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A human rights approach to ‘climate change refugees’

A human rights approach to ‘climate change refugees’

CLIMATE CHANGE and human rights are hot topics in their own right, but are rarely discussed together. A background paper prepared by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC)…

CLIMATE CHANGE and human rights are hot topics in their own right, but are rarely discussed together.

A background paper prepared by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) looks set to change the way people think about these pressing issues, examining the intricate linkages between the two themes.

According to the report, Oxford academic Norman Myers has predicted that by 2050 up to 150 million people may be forced to migrate because of the impacts of global warming. The report terms these displaced persons “climate change refugees”.

The paper identifies universally recognised human rights principles that will be directly impacted by climate change, including the right to an environment of a particular quality, the right to life, the right to adequate food and water, health, indigenous rights and human security.

“To date the social and human rights implications of climate change have received little attention. Yet the human costs of climate change directly threaten fundamental human rights; rights to life, to food, to a place to live and work, rights that governments have an obligation to protect,” the introduction to the paper states.

The focus is squarely on the Asia-Pacific region, where climate change will have the most devastating effects. The report advocates accepting the inevitability of some form of disruption caused by climate change, and takes a “human rights” approach to the challenges facing the region.

“Recognising that climate change is likely to continue even with successful mitigation measures, governments have been providing financial and other forms of support to affected communities so that they can adapt to the impact of changing conditions. Adaptation measures, taken in advance, can reduce the risks and limit the damage caused by climate change.”

The full report is available on the HREOC website: www.hreoc.gov.au

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