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Why the climate crisis is a human rights issue

...and Cool Earth’s take on how to tackle it.

Last week, our director Mathew Owen spoke amongst a panel at ‘The Climate Crisis is a Human Rights Crisis’, an event hosted by Human Rights Watch Next Gen and LSE’s Amnesty International Society.

Chaired by Steve Andrews, Chief Executive of Earthwatch, the panel comprised of Richard Pearshouse, Director of the Environment and Human Rights at Human Rights Watch, and Charles Perry, Founder of Sustainable Future for All.

How are the climate crisis and human rights linked?

To start, the panel were asked why they thought the climate crisis was a human rights issue.

Mathew discussed the dangers of labelling the climate crisis as an issue of nature alone.

“We should be working with, and for, the people living on the front line of the climate crisis… Indigenous peoples and local communities living in rainforests. This is how to keep forests standing and fight the climate crisis.”

An Asháninka village surrounded by lush tropical rainforest. Aerial view.

An Asháninka village among tropical rainforest.

Explaining that at Cool Earth, we give money directly to Indigenous communities.

“Money is often the only way that they can enact the rights that they deserve but have always been denied”.

Can we expect any progress from COP27?

Matthew highlighted that Indigenous people account for 6% of the world’s population and protect 80% of its biodiversity. In the last 10 years, 1,700 climate activists have been murdered and 634 people who lost their lives were Indigenous peoples.

When asked about the participation of indigenous people in the COP process, in anticipation of COP27, Matthew highlighted that “Indigenous communities and their representatives must be front and centre at COP”, but also highlighted that the system itself needs reform and questioning the authenticity of the event.

“Does it matter if Indigenous people or anyone for that matter, attends COP27 when the agreements are non-binding and very little action is actually taken after? The only way of really addressing forest protection is when you give the people on the ground the resources to do what they have done for thousands of years, which is to keep the forest standing, and keeping that critical store of carbon where it deserves to be”.

How is Cool Earth making a difference?

As the discussion continued, the panellists touched on topics such as adaptation, mitigation and the concept of ‘loss and damage’ reparations. Matthew again highlighted that giving cash to those on the frontline of the climate crisis will help “build resilience that’s critical, particularly over the next 40 years, where we are going to see more frequent and extreme weather events”.

Matthew finished by summarising unconditional cash transfers as the future of Cool Earth’s work, for local communities and Indigenous peoples on the forefront of tackling deforestation and the destruction of their rainforest homes.