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COP 21 Update – Thursday, December 10

We celebrated HUMAN RIGHTS DAY by attending a Side Event by Earth Justice and Franciscans International on “ Climate Change: One of the Greatest Human Rights Issues of Our Time.” Today is the 67th anniversary of the adoption in Paris of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!    There were a number of good speakers at this event, who talked about how climate change impacts human rights.   France’s special ambassador for human rights and the environment said President Hollande is a champion of human rights and the environment. (Gender Equality is also a French priority). The French constitution has been amended to guarantee human rights and sustainable development. COP 21 is a step on the way and not the end of the journey.

Special Rapporteur Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and now the president of a climate justice foundation, came to the panel after she hosted a breakfast with the French government. She said many of delegates had gone to bed after being up all night working on the document. She talked about how land rights, women, family sustainable energy, and rule of law all contribute to climate improvement, and their link to the SDGs. Time to get going on these in January!  Go for solidarity! We must respect and integrate, and get the financing rules right. Build in environmental and human rights safeguards from the very beginning!

Professor John Knox, Special Rapporteur On Human Rights and Environment also spoke, noting that 200 representatives here are indigenous people. Human rights help inform climate action, and many renewable energy projects take human rights into account. Governments don’t check Human Rights obligations at the door when they enter environmental negotiations. Paris is going to decide how it treats the relationship between human rights and climate change.

The speaker who got the standing ovation was Ursula, and indigenous woman from an island off Papua New Guinea, which is trying to relocate over 1000 of its people because they cannot grow food on the disappearing atolls. They don’t want to be known as victims; who has right to tell them to move? She will not be able to hand down land to children, but she wants to move with dignity to where she wants to move. She reminded us that “Business as usual” implies three planets! 20151209_225847

The panel members wanted us to think about the relationship of climate change to food, self determination, dignity of disabled, and other human rights. We have come this far because of activism of civil society groups, and they asked us to call for the UN to embed human rights in document. Right now if looks as if we may have lost the human rights language in the body of the COP 21 document, but Mexico has formed a group called “Friends of Human Rights” which caucused immediately after the side event. Mary Robinson was there, too, and so were we! They were plotting strategies to get the language back in. We will see how they did tomorrow.

Finally, we went to a plenary session at which the delegates approved a lot of minor non-controversial language, and elected the new bureau for COP 22 next year in Morocco. Some more controversial items from this year have actually been transferred to the agenda for next year.  We hope not too many! We will see what happens when the final document is presented tomorrow or Saturday. We have received word of some unauthorized demonstrations / acts of civil disobedience planned for Friday and Saturday, in different parts of Paris.