Climate Change: UN expert welcomes historic Paris Agreement but calls on States to scale up efforts to meet the 1.5 °C target

The signing of the Paris Climate Agreement scheduled for 22 April is “a historic step towards ensuring that the fight against climate change takes into account its effects on human rights”, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment John Knox said. He urged States to seize the moment to show their full commitment to keeping the increase in global average temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Geneve, April 21, 2016.- “The Paris Agreement represents a major achievement for the world, not least because it recognises that respect for human rights is integral to addressing climate change,” Mr. Knox said. “For the first time, a global environmental agreement explicitly mentions human rights,” the expert noted.

The Paris Agreement, adopted on 12 December 2015, calls on its parties to respect and promote their human rights obligations when taking action to address climate change. The Agreement also highlights human rights issues that are particularly affected by climate change, including the right to health and the rights of indigenous peoples, migrants, children and persons with disabilities, as well as gender equality and intergenerational equity.

“The Paris Agreement’s target of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, is an excellent beginning,” the expert stated. “This target would help the world avoid devastating consequences for the ability of the people of the world to enjoy their rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation, housing and many others.”

“Unfortunately, the commitments pledged by Governments to date are insufficient to meet this global target,” Mr. Knox added.

According to UNEP, even full implementation of the Governments’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) would lead to emission levels in 2030 that will likely cause a global average temperature increase of well over 2°C, and quite possibly over 3°C.

Therefore, the expert stressed, “Even if they meet their current commitments, States will not satisfy their human rights obligations.” He underscored that “From a human rights perspective, it is necessary not only to implement the current intended contributions, but also to strengthen those contributions to meet the target set out in article 2 of the Paris Agreement.”

The statement by Mr. John Knox has been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteurs on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz; on the right to food, Ms. Hilal Elver; on the right to health, Mr. Dainius Pûras; on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Mr. Léo Heller; on the rights of persons with disabilities, Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar; on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. Michel Forst; on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Dubravka Šimonoviæ; on extreme poverty and human rights, Mr. Philip Alston; Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Ms. Elzbieta Karska; on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Mr. Bahame Nyanduga.

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