Climate, A Moral and Ethical Issue (Council of Europe Round Table) (September 29, 2015)

Republished from Democracy, Social Cohesion and Global Challenges Committee

Gita Parihar: climate, a moral and ethical problem in terms of contributions and responsibilities

Gita Parihar, Legal Officer of Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Delegate of the NGOs Working Group on Climate and Human Rights in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said in a message read by – unusual – a parliamentary member of the House of Lord, Sir Alan Meale, that climate change is increasingly seen as a moral and ethical problem, due to the fact that those contributed least to the problem will be most affected.

A legal framework but rights under threat

The legislation of Human Rights as well as the notion of fairness in international environmental law make it possible to address the human rights dimension of climate change.

The human rights community recognizes that climate change has already violated and threatened further violations of basic human rights such as the right to life, food, water and shelter. Similarly, the lack of action on climate change is recognized as a violation of human rights, in particular those who are already vulnerable or marginalized.

A similar application of rights may increase inequality. Fairness requires different contributions and responsibilities

The International Law of Human Rights recognizes that if equality of rights is applied in a situation of inequality, this will exacerbate inequality.

The concept of fairness in international environmental law recognizes that countries have different contributions to environmental problems and therefore different responsibilities in taking action. Article 3.1 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change states: “The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations on the basis of equity and according to their responsibilities and common but differentiated capabilities.”