Posts Tagged ‘UN’

UN: Fight climate change with free condoms

November 18, 2009 by content_admin No Comments »

“It requires a major leap of imagination to believe that free condoms will cool down the climate,” said Caroline Boin, a policy analyst at International Policy Network, a London-based think tank.

She also questioned earlier efforts by the agency to control the world’s population.


Hijacking Human Rights

September 17, 2009 by content_admin No Comments »

Traditionally, human rights were meant to protect individual freedoms from governments, for example outlawing torture and restrictions on free speech. The UN and activists, however, have inflated them over the years to cover ideas ranging from housing to a clean environment — perversely threatening real rights.

The latest example is climate change, undermining “the full and effective enjoyment of human rights” by jeopardising food and health, the latest draft for the international summit in Copenhagen in December says. This linkage comes straight from the UN’s discredited Human Rights Council (HRC), dominated by countries like Pakistan, Russia, and China.

Pressure group Friends of the Earth makes clear that this means that any developed country not signing up to a Copenhagen treaty will be violating human rights: “The legal and moral responsibility for urgent meaningful action rests firmly on the shoulders of the rich, industrialised countries whose over-consumption of fossil fuels and promotion of particular development paradigms has caused the climate crisis we all face.”

The FoE statement forecasts “massive human rights violations impacting on the world’s most impoverished people…” Greenpeace says “climate change…is the most important economic issue of our time, and indeed a human rights issue.” For activists it would indeed be a great coup to give their agenda a legal, human-rights, standing — and the prospect of cash is attractive to such backers as Bangladesh.

The 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham famously declared human rights to be “nonsense on stilts,” meaning they could neither be natural nor inalienable but had to be agreed and enforced. While the principles of human rights have helped secure liberty and the rule of law for millions of people, extending them to nebulous concepts such as climate change is indeed nonsensical.

For rights to have meaning, it must be clear what they are and who is responsible for upholding them. Take free speech: if a government arrests a dissident for peaceful statements or thoughts, it is clearly breaching human rights.

The right to a clean environment or health and education are far less definable. Also, if people have a right to these things, others must provide them: in practice, collectively via governments. Such “positive rights” are therefore really a call for state intervention, at the expense of other priorities and freedoms.

As acknowledged even by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, there is no way of determining which individual, organization or government is to blame in the event of any climate-related disaster. Although many experts agree that humans are affecting the climate, there is little agreement on the degree or outcome. And how does one determine if a drought in China or a flood on a Pacific island is entirely caused by man-made climate change?

If— implausibly — scientists did determine that the natural disaster was solely the result of human carbon dioxide emissions, which particular government should be held liable?

For matters such as free speech and torture, rights are important for protecting individuals from the nefarious practices of governments. But elevating complicated concepts such as health and the environment to human-rights status merely over-simplifies the economic and scientific issues.

So far, defenders of traditional human rights have been reluctant to criticize this political agenda: no-one wants to be perceived as being against not only the environment but also human rights. That is why countries such as Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands signed up to the HRC statement with repressive Albania, Bulgaria and Syria. Egypt sensibly did not get involved.

But there is a real danger to human rights from this false cry: the enormous cost of proposals to halt climate change. They would prolong the world recession and prevent the growth that is the only way for the poor to get better health, living standards and education — which human-rights activists insist governments must provide.

This campaign also devalues true human rights. The Maldives is one of the main backers of climate change as a human-rights issue, while arbitrarily arresting citizens and censoring the press. While the deeply politicized HRC is keen to stretch its mandate to cover climate change, it has refused to condemn Sudan for the atrocities in Darfur and has passed several resolutions on “combating defamation of religion,” which stifle freedom of speech and strengthen oppressive laws.

As they prepare for one of the most important climate change summits ever, negotiators should reject the human rights approach to climate change as “nonsense on stilts” and stick to what can and cannot be done.

Jacob Mchangama is head of legal affairs at CEPOS, a Danish think tank and an external lecturer of international human rights law at the University of Copenhagen.


Dangers of current disaster and climate change policies

June 23, 2009 by content_admin No Comments »

The idea that the world will be increasingly assaulted by ever-deadlier cyclones, hurricanes and floods as global warming gathers pace is now firmly lodged in the public imagination, aided by apocalyptic movies such as Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and scare stories from green groups. But a century’s worth of data on deaths and damage from extreme weather and climate events contradict these claims. What’s worse, the ideas for reducing global warming are the real recipe for disaster.

