Climate change 'threatens human rights'


Climate change amounts to a serious threat from developed nations to the human rights of those living in undeveloped parts of the world, former president Mary Robinson has said.

She has called for a legally binding international agreement, to succeed the Kyoto Protocol at the end of next year, that would compel richer nations to financially and technically support the poorest nations adapt to climate change.

Speaking at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin today, Mrs Robinson spoke of the concept of climate justice.

"Essentially climate justice lies at the nexus of climate change and human rights," she said. To view climate change from the perspective of justice brought a focus to the "real human face of suffering and devastation wrought by climate change".

Incorporating the principle of restorative justice into international agreements on tackling climate change was necessary as those countries worst affected by the issue had contributed least to creating it, Mrs Robinson said.

"Let us bear in mind that the 50 least developed nations of the world account for less than 1 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. They are suffering through disruption to weather patterns, changing seasonality and impacts on subsistence agriculture."

She said it was a recognition of the threat from climate change to such basic human rights - such as the right to water, the right to food, the right to health and the right to the preservation of territorial boundaries - that led her to found the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice.

"The foundation articulates a vision for . . . how climate justice can influence and shape negotiations on climate change and ultimately lead to equitable burden-sharing and greater equality through financial assistance and technology transfer."

While there were difficulties with establishing causalities between harm done and damage, suffered with regard to climate change, there was a need to secure a legally binding agreement through the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, she told her audience.

"A legally binding agreement would ensure that richer nations provide adequate financial and technical support to enable the poorest countries to adapt to climate change and embrace low-carbon development.

"Furthermore a legally binding agreement would provide assurances for parties to the framework convention that commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be met and demonstrate symbolic value, particularly for developing countries and nations that are vulnerable to climate change, that there is a deeply embedded international resolve to tackle the issue.

"Put simply," she said, "without a legally binding international agreement there is no obligation to act".