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UN Experts: Upholding Human Rights Means Taking Urgent Climate Action

Open letter urges governments to address intertwined issues

 Young demonstrators at the People's Climate March. (Photo: uusc4all/flickr/cc)

Climate change poses a global threat to human rights, underscoring the need for worldwide action to rein in runaway greenhouse gas emissions, a group of United Nations independent experts has stressed.

The Special Rapporteurs, independent experts and working group members issued their warning in an open letter (pdf) dated Friday and sent to governments involved in the upcoming UN climate negotiations.

"The need for urgency in addressing this topic is underscored by the approaching deadlines for the climate negotiations to reach a concrete solution," they write.

"We urge the State Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to recognize the adverse effects of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights, and to adopt urgent and ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures to prevent further harm. We call on the State Parties to include language in the 2015 climate agreement that provides that the Parties shall, in all climate change related actions, respect, protect, promote, and fulfill human rights for all."

"Many of our own reports bear testimony to the impacts of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights, including rights to an adequate standard of living, food, housing, health, and water and sanitation," the letter states.

"The reports have also identified disproportionate effects of climate change on the vulnerable, on those living in extreme poverty, on migrants and the displaced, on women, on children, on indigenous peoples and specific ways of life," it continues.

Because the State parties to the UNFCC have committed to human rights, they are obligated to work towards emissions reductions to keep the temperature rise "well below two degrees Celsius," they write.

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