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Climate Change Talks End with Hope, Unresolved Issues

Peru's President Ollanta Humala delivers a speech during the U.N. climate change talks in Lima, Dec. 11, 2014.

Peru's President Ollanta Humala delivers a speech during the U.N. climate change talks in Lima, Dec. 11, 2014.

Climate change talks ended Friday in Lima, Peru. The international negotiations included more than 10,000 particpants from about 200 countries.

Participants aimed to create a plan for reducing greenhouse gases around the world. They expected the plan to develop into a firm agreement at the next major climate change talks in Paris next year.

The participants – including the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon — agreed on the importance of limiting climate change.

“I carry a message of hope and urgency…”

But they could not always agree on how to reach their goal.

Representatives from developing nations repeated their belief that wealthy countries should take more responsibility for reducing their carbon pollution.

But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that more than half of global warming gases come from developing nations. He said those nations must also make changes.

Scientists warn that greenhouse gases are causing the world’s temperature to rise. Global warming, they say, will cause droughts, floods and rising oceans.

Human rights

Many participants said that climate change was a human rights issue. Mary Robinson is the former president of Ireland and the United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Change.

“We need strong language about human rights because all climate action -- adaptation, mitigation -- helps human rights. But if we don’t get that strongly into the message, we won’t understand it’s about people.”

Francesco Martone, who attended the talks, said Ms. Robinson has been a good spokesperson for human rights. Mr. Martone is a senior policy advisor for the Forest Peoples Programme. The group supports the hundreds of millions of people who depend on tropical forests in South America, Asia and Africa. Many of those forests are being severely reduced by development, including mining, logging and commercial farming.

Mr. Martone explained that the negative effects of climate change can damage the basic human rights to food, health and housing. He said that, at the same time, climate change policies must respect human rights.

“For instance, imagine the expansion of, let’s say, oil fracking or large-scale mono culture plantation for bio fuels on indigenous people’s lands. That would have an impact of their right to land. If that right is not properly recognized, and if indigenous people cannot have a say on the decision, that will then have an impact on their life.”

But Mr. Martone said the talks in Peru did not produce any major gains in protecting human rights. The participants did say that a climate change plan would address human rights. However, Mr. Martone said the plan did not say how.

“Let’s say that there is a cultural problem. Because the climate change negotiations are about carbon. So the key concern is that of ensuring that, you know, any action that will be undertaken will be quick and without any specific hurdles. That the money flows out very quickly and without key hurdles, like safeguards.”

In the New York Times, reporter Eduardo Porter discussed the same issue. He wrote that many governments do not want to slow economic growth by adding or enforcing environmental or human rights restrictions.

I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.

Kelly Jean Kelly wrote this report. Jerilyn Watson was the editor.


Words in This Story

greenhouse – adj. related to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere caused by air pollution

carbonn. element that is found in petroleum and in all living plants and animals

mitigation n. the making of something less severe or harmful

indigenousadj. existing naturally in a particular region or environment

hurdlesn. things that make an achievement difficult

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