By Thalif Deen | – –
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 16 2015 (IPS) – The United Nations, which is tasked with the protection of the global environment, has asserted that climate change affects people everywhere – with no exceptions.
Still, one of the greatest inequities of our time is that the poorest and the most marginalised individuals, communities and countries — which have contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions — often bear the greatest burden, says the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“Our climate-impacted communities have a moral and legal right to defend our human rights and seek Climate Justice by holding these big carbon polluters accountable.” — Tuvalu delegate Puanita Taomia Ewekia
With an increasing link between climate change and human rights, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, which is conscious of the growing threat of rising sea levels to Pacific island nations, is seeking “climate justice,” including both redress and accountability.
“For the first time anywhere in the world,” says Greenpeace, it will submit a petition to the Philippines Commission on Human Rights asking the Commission to investigate the responsibility of the world’s biggest polluters for directly violating human rights or threatening to, due to their contribution to climate change and ocean acidification.
Anna Abad, climate justice campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, told IPS: “The filing of the human rights petition before the Philippine Commission on Human Rights is a first step to investigate the responsibility of the Carbon Majors (a.k.a. big carbon polluters) for their human rights violations or threatened human rights violations resulting from climate change and ocean acidification impacts.”
Asked whether there is a possibility of the issue being taken up either by the Security Council or the International Court of Justice, she said Greenpeace Southeast Asia is also exploring other avenues – both legal and transnational – to amplify the urgency of climate justice and to ensure that those responsible for the climate crisis are held accountable for their actions.
“This is a collective effort between our partners and allies. With the climate justice campaign, we have certainly begun the trial by public opinion,” Abad said.
Zelda Soriano, legal and political advisor from Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said climate change is a borderless issue, gravely affecting millions of people worldwide.
“The U.N. Human Rights Council has recognised that climate change has serious repercussions on the enjoyment of human rights as it poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the world.”
In this light, she said, “We view climate change as a social injustice that must be addressed by international governments and agencies, most especially those responsible for contributing to the climate crisis.”
Last week, the President of Vanuatu Baldwin Londsdale joined climate-impacted communities from Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji and the Solomon Islands, as well as representatives from the Philippines, at “an emergency meeting” in Vanuatu vowing to seek ‘Climate Justice’ and hold big fossil fuel entities accountable for fuelling global climate change.
The Climate Change and Human Rights workshop was held on board the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, with the participation of about 40 delegates and civil society groups from Pacific Island nations.
“It is now more important than ever before that we stand united as affected communities in the face of climate change, rising sea-levels and changing weather patterns. Let us continue to stand and work together in our fight against the threats of climate change,” Londsdale told delegates.
The workshop concluded with participants signing on to the ‘People’s Declaration for Climate Justice,’ which was handed over to the President of Vanuatu.
According to Greenpeace, human-induced climate change is forecast to unleash increased hardship on the Philippines and Pacific Island nations due to stronger storms and cyclones.
A new study, Northwestern Pacific typhoon intensity controlled by changes in ocean temperatures, suggests that with climate change, storms like Haiyan, which in 2013 devastated Southeast Asia and specifically the Philippines, could get even stronger and more common.
It projects the intensity of typhoons in the western Pacific Ocean to increase by as much as 14 percent – nearly equivalent to an increase of one category – by century’s end even under a moderate future scenario of greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenpeace says it believes that those most vulnerable will continue to suffer, representing a violation of their basic human rights.
According to Greenpeace, recent research has shown that 90 entities are responsible for an estimated 914 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) of cumulative world emissions of industrial CO2 and methane between 1854 and 2010, or about 63 percent of estimated global industrial emissions of these greenhouse gases.
Abad said: “These big carbon polluters have enriched themselves for almost a century with the continued burning of coal, oil and gas. They are the driving force behind climate change.”
She said time is running out for these vulnerable communities and the world’s big carbon polluters have a moral and legal responsibility for their products and to meaningfully address climate change before it is too late.
Tuvalu delegate Puanita Taomia Ewekia was quoted as saying: “Climate change is not a problem for one nation to solve alone, all our Pacific Island countries are affected as one in our shared ocean.”
She said governments must stand up for their rights and demand redress from these big carbon polluters for past and future climate transgressions.
“Our climate-impacted communities have a moral and legal right to defend our human rights and seek Climate Justice by holding these big carbon polluters accountable and to seek financial compensation,” she declared.
Edited by Kitty Stapp
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Licensed from Inter Press Service