Rights protection hangs in balance | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 14, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, December 14, 2018

COP24: UN CLIMATE TALKS

Rights protection hangs in balance

Top officials and advocates are pushing at UN talks in Poland to ensure governments and businesses respect human rights when working to build a green future under the Paris climate pact.

The climate change conference, due to end today, is struggling to agree rules for efforts to keep global temperature rise "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, a goal enshrined in the 2015 Paris accord.

One sticking point is how obligations on human rights should be incorporated into the "rule book" for implementing the Paris deal.

"Climate change already has affected the lives of so many people - the right to food because of terrible droughts, the right to live in proper ways," UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said at the talks.

Most references to human rights have been stripped out of the text now under negotiation in Katowice, experts said.

However, it remains in clauses relating to carbon markets, although Egypt, on behalf of the Arab Group of nations, and Saudi Arabia have opposed its inclusion, they added.

The wording is key to avoid a repeat of previous rights abuses linked to carbon credits for renewable energy projects under the Kyoto Protocol, said Sebastien Duyck, a senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).

The Kyoto Protocol is a treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which expires in 2020 when the Paris Agreement takes off.

In Panama, the construction of a hydroelectric dam had been eligible to receive carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a scheme for rich nations to offset their emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, despite displacing indigenous people, CIEL said. Similar problems with other CDM projects have been reported in countries including Honduras, Guatemala and Kenya.

"I think the bigger issue with climate change is millions are being displaced - not because of projects but because of climate change - and so we should focus on climate change as a violation of rights," he said.

Bringing to court those most responsible for global warming - including fossil fuel companies, a growing trend in the United States - was a large part of respecting human rights, he said.

If the inclusion of human rights in relation to the CDM's successor mechanism remains in the rule book, it could help safeguard groups like forest dwellers from abuses, said Duyck.

But should those references be scrapped, "the risks are very clear", he added.

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