International Human Rights Day

Let's bury the idea that discussions on Climate Change are the preserve of scientists. Sure enough, debates on the issue are dominated by projections as to the speed of global warming, the levels of greenhouse gas emissions and so on, but at the heart of these discussions are people.

"Climate Change is biggest gross violation of human rights in the history of the world." That claim was made this afternoon at a press conference here at the UN Climate Talks in Poznan to mark the 60th anniversary of International Human Rights day. I was there to set up banners and backdrops for the photographers but took the opportunity to come in from the cold and listen to some heated debate.

The human rights debate is a logical extension of the national and international debates on climate change: we know that increasingly unpredictable and violent weather conditions are already claiming victims around the world; rich countries, such as those in the EU, recognise human rights legislation; so it follows that they should be legally obliged to provide compensation for the damage that they have already inflicted and continue to inflict on the most vulnerable people in the world.

The arguments that rich countries must urgently tackle climate change would move from being morally persuasive to being legally binding.

On my way out of the press conference I overheard someone joke about how he had "more money in my back pocket than there is committed to the adaptation fund." This is the proposed compensation scheme in which the countries most responsible for causing climate change help finance those most affected by it. There is a growing movement in Poznan to get the fund operational as soon as possible, but also to maximise the oligations on rich countries to pay into it.

Human rights should be at the centre of the discussions when the government ministers arrive in town tomorrow. The strengthening of the propsed adaptation fund could be one of the key tangible outcomes from the Poznan talks, but it can't happen without the leadership of the politicians.

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