Errol Abada Gatumbato

Climate change is a human rights issue- Hillary Clinton


Climate change impact: Heavy flooding in Metro Manila. Nestor Castro Photo*

During the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Philippines last week she emphasized that climate change is in fact a human rights issue and that the United State of America is keen on dealing with this matter seriously. Hers was such an encouraging statement, but  also contrary to what the US government is actually doing. For instance, the USA is one of the rich countries emitting a large volume of carbon and other greenhouse gases and yet it did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations. The Kyoto Protocol was enacted in 1997, and it sets reductions on carbon emissions of industrialized countries from 25 to 40 percent of their 1990 carbon footprints by year 2020. Accordingly, this emission reduction will ensure the decrease in temperature by two degrees Celsius, which will likewise reduce the eminent threat of global warming.

The Kyoto Protocol shall expire in 2012 and a draft replacement treaty is being prepared for ratification in December at Copenhagen.  Several international preparatory conferences were recently held in Thailand and Spain. There have been some disagreements on the proposed draft. Clinton said the US will definitely attend the climate change conference in Copenhagen, but she already underscored that the legally binding agreement may not likely be approved. The US is proposing instead of a climate change framework that will become the basis of each party to develop and implement mitigating measures. However, this framework may not force industrialized nations to commit to reducing their carbon emissions and providing funds for climate change mitigating measures.

No doubt that climate change is indeed a human rights issue because this is a question of right to life. Anything therefore that endangers the life and well-being of the people is a human rights violation.  If the US is serious in its commitment to human rights, why it is making a hard line position on a treaty that may, in one way or the other, ensure the protection of human rights?  This is not an isolated case on the refusal of the US to adhere in UN binding agreements because it is not a signatory as well to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The large volume of carbon emission of the US and other industrialized countries is primarily attributed to their equally voluminous consumption of the world’s resources. In fact, about two-thirds of the world’s resources is consumed by developed countries from fuel, food and other conveniences using technologies that are efficient in carbon emissions. Carbons and other greenhouse gases are known to accumulate in the atmosphere and destroy the ozone layer, which shields the Planet Earth from the Sun and regulates the different climatic patterns of the world. One major impact of climate change is the extreme weather condition that is already happening around the globe.

Climate change has tremendously wrought havoc to lives and property and the Philippines had its unwanted shares very recently. The catastrophic typhoons that lambasted, one after the other, our country during the past months were already a phenomenon of climate change, according to experts. And how many lives were lost on these calamities not to mention the unaccounted damages to property? These incidents would have been possibly not so worst if only the nature’s own regulating mechanisms are not altered. Many people have been deprived of their rights to live and we are no longer secured. But on the other hand, while we may consider ourselves as victims of human rights violations due to this climate change, are we not also human rights violators because of our lifestyles, values, culture, technologies and many others that somehow directly contribute to this climate change? By protecting our environment and conserving our natural resources, we are also protecting our own lives.

(This article also appeared in the Visayan DAILY STAR, Bacolod City, Philippines, November 16, 2009)


November 17, 2009 - Posted by | Climate Change

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