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Climate Change


Le 03/12/2012

International-Lawyers.Org and Nord-Sud XXI urge States to adopt conclusions to the work of the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP that are consistent with their international legal obligations to act in accordance with the best available science.


Only conclusions to the work of the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP that uphold the principles in the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, as well as existing international human rights law, can provide the action that is needed to address the global threats posed by climate change. Such conclusions must respect the principles of 'equity' and 'common but differentiated responsibilities' in their historical context and in light of existing obligations. This requires Annex I countries to take the lead in both mitigation action as well as to provide new and additional financing to non-Annex I countries.


“Closing the AWG-LCA and the AWG-KP without conclusions that respect the principle of common but differentiated responsibility in its historical context, is equivalent to developed countries placing the blame for the adverse impacts of climate change on developing countries that have been the victims of centuries of over-exploitation of the atmosphere by developed countries,” said Dr. Curtis Doebbler, President of International-Lawyers.Org speaking at a side-event at COP 18 on 27 November 2012 at COP18 in Doha, Qatar. Dr. Doebbler added that States that block adequate action in Doha could find themselves “legally responsible under international law for massive violations of human rights around the world.”


States have pledged to take action to address the adverse impacts of climate change that threaten billions of people around the world in the UNFCCC and at previous COPs, yet many developed States listed in Annex I of the UNFCCC remain unwilling to uphold in good faith the legal obligations they have undertaken two decades ago.


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SBI and SBSTA conclude early Sunday morning (2 December 2012) (draft in progress)

Le 02/12/2012

Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) at its 37th session (SBSTA37) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice) (SBSTA) at its 37th session (SBI37) both closed early Sunday morning, 2 December 2012 with few substantive decisions and much still left to be decided. Overall it seemed that developed countries were pushing for developing to do even more than they are already doing now, which is the bulk of the heavy lifting. At the same time developed countries sought not enhance their currently inadequate efforts. The result is that after the SBSTA37 and SBI37 we are still left with an inadequate commitments or even a plan of action for protecting our planet.


As many of the SBSTA and SBI decisions will now go to the COP and CMP for adoption without much enhancement, while it can be argued that incremental progress is being made to better understand climate change, it is clear that like the action expected from the AWG-LCA, AWG-KP and DPA of the COP/CMP, any suggested action is likely to be too little to late.


The SBI and SBSTA outcomes might be the first sign of the COP and CMP failing as means of implementing the UNFCCC. If this happens State will be forced to forsake these political forums for other means of implementing the obligations in the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol. The alternatives will include international legal action and the use of other international mechanisms dealing with the damage caused.


Although States made some progress towards a mechanism on loss and damage it is unlikely that they will agree on a mechanism that excludes other forms of legal redress.


The question of whether or not to include capture and storage as clean development mechanisms (CMD) was considered in a draft conclusion but left undecided (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.21).


In relation to guidelines for domestic measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of domestically supported nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) by developing countries (DCs) it was merely agreed that any eventual guidelines should be general, voluntary, pragmatic, non-prescriptive, non-intrusive, country drive, build on existing domestic systems and capacities, recognize domestic measurement and promote cost effectiveness. States may submit additional views on the proposed guidelines by 25 March 2013. (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.24).


As concerns research and systematic observation the SBSTA welcomes the technical input of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Committee of Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). It noted the importance of GCOS for the vulnerability assessments and adaptation of developing countries. It agreed to hold workshop on technical and scientific aspects of ecosystems with high-carbon reservoirs not considered elsewhere, for example, coastal marine ecosystems, at SBSTA38 after parties make submissions on what the workshop should cover by 25 March 2013. (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.25).


The SBSTA agreed to consider the submission by States and stakeholders on the Nairobi work programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation at the next session (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.26).


The SBSTA decided to terminate the pilot phrase of the Joint Implementation. (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.27).


The SBSTA agreed on a workplan to be completed by COP20 in 2014 to revise the guidelines for the review of biennial reports and national communications, including national inventory reviews for developing countries.


In addition workshops on areas a and h of the Forum on the impacts of implementation and response measures sent for reporting reported, while a summary o views would be issued for area f at the next session, the 38th session. At the 39th session of workshops will be held on areas b,c, d and g. (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.23). All stakeholders were invited to participate in the work of the Forum.



Little surprising or moving the work fo the SBI forward was adopted at COP18. The one bright spot however may have been the draft decision on gender and the climate talks.


