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UN Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit: Climate change and human rights

BOULDER — Climate change isn’t merely a phenomenon that disrupts our physical world; it’s a problem with broad human impacts that often most negatively affects those who bear the least responsibility for its causes.

Governments, powerful institutions and corporations around the world are hesitant to make the link between human rights and climate change, said Center for International Environmental Law president emeritus Dan Magraw, which is why he and fellow advocates are gathered this week at the University of Colorado for the United Nations’ Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit.

“If we are not visible, our needs are not put on the table,” said Edna Kaptoyo, a social development specialist and an advocate for Indigenous peoples’ rights with the Pawanka Fund in Kenya.

Visibility is particularly elusive for the poor, women, those with disabilities and members of other marginalized groups around the globe, panelists said Thursday during a discussion called “Understanding Climate Change as a Matter of Human Rights.”

Take women in Africa, for example, Kaptoyo said. “Women play an important role in providing food for the community … and with climate change impacting food production, this is more of a burden on women.” 

Compared to citizens of long-industrialized nations, “those who have contributed the least continue to suffer the effects,” she said.

Astrid Puentes Riaño, a Colombian attorney and board member of International Rivers, pointed to the Central American nation of Honduras as an example of the intersectionality of 

climate and human rights. Climate change brings fires, causing crop loss, which results in a reliance on the underground drug economy, which funds corrupt and authoritarian government regimes, which cause residents to flee, resulting in migrant caravans headed toward the United States. 

“It’s not the same if you’re a wealthy person in Boulder impacted by climate than if you’re a 14-year-old girl migrating from Honduras,” Puentes Riaño said. 

For people like this hypothetical Honduran girl, climate change isn’t a vague threat brewing around the corner.

“The reality is, for many communities … climate change is already here,” said Kera Sherwood-O’Regan, co-founder of New Zealand-based Activate Agency LTD.

“Climate change is produced by the exact same systems that are producing the inequities,” such as poverty and exploitation,” she said. “Capitalism upholds and produces climate change.”

Part of the purpose of the UN event in Boulder is to better understand how these systems function and enforce hierarchies that exacerbate the negative impacts of climate change, and to strengthen the institutions necessary to combat the intersection problem.

“Civil society is extremely important in environmental protection,” Magraw said.

Source: BizWest

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