CIVIL SOCIETY TOWARDS COP27 HUMAN RIGHTS MUST BE AT THE HEART OF LOSS AND DAMAGE
The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will start in just over a week and the Egyptian presidency, government representatives, technicians, scientists and civil society are preparing for another round of negotiations. Finding solutions for joint climate action is dramatically urgent, but unfortunately the Parties seem to be showing no signs of breaking the deadlock on key issues such as Loss and Damage and Climate Finance.
The seriousness of the climate crisis has once again been presented to us by science. This year, the sixth assessment report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also dedicated to “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” was published.The document offers an alarming overview of the impacts of climate change, both present and future, focusing in particular on the social repercussions, and thus the implications for human rights, if climate change emissions are not reduced to zero. In addition to the IPCC report, 2022 saw an increase in climate-fuelled extreme weather events, including the intensification of floods, droughts and cyclones, as well as slow-onset processes such as rising temperatures and rising of sea levels, phenomena that have severely compromised the enjoyment of human rights of millions of people.
Science, moreover, clearly identifies the historical responsibility for the climate crisis, namely the process of industrialisation of the currently richest countries on the planet, also supported by the action of large international corporations. The countries, peoples and local communities, in particular the indigenous peoples and those of the Global South, who have contributed the least to the creation of climate-changing emissions, are the hardest hit in terms of Losses and Damages and have the least resources to protect themselves also thanks to the colonial legacy, which has seen them plundered for centuries of key resources for their development and independence.
It is on these premises that civil society is preparing to arrive at COP27 with precise demands on the key issues that need to be resolved as soon as possible in order to get in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement and work towards true Climate Justice.
LOSS AND DAMAGE: A HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH
In recent years, the obligation of states to protect people and communities suffering Loss and Damage due to climate change has been declared by international bodies and in some cases by national courts*. There is, therefore, a growing realisation that existing international obligations in the areas of human rights, cooperation and assistance can no longer be regarded as stand-alone with respect to the climate crisis. Taking into account their respective historical responsibilities, and their differing extents, Parties must take appropriate and urgent action to reduce emissions, supporting the adaptation process and providing forms of redress to those whose rights have been violated by the impacts of climate change. Human rights and climate justice must be at the core of the response to loss and damage, in a coherent and coordinated multilateral manner, including non-economic damages such as climate-related displacement/migration.
New funding dedicated to Loss and Damage focused on human rights
The Paris Agreement emphasises the importance of avoiding, minimising and addressing Losses and Damages. Nevertheless, the funding made available so far has only focused on the first two aspects, namely mitigation (avoidance) and adaptation (minimisation). What should be the third pillar of climate finance is missing. In addition to increasing existing funding lines, which unfortunately are still not sufficient, it is imperative that dedicated funding will be added to the impacts of climate change on human rights, including providing forms of redress in cases of violations.
The proposal made by the G77+China group in the negotiations to establish an ad hoc financing mechanism was rejected at COP26, and the Glasgow Dialogue, an informal negotiating line that discussed how to finance Losses and Damages, did not help to increase the Parties’ commitment on this issue, proving to be a disappointing exercise so far. More ambition is needed, and fast.
Countries with hegemonic positions in the global economy and with the largest historical responsibilities in the production of climate gases must take the lead in providing a significant share of the required financing. This funding must also be differentiated and added to the already scarce funding for development cooperation and humanitarian emergencies, which are in any case temporary solutions due to the occasional nature of these interventions, over which little control is exercised. Finally, the Parties should support the immediate and unconditional cancellation of the debts of the Global South, because they are too often unsustainable and, in many cases, illegitimate, created through forms of economic colonialism and/or intrusions into the political life of these countries. This point is crucial not only to free up funds to deal with Losses and Damages, but also to be able to make progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, a fundamental and complementary component to climate action.
The Warsaw Mechanism Executive Committee must protect the rights of those most affected
The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM), is an international mechanism aimed at improving the protection of the most vulnerable countries. Established in 2018 during COP19 in Warsaw, it is tasked with improving knowledge and understanding of comprehensive approaches to managing the risk of Loss and Damage; strengthening dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies among stakeholders; and improving action and support, including financing, technology and capacity building, to address Loss and Damage.