The SBI adopted a draft decision (CP.18) promoting gender balance and improving the participation of women in UNFCCC negotiations and in the representation of associated treaty bodies (FCCC/SBI/2012/L.36). This was welcomed by the Observer group on women and gender. It was pushed strongly by the WEOG and reported drafted by a group assisted by former Irish president and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mrs. Mary Robinson. The draft decision reiterates a decision taken at COP7 (36/CP.7), but enhances it by asking States Parties to adopt “a goal of gender balance" (OP 2) and by adding the issue of gender and climate change as a standing item on the COP agenda (OP9).



Petition calling for a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change

Le 01/12/2012

Sign on our petition calling for a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change:






Petition It is imperative that the international community and all sectors of civil society mobilize to tackle the hurdles that obstruct adequate and equitable international action on climate change and human rights, we urge NGOs, Civil Society movements and government officials to move ahead in the establishment of a SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE.



Building on the calls being made by civil society organizations in 2010 and 2011, the undersigned organizations urge the Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change. The mandate should, among others, take stocks of impacts of climate change, mitigation, adaptation on human rights, provide inputs to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process and be a focal point for monitoring the impacts of climate change on the realization of rights.



We encourage Human Rights Council members to table such a resolution to be adopted as soon as possible ideally by consensus.






Early this year, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organized a Seminar on Human Rights and Climate Change following the September 2011 United Nations Human Rights Council resolution (Res 18/22) which affirmed that “human rights obligations, standards, and principles have the potential to inform and strengthen international and national policy making in the area of climate change, promoting policy coherence, legitimacy, and sustainable outcomes”. This was the third resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council, following, the March 2008 (7/23) and March 2009 (10/4) resolutions. As Resolution 7/23 expressed already “climate change poses an immediate and far reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights” while “the effect of climate change will be felt most acutely by those segments of the population who are already in a vulnerable situation”. Furthermore, an analytical study on the 9 between human rights and climate change was conducted (contained in A/HRC/10/6) and the 2010 edition of the HRC Social Forum focused on climate change and human rights. During the 19th Session in March 2012, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Human Rights and Environment (A/HRC/19/L.8) which appointed an independent expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.



Requested actions and rationale



Taking note of the recent developments at the Human Rights Council the undersigned organizations strongly believe that more needs to be done. The effects of Climate Change on the full enjoyment of Human Rights must be addressed without delay. The June 2012 session of the Human Rights Council and the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD Rio+20) are taking place almost at the same time. While we are calling for a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change in the context of the Human Rights Council we also urge that the relationship between Climate Change and Human Rights is reflected and becomes evident in the official outcome document of the UNCSD Rio + 20. Such actions would be the most effective to address this urgent matter. Over the last years it has become evident the dramatic effects that Climate Change has on Human Rights. Some of the consequences that populations are facing in various regions of the world are forced displacement, migration, loss of livelihoods and cultures. These threats affect in particular vulnerable peoples that have a strong and direct link to nature such as people living on small islands or indigenous peoples. Our planet and the lives of millions of peoples are at stake.



Sign this petition preferably with your name and the name of your organization Contact the government officials in your country and ask them to take action on this matter in the context of the Human Rights Council.

Contact persons:

The Geneva Interfaith Forum on Climate Change, Environment and Human Rights

Guillermo Kerber, World Council of Churches:

Beatriz Schulthess: Indigenous Peoples Ancestral Spiritual Council:

Budi Tjahjono: Franciscans International:

Valeriane Bernard: Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University:


Negotiator Fatigue? (First week of COP18)

Le 30/11/2012


As the first week of COP18 comes to close the pessimism with which it opened seem to have become entrenched. There is still an expectation of a new Kyoto Protocol commitment period, but with commitments that are the least common denominator.


The negotiators from the the Western European and Others Group of countries (WEOG) seem to be intent on ignoring the best available science and their existing international legal obligations as they push for a selfish and shortsighted result.


They continue to refuse to take the lead on mitigation in accordance with their capacities and historical responsibilities. Instead they claim that all States should have comparatively equal responsibilities for mitigation. They seek to ignore the equity of considering their significant overexploitation of the planet's atmosphere during the past two hundred years during which we have begun to do the most damage. Instead they say large developing countries, like China and India, have similar obligations to mitigate. They ignore the fact that these countries are significantly poorer and less developed and that thus mitigation would cost them much more in terms of their peoples' development. They also ignore the fact that twenty yeas ago when they all signed the UNFCCC they agreed to take the lead in mitigation as a legal obligation that they are now seeking to violate.


