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Ahead of COP24, International Human Rights Organization Calls for Urgent Action to Address Climate-Forced Displacement

Contact: Michael Givens, mgivens@uusc.org, 857-540-0617 (cell); available 24/7

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. November 30, 2018 — In the lead up to the December 2-14 Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the international human rights organization Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) says there are three top issues up for formal decision at the summit that must be approved. They are:

“The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C makes our dire situation clear,” said UUSC Senior Partnership Officer for Climate Justice and Crisis Response Salote Soqo. “Definitive, urgent and longer-range actions can’t proceed without these linchpin agreements in place.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. backed out of the Paris Accord and is no longer a world leader in a commitment to slowing global warming—despite its daunting new climate report by 13 federal agencies that was issued—and obscured—over the Thanksgiving weekend,” she said.

Soqo noted the need to formalize action during COP24 by urgently addressing Loss and Damage. “At this point, there is uncertainty where, after COP24, the responsibilities, decisions and actions on climate change displacement will reside,” she said.

“UUSC and many other human rights and climate justice groups are now unsparingly calling on the international parties to get out of stall mode on plans to deliver financial and other supports to developing nations.”

Soqo said the same uncertainty exists with regard to the work of the UNFCCC Task Force on Displacement. That task force’s mandate is to develop recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change.

“The task force’s work concludes at COP24, but there is a possibility for extension, unless otherwise decided by the Warsaw International Mechanism Executive Committee,” she said.

“Meanwhile, the ‘least of these’—smaller and underfunded nations and communities who are well into loss, recovery and climate displacement stages—are essentially doing it on their own with assists from rights groups and partners.”

COP24 side event will highlight progress in advancing human rights in climate-forced displacement

In a Tuesday, December 4 side event at COP24 entitled Climate-Forced Displacement: Progress to Advance Human Rights and Justice, Soqo will join Robin Bronen of the Alaska Institute for Justice, who is working with 15 Alaska Native communities to address the slow-onset impacts of permafrost melt, land erosion, and flooding, Maina Talia of the Tuvalu Climate Action Network, and Harjeet Singh of ActionAid International to discuss climate displacement and the need for international stakeholders to take action.

UUSC’s Environmental Justice and Climate Action initiative focuses on advancing the rights of populations at risk of climate-forced displacement—specifically communities in the Pacific Islands and isolated coastal Arctic Alaska Native communities who are already grappling with rising sea levels, erosion and the effects of permafrost melt in the Arctic, along with associated losses and damages.

“At all costs, we and other rights organizations are advocating for these groups’ leaders and their first-hand expertise in dealing with climate issues to have central places at the international decision tables on climate change,” Soqo said.

October Convening precedes COP24 with urgent calls to build First Peoples’ climate resilience

In what was billed as the First Peoples’ Convening on Climate-Forced Displacement, held in Girdwood, Alaska in October, delegates from Alaska, Bangladesh, Louisiana, Washington State and the Pacific Islands gathered to express alarm for the world and for their respective vulnerable communities.

The gathering, co-sponsored by UUSC and the Climate Justice Resilience Fund, resulted in an international declaration to the United Nations and global leaders to commit to “implementation of initiatives that protect, revive and transfer the rapidly eroding traditional knowledge and way of life of First Peoples and Indigenous Peoples to younger generations, which is imperative for building community resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis,” and further building the resilience of those frontline communities.