In the framework of COP 26 of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the IACHR and REDESCA call on OAS Member States to put the protection of human rights at the center of their climate policies and actions

November 4, 2021

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Washington D.C.- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (REDESCA) call on all Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), within the framework of the Conference of the Parties (COP) No. 26 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to adopt a human rights approach as a central aspect of all negotiations, policies, and actions on the matter.

Climate change poses a real human rights emergency, which requires that the principles and standards governing international and inter-American human rights law vis a vis those of international environmental law guide all solutions, policies and actions in this area. Consequently, they encourage OAS Member States, in line with the obligations assumed within the Inter-American system, to place human rights and the adverse impact that climate change has on the enjoyment of human rights at the center of their climate negotiations and decisions, especially for the most vulnerable individuals and groups.

In this regard, the Commission and REDESCA emphasize that the latest partial report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicated that given the current circumstances and possible excess emissions, it is very likely that the increase in temperature between 1. 5 to 2 C over the next 20 years, will bring with it a rise in the frequency and intensity of extreme heatwaves, rising ocean temperatures, increased strength and size of cyclones and hurricanes, prolonged droughts and also the significant reduction of glaciers and perpetual snow. In particular, the IACHR and REDESCA are concerned about the serious impacts of climate change in the Americas, highlighting the serious consequences it is already having for the countries of the Caribbean and Central America and how, also according to the IPCC, it will drastically affect the climate in South America with a high occurrence of droughts and lack of rainfall for the Amazon region.

In this regard, the IACHR and REDESCA call to consider the fact that the effects of climate change and environmental degradation are particularly serious for those populations that are in a situation of special vulnerability or historical discrimination and contribute very marginally to greenhouse gas emissions, such as women, children and adolescents, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, and people living in rural areas or living in poverty. Many people and populations in the Americas are already facing food insecurity, forced migration, disease and death due to global warming. Consequently, the right to life, food, housing, health, water and a healthy environment are being and will be increasingly impacted, causing an unprecedented social crisis, in addition to that generated by the pandemic. Therefore, the Commission and REDESCA urge the States, based on the application of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, to increase their financial climate commitments based on an approach of equity and social justice. In this regard, the IACHR and REDESCA urge the countries that contribute the most emissions to the atmosphere to mobilize the maximum available resources for regional and global climate action that is seriously committed to human rights.

The IACHR and REDESCA stress that climate change represents one of the greatest threats to the full enjoyment and exercise of human rights of present and future generations, to the health of ecosystems and of all species that inhabit the planet: the greater the increase in global temperature, the greater the adverse effects and limitations that will be generated for the realization of human rights. Therefore, reorienting development towards a model that allows for diversification of the energy matrix, moving towards cleaner technologies, energy efficiency and progress in sustainable agri-food systems are key decisions for addressing climate change and ensuring respect for human rights, while at the same time making progress in reducing poverty and structural inequality in the Americas. Likewise, economic recovery from the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic must be achieved through a "green" approach, by means of measures that favor environmental protection and the effective fight against climate change.

The IACHR and REDESCA recall that the Inter-American human rights system recognizes a healthy environment as an autonomous right, interdependent with other human rights, as has been stablished Advisory Opinion number 23 or in the judgment of the case Lhaka Hontat (Our land) v. Argentina of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. They also emphasize the close relationship between human rights, sustainable development and the environment, whose interaction encompasses innumerable facets and scopes. Therefore, as established in the report "Business and Human Rights: Inter-American Standards", not only States, when exercising their regulatory, supervisory and judicial functions, but also businesses, such as international financial institutions, within the framework of their activities and commercial relations, must take into account and respect the human right to a healthy environment and the sustainable use and conservation of ecosystems and biological diversity, paying special attention to their close relationship with indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant communities and rural or peasant populations. They also underscore the immediate obligation of the States to implement strategies and policies based on human rights and with a gender perspective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change, including the legal responsibilities of businesses and the due protection of environmental defenders.

The IACHR and REDESCA underscore the positive and relevant role of environmental defenders, as well as the need for special recognition and protection that should be given to their work and activities in defense of human rights, considering them fundamental to the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law. The contribution that these actors make to the observance of human rights through environmental protection should be very explicitly valued, reiterating the essential role that they play within the States in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation. In this regard, they call on the American States to ensure the effective participation in decision-making and climate policies of those who defend land, territories and the environment, as well as communities affected by climate change. They also encourage the prompt signature and ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights, the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights (Protocol of San Salvador) and the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (known as the Escazú Agreement) by those OAS States that have not yet done so.

Through the IACHR Strategic Plan 2017-2021, the IACHR created REDESCA expressly tasking it with developing and strengthening standards relating to the human right to the environment and, in particular, the impact of climate change on human rights in the Americas. Consequently, within the framework of its Strategic Agenda 2021-2023, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has been working on this issue as a top priority of the mandate, and is at the disposal of the American States, civil society, the private sector, academia and all interested parties to cooperate and promote the development of climate actions that respect human rights in the Americas.

REDESCA is an autonomous office of the IACHR, specially created to strengthen the promotion and protection of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights in the Americas, leading the Commission's efforts in this area.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate arises from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission is mandated to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 291/21

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