Draft Paris agreement disappoints civil society

Article 2 of the agreement, which sets out its purpose, dilutes concerns of defending rights concerning gender, indigenous communities and workers

Updated - November 28, 2021 07:43 am IST

Published - December 11, 2015 02:25 pm IST - PARIS:

Civil society members protest outside the climate change conference venue at Le Bourget, Paris.

Civil society members protest outside the climate change conference venue at Le Bourget, Paris.

With world leaders committing to an ambitious Paris deal during the first week of the UN climate change summit, hopes were running high that the concerns of communities suffering the worst impacts of climate change would be addressed in the agreement. However, as the talks conclude and a draft of the agreement to be adopted later this week was released on December 9, gaps between the promises made and what the fine print of the document lays out began to appear, with civil society organisations and people’s movements opposing the dilution of Article 2 of the agreement, which lays down the purpose of the agreement.

Annabella Rosemberg of the International Trade Union Confederation, who is attending the summit as an Observer on behalf of ITUC, said that the wordings of the draft agreement prepared in mid-October in Bonn, had included the phrase ‘just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work’ in Article 2 but now this had been moved to the preamble of the agreement, which diluted the demands of the trade unions. 

Explaining the difference, Ms. Rosemberg said that having the rights of the workforce and labourers recognised in the operational part of the text, means that the parties signing on the agreement have a responsibility to act on its basis, however moving these concerns to the preamble, keeps it outside the purview of the operational text, rendering such concerns only a tokenistic recognition, and failing to fix responsibility. 

“Whatever world leaders may talk about, at the end of the day what matters is the fine print of the agreement itself and what it offers us,” she said. Expressing concern that climate change had resulted in loss of jobs for millions in several sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, transportation, she said, “A Paris deal without ambition, justice and rights is a deal for the one percent.”

Similarly, right to health, rights of indigenous people, of migrants, of children, had all been brought forward to the preamble, and remain within brackets, which means, it had not been agreed upon yet, and none of these concerns figure in Article 2 that defines the purpose of the agreement. Deborah Parker, a representative of the Lhaq'temish, The Lummi People, a Native American tribe in Washington district in U.S., said that indigenous communities worldwide were suffering from the impacts of the environmental crisis unleashed by climate change and fossil fuel extraction, and removing their concerns from the operational part of the agreement would do nothing to protect them.

“I remember going huckleberry picking and clam digging with my grandmother in Washington, but environmental pollution has ensured I cannot do the same things with my daughter anymore. I was hoping the Paris agreement would recognise the rights of indigenous people like us to carry on with our native lifestyles, but unfortunately it doesn’t.”  

The portions on gender rights are also out of Article 2. “If the concerns of women who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are not part of the main agreement what is purpose of having a climate deal? How are you going to address the needs of those who really need a solution?” asked Aditi Chhadha Kapoor, Director – Policy Advocacy and Partnerships with Alternative Futures in India. She said that even in the clauses that discuss adaptation, women are not recognised as worthy of climate finance.

The agreement continues to undermine progress on food security as well, noted Teresa Anderson, climate change policy adviser with Action Aid International. “While food security has a mention in Article 2 of the agreement, the language of the draft shows no commitment towards protecting the food security of people from the impacts of climate change so far as mitigation is concerned,” she said. 

Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change, Action Aid India, said that in a country like India, food security concerns are looming large with India experiencing a drought for the second consecutive year. Diluting the operational text of the agreement, such that these concerns aren’t recognised explicitly betrays any meaningful commitment towards those impacted by climate change, he said.

“The big fight right now is between the U.S.-led umbrella group and others bloc of developing and less developed nations, who are at the receiving end of the climate change impact,” he noted, adding, “Unless the heads of states stick their heads out nothing will happen and unfortunately here nobody is looking beyond their own national interest.”


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