by John Goetz
Kate Raworth of Oxfam International recently authored a 34-page report that began: “In failing to tackle climate change with urgency, rich countries are effectively violating the human rights of millions of the world’s poorest people.”
Kate goes on to claim that we now have determined with “scientific certainty” that climate change (not global warming?) is
creating floods, droughts, hurricanes, sea-level rise, and seasonal unpredictability. The result is failed harvests, disappearing islands, destroyed homes, water scarcity, and deepening health crises, which are undermining millions of peoples’ rights to life, security, food, water, health, shelter, and culture.
In other words, countries like the US, France, Britain, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada (I listed members of the G8) are essentially using global warming to violate the human rights of, well, basically the rest of the world.
It certainly is an interesting tack for a climate change activist to take. Most people don’t like being accused of violating another’s human rights. Obviously, if Oxfam can convince people that by driving their kids to soccer practice that they are in fact depriving someone of their food, health, or even life, they will be motivated by guilt to change their habits. Images of polar bears floating on ice floes must not have been enough.
Oxfam calls for urgent action, as outlined and excerpted here:
Rich countries must lead now in cutting global emissions
The science is clear: global warming must stay well below 2C to avoid creating irreversible climate impacts that would undermine millions of people’s rights. To keep the risk of exceeding 2C low, global emissions must peak by 2015 and then fall by at least 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.
[How far below 2C “well below” means is unclear]
Rich countries must provide the finance needed for low-carbon technologies in developing countries
Since rich countries’ excessive emissions have left the rest of the world with so little atmospheric space, the global reductions required now threaten the right to development in poor countries. Rich countries must therefore deliver the finance and technology needed for poor countries to develop on low-carbon pathways and realise rights at the same time.
[Now global warming is reducing the size of the atmosphere!]
Rich countries must halt their biofuel policies which are undermining poor people’s right to food
…the current rush into biofuels is both failing to deliver emissions cuts, and undermining the rights of people in developing countries…Food prices have risen over 80 per cent in the last three years, with grain-price rises costing developing economies $324bn last year alone – more than three times what they received in aid. Rich-country biofuel programmes have been identified by the International Monetary Fund, among others, as a principal driver of this crisis, and may already be responsible for having pushed 30 million people into poverty.
[Does this mean Brazil can continue producing ethanol? And should we stop research into algal fuels?]
Rich countries must provide the finance needed for international adaptation
Since rich countries’ excessive emissions have put poor people’s rights at risk in developing countries, human-rights norms create a strong obligation for them to provide a remedy by financing adaptation…Adaptation finance must be provided as grants, since people in poor countries should not be expected to repay the funds needed to remedy violations of their rights.
[I think we need a list of “rich” and “poor” countries. Where do China, India, Brazil, and the UAE fall?]
Developing countries must focus their adaptation strategies on the most vulnerable people
National adaptation strategies must put communities at the centre of planning, focus particularly on women’s needs and interests, and guarantee essentials through social protection. Good practice is emerging – and it is working – but needs to spread much faster.
[I found this surprising. Does it mean global warming affects women more than men?]
Developing countries must have ownership in managing international adaptation funds
Since adaptation finance is owed to safeguard the rights of communities facing climate impacts, their governments must have ownership in managing international adaptation funds and, in turn, must be accountable to those communities when spending the finance.
[I am sure there is no threat of corruption, because this is climate change aid.]
Companies must call on governments to act with far greater urgency in cutting global emissions
In the run up to the UN’s 2007 Climate Conference in Bali, the business leaders of 150 leading global companies – from the USA to Europe, Australia, and China – called for a ‘sufficiently ambitious, international and comprehensive legally-binding United Nations agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions’, in order to give business long, legal, and loud signals to scale up investment in low-carbon technologies.
[Isn’t investment made when a return is to be had?]
Companies must take significant steps to cut their global emissions
Too few companies have started exploring how their own operations can be made climate resilient, let alone how their strategies for achieving supply-chain resilience could help or harm the communities – farmers, workers, neighbours, and consumers – they interact with in developing countries.
[That gives me an idea for a new executive position at my company: Chief Climate Resilience Officer]
So there you have it. Joe Smith, an apple farmer in Baroda, MI – if you want to clear your conscience of the human rights violations you are committing against Ho Si Thuan, a rice farmer in Quang Tri province, Viet Nam – you better start lobbying the US government and US companies to implement the steps outlined above. Otherwise, Mr. Thuan’s misfortunes will fall squarely in your lap.