Climate activists say 'loss and damage' must be on the U.S. agenda at the next UN climate conference


A woman at a climate protest holds a sign reading Act Now or Swim Later
Image Credit: Unsplash/Mike Baumeister

Climate advocates are urging the Biden Administration to include human rights and allowances for "loss and damage" from global warming on the agenda at the latest multinational negotiations on addressing climate change.


“Addressing climate change demands a human rights-based approach that protects the rights of people and communities,” said EarthRights Climate Change Policy Advisor Natalia Gomez, the author of a recent report on human rights and climate policy. “Climate change is the most significant threat to people and the planet. The Biden administration has an opportunity at COP27 to center human rights in climate policy.”


Climate disasters like droughts and desertification, storms and sea-level rise, and wildfires are happening all over the world, but their impacts are often more severe in the global South, which is less equipped to deal with them.


In Africa, extreme weather events made worse by climate change have killed at least 4,000 people and affected another 19 million since the start of 2022, according to data from the climate research and advocacy group, Carbon Brief.


“Africa contributes 4% of global emissions, yet is at the frontline of the loss and damage. Loss and damage finance is not negotiable,” Adenike Oladosu, a climate activist from Nigeria, told Carbon Brief.


The problems are global. And the U.S. isn't immune to the effects of climate change either. In October five U.S. Indigenous communities facing forced relocation imposed by the consequences of climate change called on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to honor international human rights obligations by protecting them and other vulnerable communities.


EarthRights identified nine ways that the U.S. government could center human rights in the upcoming negotiations in Egypt.

  • Support the inclusion of loss and damage as an agenda item for COP27.

  • Support the establishment of a loss and damage facility that provides finance in the form of grants for developing countries and affected communities and people.

  • Ensure that discussions around the GST consider the impacts of climate change on the human rights of Indigenous and frontline communities and that representatives of those communities are included.

  • Use its negotiating influence to lean on other countries to raise their climate action ambitions under a human rights approach.

  • Work towards a technical summary of the GST that outlines how parties can increase their ambition to fulfill their human rights obligations.

  • Operationalize a human rights approach to the ACE action plan to be adopted at COP27 and ensure that the plan specifically recognizes that three of its six elements are related to human rights and that it includes activities to support their implementation by addressing barriers in the development and implementation of such rights in national climate change policies, plans, strategies, and action.

  • Work to adopt an ACE action plan that recognizes the need to effectively recognize and protect the role of environmental human rights defenders and include activities that support parties’ efforts to guarantee an enabling environment for Indigenous and frontline communities.

  • Lead the process to create a task force to recognize and protect the role of land and environmental defenders in the context of climate change, increase understanding and awareness of threats they face on the national level, share experiences and best practices about measures taken to ensure their protection and rights, and propose a method to increase protection for defenders.

  • Lead efforts to strengthen civil society participation in international climate negotiations by advocating for the participation of defenders, making funding available for civil society to participate, and advocating for the development of a protocol for any country hosting UNFCCC to commit to the guarantee of freedom of association and peaceful assembly as a prerequisite for their nomination to host international climate fora, among others.

“For far too long, our nation’s climate change and human rights policies have been created in bureaucratic silos," said Gomez in a statement. "But we cannot effectively address climate change without considering human rights, particularly those of frontline and Indigenous communities."

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