Global Commission on Adaptation, “Accelerating Action and Support for Adaptation”
Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Katowice, 12 December 2018
Climate change is already damaging many people’s rights to life; to food, health, water, sanitation and housing; to decent work, to self-determination, and to development.
We already know that much more comprehensive and damaging impact is looming – and that it is too late to avoid some of this damage.
But the worst effects of climate change can be averted – and they must.
The people most profoundly affected by climate change are those who already endure multiple forms of discrimination – owing to their economic status; their gender; their membership of minority or indigenous communities; because they are migrants, or because they are people with disabilities.
But that doesn’t mean other groups will be safe. Neither wealth, nor walls – however high – will be capable of protecting anyone from the systematic and global reach of this preventable disaster.
I am convinced the work of this Commission is critical to protecting human rights, and I am honoured to participate in it.
We need immediate and coordinated action to limit the damage that has already been done, through effective and ambitious mitigation; and where the damage cannot be undone, we need effective measures to boost people’s ability to adapt to the changes that have been wrought on our environment.
These and other measures to prevent and protect against foreseeable human rights harms cause by climate change are obligations under international human rights law.
According to World Bank estimates, 100 million people may fall back into extreme poverty by 2030, due to climate change. These people are likely to be among those who have benefited the least from the processes, which have created this damage. It is a matter of basic justice that they be the primary beneficiaries of climate adaptation.
They can also be key agents to protect the environment from climate change. By safeguarding lands and traditional seed varieties, and applying environmentally sound farming practices, indigenous peoples and local communities protect biodiversity and ecosystems, thus contributing to climate mitigation and resilience.
Many of these key actors are women. Indigenous women, for example, have for centuries protected biodiversity and ecosystems – so that many today are living libraries of traditional practises, which promote sound environmental management. It is clear that when women and all others do gain adequate access to land and other fundamental resources and services, and are able to participate fully in decisions, all of us benefit.
This is why it is so critical to implement the Gender Action Plan, and to operationalize the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Platform.
We need transformative climate action that fuels the eradication of poverty, supports a just transition and promotes sustainable development. We need measures to free women and other groups from entrenched discrimination.
Article 7.5 of the Paris Agreement calls for our environmental adaptation to be more inclusive, participatory and gender-responsive. This is what that means:
We need to raise our voices, and empower civil society and human rights defenders across the world to participate in environmental decision-making.
We need environmental action at all levels that is centred on the needs of the people – all the people.
We need more clarity, and better data to demonstrate the disproportionate harm being inflicted on women and other groups.
Our countries will not achieve sustainable development, if we ignore the ways in which climate change deepens inequalities between States, and between communities. If we fail to protect environmental human rights defenders, to ensure their participation in climate action and to guarantee their access to justice. Or if we fail to cooperate in mobilising finance, sharing technologies and protecting the countries and people most vulnerable to climate change.
A human rights-based approach requires affirmative action to address all of these issues, and to ensure transparent, accountable and participatory climate action to protect people’s welfare and rights.
My Office is committed to supporting the work of the UNFCCC and the Global Commission on Adaptation to achieve these objectives.
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