Climate justice experts call on U.S. negotiators in Sharm El-Sheikh to deliver on loss and damage, recognize and protect defenders, and center human rights in the Global Stocktake and the ACE Action Plan.
October 31, 2022, Washington, D.C.–As governments, climate policy experts, and activists prepare to gather in Egypt next week for COP27, EarthRights International today called on the Biden administration to fulfill its promise of prioritizing human rights in international climate negotiations. In its latest policy analysis, Placing Human Rights at the Center of U.S. Global Climate Change Policy, EarthRights highlights six specific areas for action by the U.S. within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. The recommendations focus on protecting environmental and human rights defenders from further climate harms by prioritizing their needs in COP27 negotiations.
“Addressing climate change demands a human rights-based approach that protects the rights of people and communities,” said EarthRights Climate Change Policy Advisor Natalia Gomez, the author of the analysis. “Climate change is the most significant threat to people and the planet. The Biden administration has an opportunity at COP27 to center human rights in climate policy.”
From mega-storms to sea level rise, wildfires, pollution, desertification, and more, the consequences of climate change are undermining life for millions worldwide. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has repeatedly warned that we have a narrow window to avoid climate catastrophe. Last week, five U.S. Indigenous communities facing forced relocation imposed by the consequences of climate change called on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to honor international human rights obligations by protecting them and other vulnerable communities.
EarthRights identified several areas where the U.S. can marry its climate obligations with its human rights priorities while ensuring that the needs of Indigenous and frontline communities are effectively addressed at COP27. These areas include discussions about loss and damage, the Global Stocktake (GST), and the Action Plan on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE).
EarthRights calls on the Biden administration to:
- Support the inclusion of loss and damage as an agenda item for COP27.
- Support the establishment of a loss and damage facility that provides finance in the form of grants for developing countries and affected communities and people.
- Ensure that discussions around the GST consider the impacts of climate change on the human rights of Indigenous and frontline communities and that representatives of those communities are included.
- Use its negotiating influence to lean on other countries to raise their climate action ambitions under a human rights approach.
- Work towards a technical summary of the GST that outlines how parties can increase their ambition to fulfill their human rights obligations.
- Operationalize a human rights approach to the ACE action plan to be adopted at COP27 and ensure that the plan specifically recognizes that three of its six elements are related to human rights and that it includes activities to support their implementation by addressing barriers in the development and implementation of such rights in national climate change policies, plans, strategies, and action.
- Work to adopt an ACE action plan that recognizes the need to effectively recognize and protect the role of environmental human rights defenders and include activities that support parties’ efforts to guarantee an enabling environment for Indigenous and frontline communities.
- Lead the process to create a task force to recognize and protect the role of land and environmental defenders in the context of climate change, increase understanding and awareness of threats they face on the national level, share experiences and best practices about measures taken to ensure their protection and rights, and propose a method to increase protection for defenders.
- Lead efforts to strengthen civil society participation in international climate negotiations by advocating for the participation of defenders, making funding available for civil society to participate, and advocating for the development of a protocol for any country hosting UNFCCC to commit to the guarantee of freedom of association and peaceful assembly as a prerequisite for their nomination to host international climate fora, among others.
“For far too long, our nation’s climate change and human rights policies have been created in bureaucratic silos. But we cannot effectively address climate change without considering human rights, particularly those of frontline and Indigenous communities. We urge the Biden administration to marry these two agendas–COP27 is a great place to start,” added Gomez.
Kate Fried, EarthRights International