COP21 agreement welcome but the exclusion of older people is alarming

HelpAge welcomes the Paris climate change agreement as a historic achievement, but is alarmed by the exclusion of older people from the list of those considered to live in vulnerable situations, whose rights need to be addressed.

“Given the disproportionate impact climate change is already having on older people, it is alarming that no specific consideration has been given to them in the text, even within the list of those whose rights should be specifically taken into account,” said Clodagh Byrne, Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Adviser, HelpAge International.

There is increasing evidence that older people are disproportionately affected by climate change, being more vulnerable to the effects of extreme temperatures and at greater risk of dying in extreme weather events.

This makes it all the more important that adaptation, mitigation and loss and damage strategies address their rights to food, water and security, something HelpAge International supported in its report, Climate change in an ageing world, released last week.

Older people’s rights are not reflected within the language of the agreement which calls for recognition that: “When developing policies and taking action to address climate change, parties should promote, protect, respect, and take into account their respective obligations on all human rights, the right to health, and the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and under occupation, and the right to development, and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women.”What happens now in relation to implementation of the COP21 agreement?

The follow up process to the agreement offers new opportunities for governments to address the existing gaps in the framework by strengthening national commitments to mitigation and adaptation. These strategies need to be age responsive – targeting the specific rights and needs of both children and older people.

It is essential that national commitments are revised to ensure that a 1.5 degree Celsius target is met to limit the impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable as much as possible. Even if these targets are reached, effective international loss and damage, and adaptation financing mechanisms will be urgently needed, and these need to be tailored to address the needs and rights of the most vulnerable, including older people.

“This year, the international community pledged to leave no-one behind in the post-2015 agenda, so it is with some dismay that older people now find themselves in that very position. People have a right to live in a safe and secure world at every stage of their lives.”

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Sarah Gillam, Media Relations Manager, in London on Tel: +44 (0) 20 7148 7623. Mobile: + 44 (0) 7713 567 624 Email:  skype: sarah.gillam.hai or Ed Knight, Media Intern, on Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7148 7606. Email: skype: edward.knight.hai