Based at the Faculty of Law, DICARP brings together scholars and activists from around the world to generate and share knowledge on how efforts to combat the climate crisis can be designed and implemented in ways that respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of disabled people.
COP 26 marked an important milestone in this regard. Alongside other human rights and disabled persons organizations, DICARP co-organized the first official side event to focus on disability and disabled people in the 30-year history of UN climate negotiations. The event explored challenges, opportunities, and pathways for ensuring that the actions taken to combat and adapt to climate change are inclusive of persons with disabilities, and that they fully consider their perspectives, rights, and requirements.
While the event marked an important milestone for disability rights in the context of the climate negotiations, the overall outcome of the conference was marred by the failure of countries to uphold their human rights obligations and to protect the most vulnerable around the world from the worst effects of the climate crisis. Key amongst these failures was the stark lack of ambition in terms of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Despite recognizing that the impact of climate change will be much lower if temperature increase is limited 1.5°C, countries still failed to commit to achieving the reductions necessary to achieve that goal. In fact, the climate pledges made by countries before and during the conference put the world on course for a global temperature increase of 2.4°C, which would be catastrophic for people and planet alike.
Countries also failed to commit to phasing out oil, gas, and coal power, instead simply calling for the phase down of ‘unabated’ coal use and allowing for ‘efficient’ fossil fuel subsidies. In place of real emissions reductions, the COP 26 outcome emphasizes ‘net zero’ targets and the use of carbon credits, which rely on unproven carbon capture technologies and controversial carbon offsetting schemes.
This lack of ambition represents a serious failure to protect the human rights of all people. It is now widely recognized that the effects of climate change have profound repercussions on a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, food, water and sanitation, adequate housing, health, education, and culture. The consequences of climate change will disproportionately affect individuals and communities who already face limited access to vital goods and services, including women, children, older persons, Indigenous peoples, minorities, migrants, persons with disabilities, the poor, and those living in at-risk areas.
The extreme weather events across Canada in 2021 – from the Western heat dome and wildfires to catastrophic flooding – were an urgent reminder that nowhere is safe from the impacts of climate change. Countries must urgently scale up the ambition of their climate action to protect the human rights of all people. In the meantime, we must keep fighting to centre the voices and perspectives of persons with disabilities and others who are most vulnerable to climate change, to ensure that climate policies are designed in ways that consider their rights, wellbeing, and survival.
Find out more about the Diversity-Inclusive Climate Action Research Program