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NEWS: Human Rights in the Climate Negotiations: 3 questions asked but much left unanswered – #SB42

During the first half of June, climate negotiators converged in Bonn for two intense weeks of negotiations. With only 6 months left before the Paris COP-21 Conference, negotiations towards the 2015 climate agreement constituted the most important work on-going during this session. But many other key aspects of international climate policy were also on the agenda in Bonn. Throughout these two weeks, negotiators unfortunately made little progress on three main questions to address in relation to the integration of human rights in climate policies.  

Will the Paris agreement emphasise the need to respect human rights in climate policies? As the current negotiating text (the “Geneva text”) is too long and too complex, negotiators focused their work on refining the draft text in order to better highlight concrete political options to be agreed on at a later stage. Consequently, formal negotiations have not yet begun on the proposals referring to the respect and promotion of human rights in climate actions. However, several countries reiterated in Bonn their opposition to the inclusion of overarching principles in the new agreement. Such a position compromises the chance of securing a strong reference to human rights in the Paris agreement. The relative absence of substantial negotiations provided however more time for civil society advocates to reach out to countries delegations and to highlight the importance of ensuring that the Paris agreement does not turn a blind eye on human rights.

Should the long-term mitigation objective be informed by human rights obligations? Besides working on the draft Paris agreement, climate negotiators were also expected to consider the adequacy of the long-term global goal. For the past 2 years, scientists and experts briefed negotiators on many aspects of climate science, in particular in relation to the implications of selecting 2ºC as the long-term temperature objective. Together with UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, the Climate Vulnerable Forum (a coalition of 20 particularly vulnerable countries) had emphasised that a lower temperature goal, such as 1.5ºC, would be required to avoid severe impacts on the enjoyment of the rights of the most vulnerable. However, several countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and China, refused that this science-based discussion lead to any implications for the political negotiations on-going this year. Consequently, discussions over the adequacy of the mitigation objective will resume in Paris in December and will not be able to inform the process leading to the Paris conference.

Should accountability mechanisms be strengthened to ensure that mitigation actions do not infringe human rights? Finally, the UNFCCC subsidiary bodies also considered several issues related to the accountability of mitigation mechanisms established under the climate convention. Substantial progress was achieved on this issue neither in the context of the reform of the existing Clean Development Mechanism nor in the discussions related to the new market mechanisms that might be established under the future Paris agreement. In relation to the reduction of emissions from deforestation, the parties adopted the final decisions required to fully operationalize the REDD+ framework. These decisions failed however to provide more clarity on how the social and environmental safeguards should be implemented. The effective implementation of these safeguards is crucial in particular to guarantee that projects fully respect the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples.


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