NYC Rally for a Global Climate Treaty that Protects Human Rights

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Call To World Leaders Meeting in Peru on Climate Change

Hundreds of climate change activists observed International Human Rights Day by rallying at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza to demand that the world governments meeting in Lima Peru agree to take bold action to address global warming.

Similar protests took place in Lima and throughout the world, including Albany and Syracuse.

The issue of protecting human rights through action on climate justice has emerged in recent years as a central demand in the international negotiation. Some are calling the Lima talks "the Human Rights COP," or Conference of the Parties. Last month, the United Nations issued a letter calling upon climate negotiators for the binding climate agreement to be made in Paris in December 2015 to recognize the dangers to human rights that climate change poses and to develop explicit language to protect the human rights of the most vulnerable in the face climate change.

The NYC organizers point to food shortages, extreme weather conditions, and the subsequent displacement of people from their homes as human rights tragedies that have resulted from the burning of fossil fuels for energy and profit.

On deforestation -- a huge issue in host country Peru -- negotiators are being asked for stronger safeguards to protect human and indigenous rights, traditional knowledge and biodiversity. A number of indigenous activists have been murdered in Peru and elsewhere for protesting against the destruction of rainforests and ancestral homelands.  The groups are also concerned about the right of access to food, clean air and clean water.

The groups had three central demands:

· The US government must take decisive action to address the climate crisis in the US and to fully commit to a legally binding global climate treaty.

· The new Global Climate Treaty in Paris in December 2015 should explicitly require world governments to protect the human rights of citizens affected by climate change.

· Developed nations must fully fund the UN Green Climate Fund to support developing nations in climate mitigation and a just transition to a green economy.

"The impact of climate change on food security is already starkly evident in the global struggle to provide food and water for all people and is projected to get worse as climate conditions deteriorate and corporate interests continue to erode the security of essential water supplies, through privatization or pollution," said Dee Aherne of 350nyc.org, the lead sponsor of the Rally.

"In addition, we see an escalation of human rights atrocities being perpetrated on environmentalists and indigenous communities by the corporate forces that are driving climate change, often with the collusion of governments.  As they stand up to rapacious deforestation, mining, oil drilling, fracking, and pipeline building to protect their communities and preserve natural habitats, indigenous and poor communities are on the frontlines of resistance and are first to suffer," Aherne added.

"To me being a climate activist is a moral obligation we have to ourselves and future generations," said Forhad Shah, a Global Kids student Climate Activist from Long Island City High School in Queens and a member of the Human Rights Activist Project (HRAP) program, who's originally from Bangladesh. "I come from a country where millions will be displaced and massive parts of the country lost to rising sea levels. To me being a climate activist is to care for this planet and the creatures that inhabit it."

Itzcuauhtli Roske-Martinez, an 11-year-old indigenous eco-rapper, is in week six of silence to demand science-based climate action. He asks why kids should “go to school and learn a bunch of stuff if there is not going to be a world worth living in? The so-called 'leaders' are failing us. We now face a crisis that threatens everyone’s future. I’m taking a vow of silence until world leaders take action. When I say world leaders, I mean us. Maybe it’s up to youth.”

Xiuhtexcatl Roske-Martinez, the Earth Guardian who organized a 30 day silent strike to demand action on climate change, added, "Our future is at stake and every living system on the planet is unraveling because of rising temperatures!  We are calling on everyone one, everywhere to be a climate leader today so that our voices are amplified as we move towards the United Nations Summit in Peru!  The leaders must act and put a climate recovery plan into place or we wont have a chance of inheriting a healthy habitable planet."

"Any conversation about climate action must take place in the framework of a conversation on human rights," said Council Member Donovan Richards, Chair to the Committee on Environmental Protection. "For too long the brunt of an increasingly warming planet as a direct result of the actions of those with access to greater resources, has been felt largely by those who are poorer and largely of color. In order to stop the threat of future environmental injustices against our fellow global citizens, I am proud to stand with 350 NYC and other affiliated organizations to demand from world leaders not only a commitment to combat climate change, but also a strong reaffirmation to protecting  human rights."

Earlier in the day, Peruvian activists protested at the Consulate General in Peru against the murder of environmental activists and indigenous land defenders and the expansion of fossil fuel extraction. They also protested the pending TransPacific Partnership free trade agreement. Peruvian negotiators are participating in Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations that will encourage further exploitation of Peru's lands and people by the industries most responsible for driving climate change. TPP will grant foreign corporation new rights to attack Peru's environmental laws in international tribunals outside the jurisdiction of the nation's court system.

