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Climate change linked to human rights violations

By Oxfam

The climate crisis is likely to cause widespread violation of rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to a new report released today by international humanitarian organization Oxfam.

Oxfam?s report, "Climate Wrongs and Human Rights", sets out a new vision for a rights-based approach to climate change policymaking and highlights where current climate change negotiations are far from delivering what?s needed. Oxfam is submitting the report to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is now reviewing the relationship between international human rights and climate change.

?People have an inherent right to a safe, secure, and healthy life, but this right is being threatened by the global climate crisis,? said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. ?Carbon emissions from industrialized countries have human and environmental consequences. As a result, climate change is violating the basic human rights of millions of the world?s poorest people to life, security, food, health and shelter.?

The organization called on climate change policies at national and international levels to be based on existing human rights principles.

?National and international leaders must recognize and address the harm to people occurring today and that will continue as a result of climate change,? said Offenheiser. ?The principles of human rights provide a strong foundation for policy making, as all states must respect, protect and fulfill human rights, and these principles must be put at the heart of a global deal to tackle global climate change.?

But current negotiations are currently off track to deliver the needed policies, according to Oxfam. The report asserts that adaptation financing for poor countries is being woefully under-resourced and that rich countries are failing to deliver sufficient finance and technology to help poor countries shift to low-carbon pathways and realize their right to development. Developed countries, led by the G8, are proposing merely to halve global emissions by 2050, when a cut of at least 80% in emissions by 2050 is necessary to prevent a catastrophic 2ï¾°C temperature increase that is likely to cause widespread violations of rights.

?If international negotiations do not deliver needed remedies for ongoing human rights violations caused by climate change, poor countries may be forced to explore other options, such as the possibility of litigation,? said Offenheiser. ?Rich country polluters in developed countries have been aware of their liability for many years now. If they fail to cut emissions and help people now, they could face legal action later.?

The authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights could never have imagined having to deal with such a complex global challenge as climate change, so human right laws and institutions must evolve fast to keep up, according to Oxfam. While lawyers should push to have international courts recognize future injury and joint liability for climate-change damage, existing human rights principles are clearly sufficient to guide rich countries? policies to cut their emissions and finance adaptation.

?Urgently cutting emissions is the only way to respect and protect human rights from being violated by the impacts of climate change, and funding adaptation for the poorest people is the only remedy for those whose human rights have already been violated,? said Offenheiser.

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