Human rights must be put at the heart of fighting climate change, says Oxfam
Rich countries must start basing their climate change policies on existing human rights principles and stop using economic excuses to wriggle out of their responsibilities, says international agency Oxfam in a new report released today.
'Climate change was first seen as a scientific problem, then an economic one. Now we must also see it as a matter of international justice, said report author Kate Raworth. 'Human rights principles give an alternative to the view that everything from carbon to malnutrition can be priced, compared and traded.
Oxfam says that excessive carbon emissions are violating the rights of millions of the world's poorest women and men to life, security, food, health and shelter. Oxfam will submit the report, Climate Wrongs and Human Rights, to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is now reviewing the relationship between international human rights and climate change.
'When the candidates in Canada's election campaign talk of trading-off the economic and human costs of tackling climate change, beware, said Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada. 'Human rights principles show there can be no such trade-off. Spurious economic arguments are attempts to do as little as possible when morality, science and human rights demand much more, Fox said.
Oxfam says that while international courts have yet to recognize future injury and joint liability for climate-change damage, existing human rights principles are sufficient to guide rich countries' policies to cut their emissions and finance adaptation.
'The impacts of climate change are global so countries must be held accountable for the international consequences of their actions, Raworth said. 'Rich country polluters have been fully aware of their culpability for many years. If they fail to cut emissions and help people now, they could face legal action later.
For further information, or a copy of the report, please contact:
Alexandra Lopoukhine, 613-850-9723
NOTE TO EDITORS: Oxfam Launches Climate Change Litigation Competition
Along with its new report, Oxfam is running an international competition for lawyers, academics and law students to come up with the most innovative case for a developing country to take legal action on climate change. The competition is centred on an imaginary country 'Algoria but the climate impacts are based on the latest findings of the IPCC.
Oxfam is inviting 3,500-word complaints to identify the plaintiffs, defendants, remedies sought, and arguments that are considered enforceable in an existing international legal forum. The competition will provide advice to developing countries that want to know how to use international law to protect their people's human rights in the face of climate change. The competition will be judged by a panel of eminent lawyers and winners will be announced in March 2009 to coincide with the release of the UN High Commissioner's report.