"As the world looks to Lima for solutions to the global climate crisis, we call on Peruvian President Ollanta Humala to stand with Peruvian communities fighting to defend the earth and their way of life against the oil; gas; mining; cattle grazing; logging; and plantation agribusiness industries," said Mariano Munoz with Peru Climate Solidarity. "In pursuit of profit, these that are destroying rainforests and other critical ecosystems; poisoning land and water; exacerbating climate change; and using violence and murder against indigenous communities and other Peruvians who take action in defense of the environment. Unfortunately, President Humala has broken faith with communities who believed his promises --- that he would diverge from the policies of his predecessor, Alan Garcia, who facilitated the corporate plunder and ecological destruction of Peru through free trade and corporate investor rights agreements.""It is time for the U.S. government to stop being the leading carbon emitter and take the lead in drastically reducing fossil fuel use. The US needs to sign a legally binding global agreement that will include helping developing nations in climate mitigation and with a just transition to a sustainable economy," said Gloria Mattera of the Green Party of NYS. "The right to health care, food, shelter, education has been supplanted by making these basic needs part of a market-based, for profit system.  The quality of life, especially in communities of color here in the U.S. and the poor and indigenous overseas, have no value to those who answer only to their rich shareholders.  The only way to keep deadly fossil fuel reserves in the ground is for the people to have the power to control that industry."

"Across the world, subsistence crops are approaching the limits of their viability as temperatures change; erratic rainfall patterns and changing seasons are upsetting agricultural cycles and leaving many struggling to feed their families; and rising sea levels are causing the inundation of crops and the contamination of water supplies with salt water," said Jennifer Viechweg-Horsford, a volunteer with Oxfam America.

"Climate change disproportionately affects those most vulnerable and least able to adapt. Climate finance is fundamental to a fair and effective global climate agreement. Too few countries have delivered on their obligations," she added.

The groups also spoke out on the connections with the ongoing protests involve the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

"Given the tendency of governments to use emergencies to clampdown on essential freedoms, in the name of security, we are concerned about the systemic militarization of police forces and the excessive use of special powers to limit the rights of citizens.  In the United States we already see a differential use of the criminal justice system and use of force by the police as applied to communities of color.  These civil and human rights abuses must be dealt with," added Ms. Aherne.

Statewide, groups also addressed the issue of fracking for natural gas, with Governor Cuomo expected to make a decision shortly as to whether or not to allow this to proceed. Groups support a ban on fracking for natural gas as another fossil fuel.

"Much of the rural land surrounding our upstate NY communities is leased for fracking.  Lakes are sited for large scale water withdrawal.  Salt caverns are sited as gas storage facilities.  All across NY, high-volume natural gas pipelines and compressor stations are being constructed.  Water, land and air are being irreversibly impaired and contaminated. Our homes, health and livelihoods are being violated.  Safe, ethical, renewable energy is an essential human right," said Stacey Smith, Fossil Free & Green NY.

Ms. Mattera added that the Green Party "is continuing its efforts to promote the Green New Deal: a program that will reduce carbon emissions and create millions of living wage jobs.  Our goal is 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030.  It is possible to accomplish this goal and in fact it is an imperative."

Speakers at the rally included: Roberto Borrero, United Confederation of Taino People; Xiuhtezcatl & Itzcuauhtli Roske-Martinez, Earth Guardians; Kevin Murungi, Global Kids; Jennifer Viechweg, Oxfam Action Corp NYC; Ray Figueroa, NYC Community Gardens Coalition; Christine Halvorson, Rainforest Foundation; Gloria Mattero, Green Party; and, Anne Naguit, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.  And featuring the Climate Ribbons art project from the People's Climate March and The Raging Grannies!

Co-sponsors of the rally, in addition to 350nyc.org, included: American Ethical Union; Authors for Causes; Beloved Earth Community, Riverside Church; Bronx Climate Justice North; Bronx Greens; Campaign for Peace and Democracy; Earth Guardians; Food and Water Watch; Fossil Free & Green NY; Green Eco-Socialist Movement; Global Justice for Animals and the Environment; Global Kids; GreenFaith; Green Party of NYS; Hutchinson River Restoration Project; Left Labor Project; Manhattan Green Party; NYC Community Gardens Coalition; Responsible Endowments Coalition; Sane Energy Project; Saving Souls Corporation; Show Up! America; Sierra Club NYC Group; Social Action Committee of Park Slope UMC; System Change Not Climate Change NYC; The Black Institute; Trade Justice NY; The Mothers Project, United Confederation of Taino People; WESPAC Foundation; Widening Circles, NY.

 

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