The WEOG countries also refuse to take the lead in providing new and additional financing. Instead they are telling developing countries to invest money they don't have to prove they need more money or to make their mitigation and adaptation activities profitable. This is in effect saying to people who have been exploited for decades that they should submit to continue to be exploited so that rich WEOG countries can continue to develop beyond their fair share of the planet's resources.


At the other end of the spectrum are countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and their few friends, who have the courage to stand up for what the best available science and the existing international law requires. At past COPs these brave States have shown the only courage and integrity that can save the planet. At COP18 they have stepped back to a safer place joining the consensus of the Like-Minded-Group-of-Developing-Countries (LMG). This has required compromises of their principles. They have made these compromises in the hope of still achieving action that places science and law over selfishness and shortsightedness. There is, however, no certainty that they will be successful even with in the larger LMG that includes the likes of China, India and Russia.


Perhaps most unfortunate of the step back by the bravest States is the fact that many NGOs have followed this pattern. These NGOs have forsaken what they know is right for what they think they can achieve in the current political environment that is dominated by selfish and shortsighted States. These NGOs are joined by a host of business NGOs (coined BINGOs) whose only real interests are profit. The increasingly influential BINGOs wrap their intentions in themes of participation and economic incentives. The BINGOs point out that they are relevant actors, but are silent about the fact that this is so primarily because of their contributions to the pollution causing climate change. They claim they create jobs, but don't mention that this as only the case as long as they can extract profits off the backs follow paid workers and exploitation of States' natural resources. Nevertheless, because they have the resources to offer their views over a cup of cool fruit juice in a air conditioned text or over a luxurious dinner often with other incentives to negotiators, they carry more wait than NGOs who are merely trying to save the world from the adverse consequences that we know with about 95% will occur if we don't take adequate action.


The lack of faith has also translated into unambitious proposals on mitigation, adaptation financing, loss and damage, technology transfer, and just about everything on the table at COP18. The result is that even if agreements are reached they might not really even matter anymore.


States and individuals who now seem destined to suffer significantly from the international inaction on climate change are likely to increasingly ignore the world's only truly global forum and an turn to the last resort of methods they have available to protect their people. These methods include using the existing international law to hold States who have failed to act or who block action responsible for the damages their actions or inactions have caused. Such cases will not be decided, if the rule of law prevails, based on the political views of States, but based merely on their legal obligations. These include the legal obligations of UNFCCC Annex I countries—all the WEOG countries—to lead in mitigation, to provide new and additional financing to non-Annex I countries (developing countries) and to provide for technology transfer. These are all legal obligations that WEOG countries are failing to abide by by failing to act. Developing countries don't have such obligations, and right so as they are poorer and less developed.


If the UNFCCC processes make themselves irrelevant then future generation will blame the current generation of negotiators for having failed so miserably. They will have the list of participants from the COP18 to see who these people are and to seek to hold them responsible for their failures.


Does anybody really care?

Le 28/11/2012


The refusal of developed states to face up to the global climate crisis, if not confronted, will kill 100 million Africans within 100 years, writes Curtis Doebbler


Imagine a society in which murderers decided that murder was legal. It wasn’t that they actually changed the law; they just ignored them and argued that the laws should be changed. Imagine a community in which the rich governed the poor as slaves, denying them the most basic necessities of life. Imagine a world in which the horrors of genocide on a scale involving the lives of hundreds of millions of innocent people, dwarfing the atrocities humankind has committed in the past, were passively accepted. Or a world where human rights are violated on such a massive scale as to make them irrelevant.


Such a world might sound horrifying, and indeed it must be to any rational person, yet even as you are reading this article such a world is unfolding in our midst. Moreover, there seems to be very little concern about it from our leaders in the global North. Meanwhile, our leaders in the global South seem incapable of doing anything to stop it. This is the feeling one gets attending the global talks known as COP18 that kicked off this week in Doha, Qatar, and that will run until 7 December.


The threat that states will be discussing at COP18 is not the work of a deadly new plague or some new global despot. It does not even come from the threat of nuclear annihilation that would bring sudden death. It comes from the creeping threat of something we have studied for decades; something we understand with about 95 per cent certainly; something for which we know the cause and the remedy; and something that is created by human beings. It is the threat posed by the changes in our global climate. The Doha talks, COP18 or the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is about climate change.


Climate change is such a serious threat that in 1992 more nations than signed up to the Charter of the United Nations signed up to the UNFCCC. They did so “acknowledging that change in the Earth’s climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of humankind.” And in this legally binding treaty the entire global community unambiguously agreed that their “ultimate objective” was to protect us from dangerously destroying the very air that we breath and on which we depend to grow food and nurture our children. They further agreed that action should be taken before it is too late.


