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'Climate Justice' conference takes place in Glasgow

Date: 23 November 2009

A major conference in Glasgow today has heard that the most vulnerable people in society must be protected from the effects of climate change at home in Scotland, and overseas.

Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth John Swinney told the Human Rights and Climate Change conference that Scottish Government Ministers will take that message with them when they travel to the United Nations Climate Change summit in Copenhagen next month.

Read the Joint Communique from the conference

Mr Swinney said: “The conference today has highlighted that ensuring a basic standard of rights for everyone is essential.
“We must consider those who are vulnerable in Scotland and those who are facing daily challenges in developing countries because of climate change impacts and ensure that their rights are recognised. “A big part of the discussion today has centred on the fact that if we don’t act then we make it easy for others not to act. Scotland has been strongly supported by other countries in the action outlined in our Climate Change Act, and we will take the messages from the conference today with us to Copenhagen.

“We have to work together to protect those who are most at risk.”

The conference at the Glasgow Science Centre heard from a wide range of speakers including guests from Nigeria and Bangladesh, from the Eigg Community Partnership, organisations such as SEPA and the Scottish Human Rights Commission, and the former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Mary Robinson who spoke in a special video message.

Watch the Mary Robinson video message

The audience of around 250 delegates included 50 young people from two Glasgow schools. 

Alasdair Brown, 17, a pupil at Kings
Park Secondary School in Glasgow said: “I think all of us are worried about what Scotland will look like in the future because of climate change. The conference today was interesting because it showed that people are going to be affected in Scotland as well as countries that are still developing. I think young people do think about the impact of climate change on people in different countries, and there is going to be an impact here in Scotland too.”

Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said: “The issue of ‘climate justice’ has never been more pressing.

“Climate change will affect the most vulnerable people disproportionately in Scotland as well as in the rest of the world, and we must recognise that human rights have to be upheld as part of how we deal with climate change. The event today was a landmark first step on that journey.”

Read Alan Miller's address to the conference (Word format)

Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid UK in
Bangladesh, told delegates of the extreme impact climate change is having on communities there. “Climate change is happening now. In Bangladesh whatever land we have is being lost to development. At the same time there is already an increase in temperature as well as big issues with flooding and water security. This November we were supposed to harvest but we couldn’t, we didn’t have a crop. Climate change is are a reality for people and they are trying to cope.”

Other speakers included Professor James Curran of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Fiona Sinclair from the North Glasgow Food Initiative and Tom Flood from the British Conservation Trust.