Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Climate change policy should pass a 'human rights test'

Simon Caney provides a philosophical point of view in SciDev.net: The international community recognises climate change as one of the largest problems facing humanity. But while the impacts are often framed in purely economic terms, the challenging ethical questions climate change raises are often overlooked.

These are questions such as what should be the goals of climate policy, and who should bear the burdens of climate change? Who should be included in decision-making about mitigation and adaptation strategies? The human rights framework is a valuable way of addressing these challenges and has clear practical implications for science, technology and innovation.

A human rights framework provides guidance in three ways. First, it helps specify the aims of climate policy. Article 2 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change refers to "dangerous anthropogenic interference" — but what counts as "dangerous"?

Many define the goal of climate policy as avoiding an increase of more than two degrees Celsius in global mean temperatures compared with pre-industrial times. But it is far from clear, from a scientific and ethical point of view, why this is the appropriate target, and the process by which it was adopted as a target has been criticised.

....Second, a human rights framework should inform the way that the international community tackles the question of how the world should share the burdens of combating climate change.

It is crucial that — whether we follow the 'polluter pays' principle (those who have created the problem should pay) or the 'ability to pay' principle (those who have the greatest wealth should pay) — the costs of combating climate change should not compromise people's fundamental human rights to food, water, life and health.

... Third, a human rights framework requires accountable political institutions that enable those affected to assert and defend their rights....

Declaration of the Rights of Man. Women, too, I suppose

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