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Will human rights take backseat in rush for climate deal?

AFP

As the UN marks Human Rights Day 2015 on Thursday, advocates and campaigners gathered in Paris said climate change was a menace to the security and basic liberties of people around the world.

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special correspondent at the COP 21 climate conference

Exactly 67 years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, representatives at COP 21 gathered in the same city were putting the finishing touches on a new international accord that many believe is intrinsically linked to that groundbreaking text signed in 1948.

"On Human Rights Day, it's important to recognise that climate change interferes with the vast spectrum on human rights across the globe," John Knox, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, told FRANCE 24 at the COP 21 climate conference.

With less than 48 hours to go before COP 21 is set to close, Knox and others insisted that the final text should include strong language about human rights.

They said they hoped the agreement would pick the 1.5° Celsius target for the rise in global temperatures in this century, as opposed to the alternative of 2° Celsius that has also appeared in the draft text. They said choosing a pathway towards the 1.5° Celsius target was essential for low-lying islands that were already disappearing as a result of rising sea levels.

"If you can't live on your own territory or land, your ability to enjoy the most basic human rights is compromised if not completely destroyed," said Knox.

Looking back

Campaigners also expressed hope that a paragraph that contained references to human rights would remain in Article 2 of the agreement, and not be relegated to its preamble, as some countries have pushed for in the past week.

Knox said that the COP 21 agreement could also go a long way in promoting human rights by including bold language on participation, information sharing between countries, and financing “adaptation”.

“Adaptation” refers to measures that can help developing countries deal with the immediate effects of climate change.

"We look back today on the people that helped to write and sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with admiration," Knox said.

"How will people in 2082 look back on those that are negotiating the climate agreement right now? That is what we should be asking ourselves and aspiring for," he added.

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