December 11, 2009

Climate Change: A Human Rights Issue

By Justice Pana Chand Jain, India
The Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Charter state that “poverty any where is a threat to prosperity everywhere”. Almost all the developed and developing countries in their constitution have provided for fundamental rights. These rights are divided in two categories – political and social and economic rights. Human Rights Council has recognized climate change as a Human Right issue. In fact all fundamental rights are part of Human Rights.
It is India’s views that the planetary atmospheric spaces are a common resource of humanity and each citizen of the globe has an equal entitlement to that space. We are all equal partners in the benefits given by the mother earth.
The industrialized countries are responsible for the bulk of the green house gases in the atmosphere. They are, therefore, under an obligation to compensate to the other countries who are sufferers for their hazardous acts. It is thus, a case of environmental economic justice.
Right to life is the fundamental right of every human being including indigenous persons. Right to life means meaningful and dignified life. Right to equality is another right and every person has a right to be treated fairly and without any discrimination. These rights are fundamental basic human rights. They are recognized by way of United Nation’s Commitment to the work of UN development agencies, the entire UN has strengthened its institutional commitments to promote human rights. Its recognition finds place especially in the International Covenant on Civil, Political, Social, Cultural and Economic Rights, 1966.
It cannot be disputed that the global warming has affected the humanity adversely. It is responsible in depriving various persons from the livelihood. It has the direct bearing on the right to safe drinking water and food sovereignty or shelter and protection. It has affected women adversely. It is responsible for 100 million people sleeping hungry every night. Agriculture has been affected badly. It has also challenged our culture. Thus, the issue of global warming is the issue of violation of human rights.
It is a settled law that when an enterprise which is engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous activity which causes a potential threat to the health and safety of a person; it owes an absolute and non-delegable duty to the community that no harm results to any one on account of hazardous or inherently dangerous nature of activity which it has undertaken. The enterprise is absolutely liable to compensate for such harm. The rule of strict liability is attracted. Such hazardous or inherently dangerous activity can be tolerable only on the condition that the enterprise indemnifies for the loss to the sufferers.
Human Rights Council has recognized climate change. The Human Rights and climate change working group in the meeting held on 10th December 2009 on Human Rights Day at Copenhagen has passed a resolution to take steps towards the action on climate change at the international level.
In the totality of circumstances every person is concerned with the decision making process. In the Adaptation Action this right should be recognized, mechanism may be developed for financing the sufferers on account of the ill effects of global warming. Human Rights as discussed above should be made enforceable by an international Covenant or an Environment International Tribunal may be constituted for resolving the disputes.


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