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News and Resources

Climate Change and the Right to Adequate Housing

News and Resources
By Benjamin Groulx, Rooftops Canada Intern in La Paz, Bolivia

In April 2010, in Bolivia, along with 31,000 participants from 135 countries, I attended the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. The conference was civil society’s and poor countries’ response to the disappointing results of the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change in December 2009.
I was working as a Rooftops Canada Intern withRed Hábitat, a Bolivian, non-profit association. Red Hábitat aims to create inclusive, democratic, participatory, equitable and sustainable cities. It raises awareness and engages in policy dialogue on housing issues.
At the conference, the National Network of Human Settlements (RENASEH), of which Red Habitat is a member, organized a workshop to examine the impact of climate change on housing rights. The right to adequate housing is recognized in Bolivia’s new constitution, but workshop participants stressed that climate change is likely to impair this right for the poorest populations. Rapid urbanization has increased people’s vulnerability to climate change. Poorly built homes and insecurity of tenure expose people to natural disasters such as landslides, earthquakes and floods. Water is also becoming more scarce.
“Global warming is actually making fresh water a rare commodity and contributing to pushing up the price of water. This mostly affects the poor, particularly women, whose home activities like cleaning and cooking depends on water,” said Carmen Ledo, from the University Mayor de San Simón in Cochabamba, and member of RENASEH.
Workshop participants proposed micro-level solutions such as expansion of the cooperative sector to improve and expand housing delivery; increased technical capacity for poor communities; provision of quality infrastructure; and a shift to energy-efficient homes more adapted to local environment and culture. At the macro level, participants encouraged new housing and habitat policies based on the participatory and inclusive development of urban and rural areas.
The conference ended with a People’s Agreement calling for “the building of a Global People’s Movement for Mother Earth, which should be based on the principles of complementarity and respect for the diversity of origin and visions among its members.”