Activists say human rights, financing pose obstacles to climate accord

IMAGE: CNS photo/Charles Platiau, Reuters

By James Martone

PARIS (CNS) — Major hurdles
stand in the way of a global accord on climate change, including over the
questions of human rights and who pays the costs for poor countries to
transition into using greener energy, said Catholic and other church activists
on the sidelines of the U.N. climate conference.

“We want human rights,
indigenous rights, food security and gender equality in Article 2” of the
accord’s text, said Bernd Nilles, head of CIDSE, an alliance of Catholic
development agencies present at the conference site in Le Bourget on the
outskirts of Paris.

The U.N. conference — aimed at
curbing global warming by limiting the use of fossil fuels that cause it — ends
Dec. 11. Negotiators from 195 countries have come up with a draft accord, which
their senior ministers were set to discuss Dec. 7, the activists reported. Some
countries wanted the issue of human rights regulated to the preamble of the
text, or not mentioned in the text at all, Nilles told Catholic News Service
Dec. 6.

Nilles, one of thousands of
activists who are at the talks in Paris in hopes of influencing negotiators to
safeguard the poor while combating global warming, told CNS it was “crucial”
that human rights be part of the final text, to protect people from projects
that could be considered clean energy, such as dams to produce hydroelectric
power, but would encroach on their lands and homes.

The issue of human rights “is
now (only) in the preamble,” of the text, he said.

The question of financing was
also a major obstacle, Nilles and other activists noted.

They said EU countries were
trying to get commitments from “big players,” such as China, the U.S.
and Saudi Arabia to help cover the billions of dollars it will cost poorer
countries to transition into using cleaner sources of energy instead of those
emitting dangerous carbon gases. They also want larger, more developed
countries to cover costs for the damage that global warming has already
inflicted on some of the world’s poorer countries, especially on small island
nations now in danger of being washed away completely due to rising sea levels
induced by the changing climate.

“We are collaborating with
both our faith partners and with civil society partners globally to get loss
and damage included in the agreement,” said Chloe Schwabe, who attended
the Paris talks in her capacity as director of the faith-economy-ecology
project at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

“Loss and damage is
critical, because it is what happens when mitigation and adaptation is not
enough and island nations are underwater and farmers are no longer able to grow
food,” she told CNS.

Any Paris agreement “should
not leave anyone behind. It must acknowledge the situations where adaptation is
no longer possible, and loss and damage must thus be a central element of the
text,” added Mattias Soderberg, who is also at the Paris conference as
delegation head for ACT Alliance, a coalition of 137 churches and faith-based
organizations working together in more than 100 countries.

In comments released by ACT
Alliance Dec 7, Soderberg called on negotiators in Paris “to agree on
climate finance, to ensure that there are adequate means of implementation to
support developing countries in their efforts to engage in both mitigation and

Both he and Schwabe emphasized
the need for countries negotiating in Paris to overcome their differences and
come up with a global climate accord by Dec. 11.

“We are literally talking
about life and death here,” Schwabe told CNS. “Global leaders,
especially in developed countries, can — and must — do more. As Pope Francis
said, ‘Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes
in lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established
structures of power which today govern societies,'” she said, quoting the
pope’s June encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,”
which champions how a change of heart is necessary to protect the earth and all
its inhabitants.

“Ensuring enough ambition
is a challenge, but societies have come so far by taking the leap of faith,”
she said.

Soderberg called the
negotiations in Paris “the time for bold leadership and increased ambition
by the ministers and all countries, and not a time to be timid and hide behind

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