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“Climate change undermining human rights on an unprecedented scale”

By Oxfam

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson, former UN Commissioner for Human Rights, delivered a global verdict on the human cost of climate change today. The judgment was passed at the world’s first international climate hearing, hosted by Oxfam International during Humanitarian Day at the Copenhagen Climate Summit. It was later passed to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, to ensure its delivery to the 192 countries currently negotiating the climate deal.

Joined by climate-affected people from Bangladesh, Peru, Uganda and the USA, Robinson announced that climate change was “undermining human rights on an unprecedented scale.”

“International human rights law says that ‘in no case may a people be deprived of its means of subsistence’.  Yet because of excessive carbon emissions, produced primarily by industrialised countries, millions of the world’s poorest people’s rights are being violated every day. This is a deep and global injustice,” said Robinson.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu drew on his own experience of climate change and called on world leaders not to let the voices of the most vulnerable fall on deaf ears:

“I too, stand before you as a witness. I have seen with my own eyes the changes in my homeland, South Africa. The Southern Cape is currently experiencing the worst drought anyone can remember. There is not enough food. There is too little water. The situation is becoming increasingly desperate.”

“This is our only chance to succeed in the word’s most important battle.  I trust that those with the power to influence will have truly listened today.  Justice cannot wait,” said Tutu.

The international climate hearing was the culmination of thousands of Oxfam-supported hearings carried out in 35 countries this year.  Over one and a half million people joined the hearings to testify that climate change is destroying their lives and livelihoods.

Constance Okollet, a farmer for Uganda said: “Violent floods and long droughts have caused hunger, death and homelessness in my village.  As farmers we used to be able to rely on the seasons, but now we don’t know when to plant, cultivate or sow. At first I thought god must be punishing us.  Then I realized this was man made.  Rich nations must compensate us for the damage they have done.”

With just four days until the summit closes and still no money on the table for long-term support to poor nations, the climate hearing provided a stark reminder of the human cost of further delay.

“Climate change is affecting every issue linked to poverty today.  From death to hunger, disasters to displacement, the cost of delay is criminal,” said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International. “We’ve been waiting two years for this critical deal.  With just four days to go, its time for governments to stop sidestepping their responsibilities and do the deal that’s needed for all of us.”

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