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Interactive Panel Dialogue on Human Rights and Climate Change
June 15, 2009

UN Human Rights Council, 11th Session
Statement by the Delegation of the United States
Geneva, Monday, June 15, 2009

Thank you Mr. President,

The advancement of human rights and effective responses to climate change are policy priorities for the United States.

As we noted in our submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights last fall, the United States agrees that “climate change … has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights,” although we note that there is no direct formal relationship between climate change and human rights as a legal matter. Many countries are vulnerable to climate variability, such as changes in annual rainfall, and climate change will add to that vulnerability.

Certainly, governments should be mindful of their international human rights obligations when considering any significant domestic policy initiatives, including those related to climate change; but the United States does not consider that human rights law provides an optimal framework for addressing climate change internationally. Instead, the United States believes that climate change can be more effectively addressed through traditional systems of international cooperation, including through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process. The goals of many of the U.S. Government’s development efforts – a well-educated population, a diverse and open economy, a secure and stable government – will serve countries well in efforts to achieve a low-carbon energy future and to build resilience to climate change.

The President is committed to addressing the threat of climate change through aggressive action to reduce U.S. emissions and broad engagement with countries from all regions.

The United States notes the contributions of the panelists today in contributing to our shared understanding of how climate change affects communities and individuals around the world. We acknowledge that these issues do overlap and efforts to address climate change and to advance human rights have a number of common and mutually reinforcing elements.

Notably, the United States considers that the attributes that contribute to climate solutions -good governance, transparency, and rule of law – are also essential to the promotion of democracy and human rights. In addition, vibrant civil societies, including independent nongovernmental groups and a free media, also are essential to the success of democracies, and help to bring issues, such as environmental concerns, to the forefront, and hold authorities to account to ensure that such important issues are addressed.

Thank you to the panelists and thank you, Mr. President.