A human crisis: Climate change and human rights in Latin America
Climate change’s threat to Latin America is growing. Scientists predict a dramatic reduction in freshwater availability due to rapidly melting glaciers, degraded water-capturing ecosystems, and increasingly erratic weather patterns.
Storms and flooding are destroying more homes and crops. Rising seas will destroy ecosystems and coastal settlements, as well as decimate fish populations that feed thousands of communities. Droughts and wildfires will intensify, making access to food and housing harder, and increasing the spread of heat- and vector-borne illness.
Combined, these impacts will have a profound effect on fundamental human rights such as the right to a healthy environment, food, water, housing, and a dignified life.
AIDA’s report A Human Crisis: Climate Change and Human Rights in Latin America describes these climate change effects and how they will damage human rights in the region. The report seeks to aid the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in its ongoing investigation of the link between human rights and global climate change.
The report also serves as a call to governments to fulfill international human rights obligations and a recommendation for all regional actors to incorporate human rights concerns in energy and climate change policies.
The report shows how marginalized populations in developing countries will suffer the most despite their lack of responsibility for climate change. Vulnerable communities, including the poor, women, children, disadvantaged ethnic groups and the elderly, are often disproportionately affected in natural and climate change-induced disasters. Traditional and indigenous peoples and peasant farmers are especially vulnerable because they rely more heavily on natural systems for their subsistence, livelihoods and culture.
In March 2011, AIDA presented this report’s main findings to the IACHR. We intend to use the report to spur discussion within the region. In December 2011, AIDA presented the report to delegates of various countries at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa.
Under principles of international law, governments have an obligation to protect the human rights of all those within their jurisdiction, and to avoid activities that cause harm in other countries. As such, all governments are obligated to mitigate human rights impacts of climate change.
Additionally, developed countries that have contributed disproportionately to climate change must assume greater responsibility and help developing countries adopt climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.
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