By Pamela Haines, Quaker social justice educator with a concern for economics and the environment
I was delighted recently to hear a talk by Mary Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and now an activist on climate justice, which she characterizes as the ultimate human rights issue. Her humanity and her lifelong commitment to women and global human rights are impressive and heartening. You may want to check out her website. I’ve excerpted some of the principles below. But just think for a moment: climate justice as the ultimate human rights issue.
Respect and Protect Human Rights
The idea of human rights point societies towards internationally agreed-upon values around which common action can be negotiated and then acted upon. The guarantee of basic rights rooted in respect for the dignity of the person, which is at the core of this approach, makes it an indispensable foundation for action on climate justice.
Support the right to development
Climate change highlights our true interdependence and must lead to a new and respectful paradigm of sustainable development, based on the urgent need to scale up and transfer green technologies and to support low-carbon, climate resilient strategies for the poorest so that they become part of the combined effort in mitigation and adaptation.
Share Benefits and Burdens Equitably
Those who have most responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions and most capacity to act must cut emissions first [and] have an ethical obligation to share benefits with those who are today suffering from the effects of these emissions. People in low-income countries must have access to opportunities to adapt to the impacts of climate change and embrace low-carbon development to avoid future environmental damage.
Ensure that Decisions on Climate Change are Participatory, Transparent and Accountable
It must be possible to ensure that policy developments and policy implementation in this field are seen to be informed by an understanding of the needs of low-income countries in relation to climate justice, and that these needs are adequately understood and addressed.
Highlight Gender Equality and Equity
In many countries and cultures, women are at the forefront of living with the reality of the injustices caused by climate change. They are critically aware of the importance of climate justice in contributing to the right to development being recognized and can play a vital role as agents of change within their communities.
Harness the Transformative Power of Education for climate stewardship
Achieving climate stabilization will necessitate radical changes in lifestyle and behavior, and education has the power to equip future generations with the skills and knowledge they will need to thrive and survive. Done well, it invites reflection on ethics and justice that make the well-educated also good citizens, both of their home state and (in these global times) of the world as well.
Use Effective Partnerships to Secure Climate Justice
The principle of partnership points in the direction of solutions to climate change that are integrated both within states and across state boundaries… this must also involve partnership with those most affected by climate change and least able adequately to deal with it – the poor and under-resourced.
These principles are rooted in the frameworks of international and regional human rights law and do not require the breaking of any new ground on the part of those who ought to, in the name of climate justice, be willing to take them on.