Global emergency

When the UNFCCC was adopted, the scientists were pretty sure that time was running out fast, but they were not exactly sure of how fast. To try to clarify how much time we have left, we created the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), thousands of the world’s leading scientists who came together to evaluate virtually everything that is being written about the threats posed by climate change. Those scientists told us in 2007 that we need to act now.


The IPCC in its Fourth Assessment Report said that to really protect our atmosphere, emissions must peak by 2015. This means that mainly developed states must stop polluting by 2015. Instead, they have increased their pollution according to a recent United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report. Moreover, the UNEP says that the gap between what is being done and what needs to be done is growing. Emissions will then need to be cut by 50 per cent to 100 per cent by 2050 in order to continue to protect our planet’s atmosphere.


In addition, the World Bank reported this week that it is likely that temperature will rise twice as high as the 2°C level that is already considered dangerous. And the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) noted that we have already surpassed the level of dangerous carbon dioxide that can be tolerated by our atmosphere.


As WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud put it in a statement issued with the report, the “billions of tons of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on earth. Future emissions will only compound the situation.”


In other words, according to the main international scientific body actually studying climate change in the field around the world, the main reason we need to cut our emissions so much and so quickly is that for the past 200 years we have polluted the air too much. As a consequence, it is not enough that we merely slow down; we actually have to reverse the damage that we have done and are still doing.


Moreover, past pollution has not been by accident or by everyone. Rich developed states have used the atmosphere beyond a sustainable pace to be able to achieve their own development. In the process they have left developing states underdeveloped. Worse yet, by refusing to cut their emissions today based on their historical contributions to global pollution they are denying developing states the chance to ever catch up to them and in some cases literally denying people in developing states the right to life.


This situation is about as close to mass murder as one can get, and then-G77 coordinator and Sudanese Ambassador Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping stated this clearly at the COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, when he said that if we do not act urgently we will be sending hundreds of millions of Africans to the furnaces to be killed by global warming.


Historical responsibility

The concept of historical responsibility is major part of the disagreement at the annual round of global climate talks in Doha. Rich developed states that have been identified in Annex I of the UNFCCC don’t want to take their historical responsibility into account. They don’t want to do this because they have contributed the most to polluting our planet over the past 200 years and thus have the greatest responsibility to remedy the situation. They don’t dispute the facts; they just don’t want to give up the privileges they accumulated through over-exploitation of the planet.


Developed states also appear to have little concern for the fact that they have already agreed to shoulder a greater responsibility for climate change in the legally binding UNFCCC. This treaty contains legal obligations requiring developed states to take a greater responsibility than other states.


This responsibility is expressed in the legal principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. According to this principle, developed states that are listed in Annex I of the UNFCCC have special obligations — legal obligations. These obligations include taking the lead in cutting back their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and providing developing states, or non-Annex I states, new and additional financing so they are able to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change that can no longer be avoided.


The obligation to cut emissions is the subject of the Kyoto Protocol, which is one of two tracks that have been negotiated since states agreed to the Bali Action Plan at COP13 in 2007. States party to the Kyoto Protocol agreed to cut there emissions by pre-determined amounts that are relative to the contributions to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that cause climate change. Because of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, the Kyoto Protocol obligations to cut emissions only apply to those states known as Annex I states, which are the developed states that have benefited from over-exploitation of the atmosphere.


It was very quickly realised that the Kyoto Protocol commitments were insignificant and would not protect the planet and its inhabitants from the worst effects of climate change. For this reason the Kyoto Protocol itself foresees states making new commitments by the end of 2012.


Kyoto crumbling

Almost every state in the world is party to the Kyoto Protocol although the United States and more recently Canada are important exceptions. These naysayers to the otherwise global consensus on GHG emissions reductions have recently been joined by Japan, New Zealand, Russia, and maybe Australia, who although parties to the Kyoto Protocol refuse to participate in a new commitment period. This refusal comes despite the fact that the Kyoto Protocol itself obliges state parties to agree to a new commitment period. These recalcitrant states just don’t seem to care what the law says.


Another track of negotiation agreed in Bali in 2007 was that of a plan or Long-term Comprehensive Action (LCA). This work is supposed to conclude with a blueprint for enhanced future action based on the UNFCCC. In particular, it is supposed to come up with equivalent commitments for states that are not parties to the Kyoto Protocol.