The possibility of a climate treaty negotiated in Copenhagen later this year holds the promise that today’s wealthy countries will transfer substantial portions of their emission reduction obligations to developing countries. Developing countries are, however, holding out for a multi-million dollar adaptation fund to be filled by the developed countries. The argument, supported by many guilt-laden inhabitants of the rich countries, is that developing countries are owed the money because developed countries are responsible for most of the present-day greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The prospect of capturing a share of these extraordinarily large sums has emboldened opportunistic and cynical U.N. agencies to jump on the climate change bandwagon. But in doing this, they devalue their own missions: they subordinate them to climate change even though their own missions, if fulfilled, would alleviate real global problems whereas reducing climate change would limit a hypothetical problem. In effect, they are trading a real bird in the hand for one in the bush – one that may not even be there.

Take the U.N. Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, meeting in Geneva last week. In opening, Sir John Holmes, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Chair of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), claimed that ‘we know that climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of weather and climate hazards.’ But if climate change has really increased the frequency and intensity of weather and climate hazards, it is not evident in long term data on deaths from such disasters. Global average annual mortality from such events has, in fact, declined by 95 percent since the 1920s despite a tripling of the global population. Deaths from droughts, which were responsible for 59 percent of the death toll from extreme weather and climate events from 1900-2006, dropped by 99.9 percent since the 1920s. Flood deaths, which accounted for another 35 percent of the 1900-2006 figures, declined by 99 percent.

However, Sir John was correct when he informed the meeting that: ‘disasters lead to poverty, and poverty leads to worse disasters.’

Unfortunately, the focus on reducing climate change, cheered on by the U.N. organizations, will be exceedingly expensive to developing countries even if, unlike developed countries, they are exempted from cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

This is because in today’s globalized world, developing countries derive a large part of their incomes from trade, tourism, remittances and direct investment from developed countries. Thus any economic pinch to the latter will be felt by the former.

So impoverishing the wealthy countries will also impoverish the poorer ones, who can least afford such an outcome. To repeat Holmes’s statement, ‘poverty leads to worse disasters.’

Indur Goklany is the author of Death and Death Rates Due to Extreme Weather Events: Global and U.S. Trends, 1900-2006, in the international Civil Society Report on Climate Change (2007) and of the book The Improving State of the World (Cato, 2007)


Warning to Governments: Reject European Siren Song on Climate

December 9, 2008 by content_admin No Comments »

LONDON, 9 December — Later this week, government ministers will descend on Poznan, Poland, for the UN’s COP-14 climate meeting. A new report by Prof. Julian Morris, released by a coalition of 50 global civil society groups, presents a stark warning to those ministers contemplating a global cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

Prof. Morris said: ‘A cap on emissions of carbon would do little to protect humanity against the threat of climate change but would drastically increase the threat of global economic catastrophe.’

He continued: ‘For Ministers in Poznan to agree to cap carbon emissions in the near term would be economic lunacy. It would divert resources into “low carbon” technologies and away from more productive uses – thereby slowing economic growth and harming the ability of the poor to address the real problems they face every day, such as diseases, water scarcity and inadequate nutrition.’

Prof. Morris points out that only a few European governments are now pushing strongly for a new global cap and they are doing so because their own policies are causing economic pain. ‘Some European ministers are trying to foist their own flawed climate policies on the rest of the world – in order to spread the pain. For the sakes of humanity, this EU siren song should be ignored,’ he concluded.


Remove tariffs and subsidies on agriculture to help the poor adapt to climate change

October 15, 2008 by content_admin No Comments »

This year, the UN’s “World Food Day” focuses on the pressing need for the world to adapt to climate change. But even before “climate change” became a political concern, the poor have been unable to deal with “climate” such as drought, storms and flooding – as a result of counterproductive government policies.

Governments around the world are the main barrier to plentiful food and effective adaptation to the climate. Government programmes in the name of climate change have already had terrible results – more than US$ 11 billion worth of subsidies were used to turn food crops into biofuels last year. This contributed substantially to the rise in food prices that helped push 75 million more people below the hunger threshold.

While there may be a case for government to provide flood defences and other collective goods, most adaptation will occur at a much more local scale and as such is best left to individuals.

In a recent report, World-renowned agricultural economists Professors Douglas Southgate and Brent Songhen point out that farmers will likely adapt to global warming by switching crops, and adopting new technologies and farming methods – just as they have done for centuries.*

With regard to the relationship between agriculture and climate change, the Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change (with 49 member organisations in 37 countries) makes the following recommendations:

  • Eliminate subsidies to agricultural production; such subsidies lead to overuse of inputs and increase the cost of future output by depleting soils.
  • Remove subsidies to water use (where water is owned by government entities, this would entail transferring ownership to private parties); currently such subsidies lead to overuse of both water and land.

Remove barriers to trade in agricultural inputs (such as fertilizer) and outputs (such as crops); such barriers raise the cost of food and prevent farmers from using the most cost effective technologies.

*”Weathering Global Warming in Agriculture and Forestry: It can be done with free markets” By Douglas Southgate and Brent Sohngen in the Civil Society Report on Climate Change,

World Food Day will be celebrated on October 16, 2008. The theme of this year’s WFD is “World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy.” See