Saturday, November 27

The climate crisis is destroying the human rights of those least responsible | Patrick Verkooijen and AK Abdul Momen

Climate collapse is mocking human rights.

Start with the most fundamental right of all: the right to life, liberty and security. Two million people have died as a result of a five-fold increase in weather-related disasters in our lives. And since 90% of these deaths have occurred in developing countries, which have contributed the least to global warming, the climate crisis is also mocking the notion that we are all born equal, like the Declaration of Human Rights. of the UN and numerous affirm the national constitutions.

Next, consider other fundamental freedoms, such as the right to work, to education, to property. These are also being undermined by the climate emergency. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, estimates that 21.5 million people are displaced by disasters related to climate change each year: more than double the number of people forced to flee conflict or violence.

The rights that most of us take for granted, the right to nationality, for example, could soon be denied to the citizens of island nations if the sea level continues unchecked.

The climate crisis is delaying human progress. More than 2 billion people live in countries with high exposure to climate-related hazards. Your ability to recover when disaster strikes is limited. And when those affected are refugees and displaced populations, the impact is simply heartbreaking. When floods and landslides hit Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh this summer, thousands of people relived the nightmare of losing everything and being displaced once again.

We believe that it is time to focus attention on the impact that our climate emergency is having on human rights. It may seem obvious, but it is not happening.

Consider the reality of climate refugees. At present, neither they nor environmental migrants nor environmentally displaced persons are recognized by the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees. They are not even entitled to the minimum protection afforded by international human rights law. This must change.

Also consider the rights of the younger generations who will come of age during the current climate emergency, and the rights of those who have not yet been born. As Greta Thunberg reminds us, should their fundamental human rights be denied due to our inability to act on climate collapse?

The rights of climate refugees, youth and future generations are being put to the test in court. Climate disputes are increasing. At last count, there was more than 1,800 cases Outstanding in dozens of countries around the world, rich and poor.

The supreme court of the Netherlands has ordered emission cuts from both the government and Royal Dutch Shell. Families from the EU, Kenya and Fiji are taking the European Parliament and the EU Council to court in a bid to enforce more ambitious climate change mitigation targets. In Pakistan, the supreme court has upheld Punjab’s right to protect its water-stressed areas against further industrial development, specifically citing climate change and the rights of unborn generations in its ruling.

“The tragedy is that the generations of tomorrow are not here to challenge this plunder of their heritage. This court must bear in mind that its decisions also rule on the rights of future generations in this country, ”Judge Syed Mansoor Ali Shah said in his summary.

But lawsuits are a slow and fragmented way of enforcing human rights. More importantly, they do not work in countries with weak legal systems or where human rights are not respected.

We will not win the battle against the climate emergency one lawsuit at a time.

This is just one reason why the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a group of 48 nations on the front lines of climate collapse, supported by the Global Center for Adaptation, has been supporting a motion for a new UN special rapporteur on climate change and human rights since 2019. We ask the UN Human Rights Council, whose mission is to protect human rights, to create this new position.

Just this month, Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and current director of the Human Rights Council, called the “triple planetary crisis“From climate change, pollution and the loss of nature” the greatest challenge to human rights of our era.

We agree, and that is why we believe that climate threats to human rights deserve a higher priority within the UN.

The new special rapporteur would have a mandate to protect people from the worst impacts of the climate crisis. He or she will have to work hard. Sea levels are rising, sea ice is retreating, glaciers are melting, and rainfall patterns have become more unpredictable. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense. UNHCR predicts the number of climate refugees and displaced people could reach 200 million a year by 2050 – almost double today’s number.

The special rapporteur will have a duty to witness the impact of climate collapse on human rights first-hand, visit countries affected by climate disasters, and push for action across the entire family of UN organizations and the public sphere at large.

There is no time to lose. The longer we delay action to support people who are vulnerable to climate collapse, the worse the consequences are likely to be, making responses even more complex and costly.

Leading UN scientists warned in August that even if we were to succeed in controlling emissions, we still face many decades of climate disruption due to greenhouse gases already trapped in the atmosphere.

This decision to appoint a UN special envoy for climate and human rights has been pending for a long time. The UN Human Rights Council, currently in session, could make this decision now. This is precisely what the CVF has requested in its manifesto in favor of Cop26. By doing so, the Council would demonstrate that UN agencies can take decisive climate action – a much-needed positive boost to the Glasgow summit on which the fate of our planet depends. That move is also the strongest signal from the international community that it is ready to stop the human rights hemorrhage from the climate emergency. We sincerely hope that this is the case.

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