US climate change policy violates human rights


Summer sea ice to disappear: The Arctic Climate Impact
Assessment, a vast scientific study which took four years to compile,
found that the region would warm by four to seven degrees Celsius by
the end of the century, with summer sea ice disappearing within 60

US policies a major factor in changes: The petition, filed on
behalf of the ICC by the Center for International Environmental Law
(CIEL), said US policies on greenhouse gas emissions were a major
factor driving these changes.

World’s largest emitter: “The United States is the world’s
largest greenhouse gas emitter; it has turned its back on the Kyoto
Protocol and has not put in place measures to limit its emissions,”
said CIEL’s senior attorney, Donald Goldberg. “The Inuit are bearing
the brunt,” he said.

Declaration sought: The petition asks the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights to investigate the harm caused to Inuit by
global warming, and to declare the US “…in violation of rights
affirmed in the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of
Man and other instruments of international law.”

Mandatory limits also sought: It also urged the Commission to
rule that the US must adopt mandatory limits on greenhouse gas
emissions and “…help Inuit adapt to unavoidable impacts of climate
change.” If the Commission ruled in favour of the Inuit, it could refer
the US to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for a legal

Any decision largely symbolic: Both the Commission and the Court
work within the framework of the American Convention on Human Rights.
As the US had not ratified the Convention, a ruling by the Commission
would be largely symbolic; but Donald Goldberg believed that did not
make it worthless.

Possible domestic mechanism within US: “If the Commission finds
the US has violated human rights, it’s a serious matter,” he said.
“States don’t like to be classified as violators of human rights; and
in any case, there is a domestic legal mechanism called the Alien Torts
Claims Act which might allow us to use a Commission judgement in
national litigation.”

Reference: Digest of latest news reported on website of Climate
Change Secretariat of United Nations Framework on Climate Change
Control (UNFCCC). 8 December. Address: PO Box 260 124, D-53153 Bonn.
Germany. Phone: : (49-228) 815-1005, Fax: (49-228) 815-1999. Email:

Erisk Net, 12/12/2005

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