Human Rights lawyers in North America know that although the societies of Canada and the United States believe that human rights are uniform and fair, they in fact are not.  Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to water, climate justice and indigenous people.  Poverty is also a driver in the realm of climate change.  In 2013 the U.S. Census Bureau released its American Community Survey that measured poverty rates by race from 2007 to 2011.  Two racial groups exceeded the national poverty rate of 14.3% by more than 10%: (1) the American Indians and Alaska Natives at 27 percent; and (2) African-Americans at 25.8 percent.   In comparison whites (Europeans) were lower than the overall poverty rate at 11.6.  Climate change will certainly impact poor people much more than the rich.  Indeed, their rights are already abridged.

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With regards to climate change and justice, the United Nations Human Rights Council recently declared that “all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and that they must be treated in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis . . .” It also noted that

climate change-related impacts have a range of implications, both direct and indirect, for the effective enjoyment of human rights including,  the right to life, the right to adequate food, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to adequate housing, the right to self-determination and human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and recalling that in no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence  . . .”

 

Itzchak Kornfeld

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