing world, in spite of historical responsibilities and their need for poverty alleviation. But hopefully you will read on…
Crossposted from The GC Advocate (http://opencuny.org/gcadvocate/).
By guest contributor Jesse A. Myerson, writer, activist and author of the forthcoming 'Onward: An Occupier's Guide to Understanding the Current Crisis
When I began to write this essay, there were cars floating on Wall Street. It sounds like some sort of trader lingo, perhaps describing General Motors stock, but individual automobiles were in fact riding Hurricane Sandy’s surge merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily down the capital of capital. Enormous gusts of wind outside my window carried distant sirens, and messages online carried news of power outages, flooding, inaccessible evacuation routes, infrastructural damage, and, eventually, heartbreaking deaths.
As usual, it is difficult to express appropriate distress when something like this happens. Compounding the distress, there is an “as usual” factor in the first place. The Onion, also as usual, provided gave eloquent voice to my sense. “Nation Suddenly Realizes,” the headline read, “This Just Going To Be A Thing That Happens From Now On.”
Weird weather is now way weirder than ever before, and the weirdness amplification is on track for exponential increase, as our carbon output continues to exacerbate the climate crisis. Hurricane Sandy has come after a summer so hot and dry that the Department of Agriculture had to designate more than half of all American counties “disaster zones.” Three-quarters of the United States’ cattle acreage were in drought, and half of its corn crop was rated very poor to poor. Wildfires in Colorado that consumed hundreds of homes were due in large part to the previous winter, which had brought “scant snow” to the Rockies. A friend of mine is haunted by an image she encountered in Oklahoma: fish baked into the hot, cracked earth where a lake used to be.