Sharan Burrow (second from right) at COP21 press conference
#COP21: UN accused of washing its hands of labour and human rights in Paris Treaty
The ITUC joined a block of five leading human rights bodies here at a press conference at COP21, in a call to the UN to put peoples’ rights back into the draft Paris Treaty on climate change.
The rights organisations have brought together their networks from around the world to support the new treaty and to emphasise the key role that human rights plays in building responses to climate change. They argued that as our climate changes, we see a disproportionate impact on women and children, refugees and migrants, indigenous peoples, and workers in industries in transition.
Yet, appalled at last minute moves to delete essential rights from the treaty, the ITUC’s General Secretary, Sharan Burrow, said at today’s press conference,
“Trade unions stand with civil society in the attack on the moral compass of the Paris agreement.The transition to a zero carbon future will require the consent and support of the peoples of the world”
We were shocked at Norway’s action on Monday here in Paris to remove the only paragraph in the entire treaty to people and their rights. It’s no accident that the paragraph follows immediately on from the objective of reaching a zero carbon world, for this must be achieved with respect to basic human rights and through a just transition.
It’s not acceptable, Sharan said, for the rights language to be parked in the aspirational “Preamble” of the draft treaty, like so much “rights wash”. This cannot be a fair agreement without peoples’ support. Whilst there is enduring support from nations such as Argentina and now Canada, to the rights blockers (the US, the EU, Australia and Norway, among others) we say, stand up for your people and their basic rights.
Andrea Carmen on behalf of over 200 indigenous peoples’ organisations spoke of peoples’ on the frontline of climate change, fighting tar sands, coal mining on reservations, the wide scale planting of biomass crops and the displacement of farmers. Rights to traditional lands and ways of life were under profound threat from deforestation.
“If we don’t achieve the full recognition of human rights and the obligations of states to uphold them, our ways of life will be on the table for free.”
Kelly Stone from Action Aid spoke of the global threat to food security at risk from dangerous climate change, presented by the increasing incidence of floods, prolonged droughts and other natural disasters, as well as food crops now competing with biomass crops and biofuel plantations.
Bridget Burns on behalf of the women and gender caucus at the UNFCCC argued that climate justice is a matter of survival, that 80% of the victims of the recent hurricane Hiyan that hit the Philippines were women and children. Yet among the over 150 heads of state at the opening ceremony here in Paris, the vast majority “in blue power suits”, demonstrate that it is vital that the treaty reflects gender rights fully and effectively.
Sharan pointed out that the united civil society groups had spent the past 12 months of these treaty talks on a inter-constituency package deal, a single paragraph in Article 2 providing for the role of people and their basic rights in an operational part of the treaty. Sharan reminded the assembled media that the ITUC is fully behind the primary aims of the treaty:
- A fundamental long term goal of tackling global warming.
- To deliver the Green Climate Fund – a fair finance deal for developing nations to tackle the impacts of climate change.
- The need for a five year review and ratchet mechanism to ensure that emission pledges can deliver the global emissions reductions required.
“But if you don’t have a package of human and civil rights in the rights paragraph, you are eliminating people from the world we want to see.”
The ITUC has organised meetings with over 20 key governments in the Paris treaty talks and will today release a letter to the COP21 co-President Vidal Pulgar, arguing that “governments must respect these principles while implementing their policies and programmes to fight climate change and adapt to it.”