Its political arm, the Executive Committee (ExCom) will present its second five-year work plan at COP27. Despite the 2019 revision of the WIM, the work plan still focuses mainly on the first two functions on improving knowledge and strengthening dialogue, neglecting the third function on action and advocacy, the one most related to human rights.
At COP27, Parties should strengthen this third function of the ExCom, ensuring synergies between the Committee and UN human rights institutions and the substantive integration of human rights principles in its second work plan.
The Santiago Network must be made operational
The Santiago Network is supposed to be the operational arm of the WIM, but it has never been put into action. Established in 2019, it came into being following the review of the WIM, which was not yielding any results in its third function (action and support), with the aim of filling this gap by catalysing the technical assistance of organisations, bodies, networks and experts for the implementation of approaches to address Loss and Damage. The Parties have agreed on its functions but have not concluded negotiations on its institutional arrangements.
At COP27, the Parties will negotiate the structure of the Santiago Network and the role of the ExCom to ensure that the work of the two bodies is complementary. The technical assistance provided by the Santiago Network should prioritise the needs of those who have been made vulnerable by historical marginalisation and aim to respect, promote and protect their human rights, and the operational modalities should be based on human rights principles, as well as being inclusive and transparent, allowing for meaningful public participation. Developed countries should commit to substantially fund the Santiago Network for both its operations and the provision of technical assistance.
Integrating Human Rights and Losses and Damages also into the Global Stocktake
The first Global Stocktake (GST), the process under Article 14 of the Paris Agreement for the five-yearly review of the commitments made by the agreement’s member nations to reduce their climate-changing emissions, was launched at COP26 and will conclude at COP28. The GST formally focuses on mitigation actions, adaptation and means of implementation (finance, technology and capacity building). In addressing these topics, Losses and Damages “may be considered” (19/CMA.1), but unfortunately received little attention in the technical review during the mid-term negotiations in June 2022. Parties will need to ensure that Losses and Damage, and its impact on human rights, are adequately included in the technical dialogue at COP27, highlighting in particular that gaps in mitigation and adaptation actions, exacerbated by the failure of “developed” countries to meet their funding obligations, increase significant impacts on the poorest and most marginalised people and communities.
Strengthen the Gender Action Plan (GAP) by including Loss and Damage as areas for improvement
At COP27, Parties will continue the mid-term review of progress in the implementation of the UNFCCC Gender Action Plan (GAP) under the Lima Work Programme on Gender, which began in June this year. Parties and observers have already identified Loss and Harm as a missing area of focus under the GAP, which needs to be integrated to ensure that the programme can appropriately detect and manage the disproportionate impact of loss and harm on women and girls.
Article by Chiara Soletti, Policy Advisor and Climate and Rights Section Coordinator
* Daniel Billy and others v Australia (Torres Strait Islanders Petition), CCPR/C/135/D/3624/2019, 2019; David Richard Boyd, Safe Climate: A Report of the Special Rapporteur of Human Rights and the Environment, UN Special Procedures, A/74/161, 2019, paras 65, 91 and 92,https://www.ohchr.org/en/special-procedures/sr-environment/safe-climate-report; Frequently Asked Questions on Climate Change and Human Rights-Fact Sheet No. 38, UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), 2021,https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FSheet38_FAQ_HR_CC_EN.pdf; UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Climate change and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 8 October 2018:https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23691&LangID=E; State of the Netherlands v. Urgenda Foundation, ECLI:NL:HR:2019:2007, Judgement (Sup. Ct. Neth. Dec. 20, 2019) (Neth.).
Italian Climate Network participates in the activities of the Working Group on Climate and Human Rights operating within the UNFCCC. Article written on the basis of the group’s paper: What does a human rights-based approach to addressing loss and damage look like? Key demands for COP 27 outcomes at the intersection of loss and damage and human rights; Human Rights-Climate Change Working Group (HR-CC WG), International Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Network (ESCR-Net) and Loss & Damage Collaboration (L&DC), 2022.
Cover photo: Misbahul Aulia on Unsplash.