Friday, December 11, 2015

Human Rights and Climate Change

On Wednesday and Thursday, many of the side events focussed on human rights and gender equity. Yet, sadly, the new draft text has omitted mention of both. We must wait and see the final text, now postponed to Saturday, to see if this crucial element is restored.

We went to two panels documenting the impacts of climate change on human rights.  The first panel was a discussion of the impact of coal mining -- focussing on the peoples of the southern hemisphere. There is a full report and video.  The second panel, sponsored by the HBCU Climate Change Initiative and the NAACP, focussed on racial inequality.  They noted that communities of color in the United States are found disproportionately near coal plants and industrial areas, and they suffer more from asthma and respiratory diseases. In addition, students from many historically black colleges and universities have participated in tribunals, where they have gathered testimonies about racial inequality in relationship to climate change.

The related area, also currently left out of the text, is gender equity.  Wednesday's theme for side events was Women and Climate Change, and an excellent collection of essays regarding these issues can be found here. Mary Robinson spoke of her experiences, beginning in 2007 in Bali, when she heard a few researchers talking about the impact of climate change on women.  No one was listening. Winnie Byanyim (executive director of Oxfam International) went to the leadership with others to ask for a place, but was told "these negotiations are highly political and highly technical" and there was no room for a women's constituency.  Finland took up the cause, and included women on the delegations.  Women now have a constituency, and they continue to put language in the text for gender equity.


  1. Thank you, Hilde! The process -- just like politics in the U.S -- seems designed to avoid the fact that climate disruption is a problem for people, including the millions whose rights (and lives) will be forfeit.

  2. There is a serious need for disaggregated data to more strongly show the disparate impacts on women. Advocates for gender equality or human rights make strong passionate pleas, but also need to back that up with evidence and to get the researchers on board:

    1. One interesting story related to us was from Cambodia, where men and women were asked to identify the main threat of climate change. This is an area of the world that is seeing longer and more serious droughts, and then flooding. The women cited the droughts as being the main issue, and the men cited floods. During the dry season, the men are working in construction (in the cities), leaving the women struggling to get water. In the rainy season, the men see the devastation of the floods.