As the Italian Climate Network, we already had the opportunity to update you on the recent publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Summary Report, here is the link to our commentary. However, precisely based on the assessments provided by the report, we will now elaborate further on its contents, especially on human rights.

First of all, it is important to point out that the IPCC’s AR6 (Assessment Report) will be the last one this decade. The IPCC, in fact, produces its full cycle of reports every 7 years or so and the next AR7 cycle will only be concluded in 2030. By then we will have already made the decisions (political, technical, social) that will show whether we will have been able to meet the minimum target of +1.5°C set by the Paris Agreement or whether, otherwise, we will have exceeded it, and by how much.

In this respect, AR6 provides all the information necessary for the international community to make climate choices that are both fundamental and critical for this and future generations. Based on various analytical frameworks, the report identifies various opportunities for policies and actions that are effective, realistic, just, and equitable. As Lucia Perugini, Scientific Senior Manager at CMCC, also stated, the report is the fruit of the immense work of more than 1,400 experts who worked voluntarily on its production and whose contributions must be respected and valued. 

The report not only provides purely scientific information but also recognises the interdependence between climate, ecosystems, and human society, identifying the close relationship between climate change and human well-being. Thus, detailed assessments of climate change impacts across the human rights spectrum are included. In this sense, the report confirms what is called a human rights-based approach to climate change. The report is, in fact, steeped in key concepts such as climate justice, human rights, and inequalities.  

All this is not only intended to generate ‘human rights-band wagoning’, i.e. using the common and widespread language of human rights to build consensus and a sense of community in civil society, at the international and intra-generational levels. As stated at the 52nd  session of the Human Rights Council by Elisabeth Gilmore, one of the authors of the report and part of Working Group II on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, the report also aims to provide precise guidelines to policymakers so that the fight against climate change, in terms of policies, laws, projects to be implemented, can also ensure equity and social and climate justice. 

The need for an integrated and inclusive approach to climate change that is grounded in the protection of human rights is also fundamental regarding the implementation of the adaptation and mitigation measures required to address it. In this perspective, the voices of youth, indigenous peoples and human rights movements, gender activism and climate lawsuits act as catalysts for greater collective climate awareness. Public discourse has been enriched with environmental issues and the involvement of these actors in decision-making processes is improving national and international climate governance.

This is all the truer with respect to those events that are no longer reversible, an aspect that was well illustrated by Ambassador Doreen de Brum, Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the United Nations during the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council held on 21 March. With their atolls just two metres above sea level, the Marshall Islands are in danger of disappearing by 2050, becoming truly – and not just by the slogan – the ‘canary in the mine’, warning us of the extreme damage of climate change and the enormous costs of our inaction. According to the latest IPCC report, the average rate of sea level rise has risen from 1.3mm/year between 1901 and 1971, to 3.7mm/year between 2006 and 2018 and continues to rise.

In general, the magnitude and extent of climate change impacts are much greater than those estimated in previous IPCC assessments. The exacerbation of extreme events caused by climate change such as heat waves, intense rainfall, droughts, and cyclones have exposed millions of people to increasing food and water insecurity. Too often, we forget how interdependent human and ecosystem vulnerabilities are, and it is precisely the most vulnerable communities (some 3.3-3.6 billion people) and those that have historically contributed least to climate change that will be hit first by its impacts. It has been recorded that from 2010 to 2020, human mortality from weather and climate events was 15 times higher in the most vulnerable regions than in others. 

So, what can be done concretely and how? As we said, the immense work of the scientific community that produced the IPCC’s AR6 is not just a snapshot of the current climate state. The report provides precise indications on what to do and how to act in respect of human rights. 

Firstly, emphasises Lili Fuhr of the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL), it is important to formulate economic models that take scientific evidence into account and that enable international obligations to reduce carbon emissions to be fulfilled. This is to avoid human rights violations caused by the effects of climate change resulting from the emission of large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. It is necessary not to rely on solutions that could be seen as a ‘shortcut’ to the necessary and more challenging ecological transition to renewables and the definitive abandonment of fossil fuels (in jargon the ‘fossil fuel phase out’).

At the same time, suggests Ben Schachter of the OHCHR (United Nations Office for Human Rights), it is crucial to dwelling again on the communication of these issues. In his view, this is the time for the use of tougher and more effective language that underlines the seriousness of the climate crisis we are experiencing and inspires the international community to adopt a potential Global Solidarity Pact for a fair distribution of responsibilities.

Finally, Jonas Kampus of Climate Strike Switzerland reminds us of that AR6 is the work of one community, the scientific community, for the benefit of the whole community and primarily of civil society. This work, therefore, is for us – also for us in ICN – and serves as common ground to demand and expect more from governments. On the other hand, this is no longer the time for wavering, but for doing, and doubts can no longer find a place in the public dialogue on climate change. There is a (small) window of opportunity to secure a future for us all, but it is closing fast. 

Article by Erika Moranduzzo and Camilla Pollera, Climate and Rights Co-coordinators

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