Human rights group wants climate mobility justice on COP28 agenda

"Climate justice now" protesters in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Image: RNZ/Hilaire Bule

By Eleisha Foon, RNZ Pacific journalist

A new legal framework to support climate-displaced people and guarantee their human rights is being served up ahead of COP28.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference opens tomorrow and is being held in the fossil fuel giant United Arab Emirates (UAE) from November 30 to December 12.

The human rights advocacy centre — the International Centre for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD) — wants to ensure climate frontline communities will not be neglected.

The UN is estimating there could be 1.2 billion climate-displaced people by 2050.

ICAAD and partners are calling for climate mobility justice to feature on the agenda of COP28.

The Human Rights Centre wants discussions around how to expand protections for climate-displaced persons to ensure their dignity is upheld now and in the future.

In the Pacific, many islands could become uninhabitable in the coming decades due to sea level rise, yet there is no legal clarity on how, or if, these communities will be protected.

ICAAD director and facilitator Erin Thomas said more than 40 indigenous and climate activists and researchers from eight Pacific Island countries were advocating for COP28.

‘Right to life of dignity’
“This is part of our right to life of dignity project which we have been working on over a number of years,” she said.

“But one of the thornier issues that the international community has yet to respond to effectively is protecting those who are displaced across borders.”

The group warned that climate change is already creating human rights abuses, especially for those already migrating without access to dignified migration pathways.

At the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) annual meeting in Rarotonga two weeks ago, regional leaders noted that more than 50,000 Pacific people were displaced due to climate and disaster related events annually.

The leaders endorsed a Pacific regional framework on climate mobility to “provide practical guidance to governments planning for and managing climate mobility”.

They also called on development partners to “provide substantially greateer levels of climate finance, technology and capacity to accelerate decarbonisation of the Blue Pacific”.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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