Published:  11:14 PM, 09 September 2019

UN sounds alarm over climate change’s impact on human rights

UN sounds alarm over climate change’s impact on human rights
Climate change is not only having a
devastating impact on the environments we live in, but also on respect for
human rights globally, the UN warned Monday, urging collective action.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet cited the civil wars sparked by a
warming planet and the plight of indigenous people in an Amazon ravaged by
wildfires and rampant deforestation.

She also denounced attacks on environmental activists, particularly in
Latin America, and the abuse aimed at high-profile figures such as teenage
campaigner Greta Thunberg.

“The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope,” she
told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“The economies of all nations, the institutional, political, social and
cultural fabric of every state, and the rights of all your people, and future
generations, will be impacted” by climate change, she warned.

The 42nd session of the council opened with a minute of silence for the
victims of Hurricane Doriane in the Bahamas, where at least 44 have been
killed and thousands of homes reduced to rubble.

“The storm accelerated with unprecedented speed over an ocean warmed by
climate shifts, becoming one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever to hit
land,” Bachelet said.

Low-lying small island states like the Bahamas, which are heavily impacted
by climate change, are quickly seeing rights to water, sanitation, health,
food, work and adequate housing, she warned. She called for international
action to mitigate the impact there.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also denounced the “drastic
acceleration of deforestation of the Amazon.

“The fires currently raging across the rainforest may have catastrophic
impact on humanity as a whole, but their worst effects are suffered by the
women, men and children who live in these areas,” she said.

– ‘Prevent future tragedies’ –

She urged authorities in Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil to “ensure the
implementation of longstanding environmental policies … thus preventing
future tragedies.”

Bachelet’s comments risk further angering Brazilian President Jair
Bolsonaro, who last week accused her of meddling in his country’s affairs
after she criticised the deteriorating rights situation there.

The UN rights chief also highlighted the impact climate change is having
on insecurity around the world. She cited a UN estimate that 40 percent of
civil wars over the past six decades have been linked to environmental

In the Sahel region of Africa for instance, degradation of arable land “is
intensifying competition for already scarce resources,” she said. This in
turn exacerbates ethnic tensions, and fuels violence and political
instability, she added.

Bachelet lamented that those sounding the alarm over the devastating
impacts of climate change are often attacked.

UN experts, she said, had “noted attacks on environmental human rights
defenders in virtually every region, particularly in Latin America.”

“I am disheartened by this violence, and also by the verbal attacks on
young activists such as Greta Thunberg and others, who galvanise support for
prevention of the harm their generation may bear,” Bachelet said.

“The demands made by environmental defenders and activists are compelling,
and we should respect, protect and fulfil their rights.”

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