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…
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.