The LCA has made consistent progress. Nevertheless, developed states, especially those not party to the Kyoto Protocol or those that refuse to participate in the new commitment period, have blocked adequate action. For example, the United States with a few allies refuses to agree to meaningful commitments to cut their GHG emissions. Instead of commitments they want only “pledges” without any legally binding force and based on whatever they think is appropriate.


The US, the world’s second largest overall producer of GHGs, has made a unilateral non-binding pledge to cut its emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. This cut is woefully short of what is needed. Moreover, a report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency that was released at the Doha talks this week found that the United States is even unlikely to meet this pledge.


The largest group of developed States, which is itself a party to the UNFCCC, the European Union, has pledged to cut emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020. Like the United States, the EU is unlikely to achieve its pledge if carbon trading is not included and it should not be. Carbon trading allows rich states to buy the right to pollute from poorer, less developed states that would otherwise not pollute as much. It is zero sum game that runs expressly contrary to the UNFCCC’s goal of limiting dangerous levels of emissions. It also provides leverage by developed states over developing states to allow them to keep developing while suggesting that developed states should not develop. That developed states receive short-term resources from selling carbon credits is ironic as they are at the same time prevented from developing in the only way that is possible for them, which is by increasing their GHG emissions.


To date, what developed states have suggested as appropriate for their pledges to cut emissions have left the bulk of the burden on developing states. Instead of respecting the legal principles that they agreed to in the UNFCCC, developed states are both violating them and trying to change them to put the burden on states that have already suffered centuries of underdevelopment.


Other outstanding LCA issues that developed states refuse to even discuss include the impact of unilateral actions they are taking to protect themselves against the adverse impacts of climate change while failing to assist developing states to be able to do the same. Again, this is a legal obligation in the UNFCCC.


Similarly, developed states are blocking progress on the sharing of intellectual property that developing states require for cutting their emissions and for saving their people from the already unavoidable consequences of climate change. Once again, taking steps to facilitate technology transfer is a legal obligation in the UNFCCC.


The funding shortfall

One area that has experienced resistance from developed states, but which developing states and many NGOs have been pushing hard to have discussed, is loss and damage, which refers to compensation for the harms caused by climate change that can no longer be avoided. Although it is likely to be discussed in Doha, after several regional meetings have taken place to discuss it, there is unlikely to be much progress made. The reason for this is that compensation for loss and damage require recognition of duties to act. Although such duties exist, as indicated above, there is little will to act among developed states that would have to provide the compensation.


One way that developed states could address both the loss and damage that developing states will suffer, and technology transfer, is by providing adequate funds to developing states. To facilitate this, states established just this year the Green Climate Fund to be based in Seoul, South Korea.


Like the Global Environmental Facility established in the UNFCCC and to be replaced by the Green Climate Fund (because it was not effective enough), the new fund has woefully insufficient money available to it. Developed states have not even made good on their promises of $30 billion in fast track new and additional funding, or re-committed to provide the $100 billion they committed to providing three years ago.


A recent Oxfam report entitled “The looming climate ‘fiscal cliff’” claims that two-thirds of the money pledged by developed states is really repackaged aid already given and not the “new and additional” funds the UNFCCC requires. Moreover, the report points out that the Green Climate Fund has been left largely an empty shell without adequate funds.


The combination of developed states’ failure to act to limit emissions and their failure to provide new and additional financing to developing states shows extraordinary disdain for existing international law, even while they are busy violating it.


For this reason, perhaps, developed states have favoured an approach agreed in general at COP17 in Durban, South Africa. According to developed states, this approach calls for closing the Kyoto Protocol and LCA tracks and focusing on an entirely new plan that does not abide by the already agreed UNFCCC legal obligations.


This new plan would treat rich and poor equally. Developing states would have burdens equivalent to those of developed states. It would lead to a world in which the people of developing states would not only bear unfair burdens, given the far lower levels of development their states have achieved or been permitted to achieve, but where “equivalent burdens” would mask developing states’ citizens paying for the development of developed states. It would lead to 100 million Africans being killed by our inaction on climate change by the end of this century.


Unless developing states can prevail and convince the minority of the world (its developed states) that they have benefited long enough and that now is the time for them to share, the world described in the first paragraph of this article might be the reality that we leave for future generations, some of whom are already born and others who are not yet born. These future generations might be faced with the impacts of discrimination against the most vulnerable that could make past genocides pale in comparison. The thought is as horrifying as is the reality of our inaction on climate change. But does anyone really care?


published in Al-Ahram on 29 November 2012 


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