Climate change threatening democracy and human rights – UN

27th June 2019

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Helen Simpson

Climate change could push more than 120 million additional people into poverty by 2030 and have profound implications for democracy and human rights, a UN report has claimed.

It predicts a “climate apartheid“ scenario where the wealthy pay to escape the impacts of climate change while the world's poorest endure overheating, hunger and conflict.

Many may have to choose between starvation and migration as extreme weather exacerbates food insecurity, loss of income and poor health, threatening the rights to life, food, housing and water.

Moreover, the report states that governments could struggle to persuade their citizens to accept the major social and economic transformations required to tackle the crisis.

“In such a setting, civil and political rights will be highly vulnerable,“ UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, said.

“Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction.

“As a full-blown crisis that threatens the human rights of vast numbers of people bears down, the usual piecemeal, issue-by-issue human rights methodology is woefully insufficient.“

Although some have turned to the private sector for solutions, the report argues that a focus on profit would “nearly guarantee“ massive human rights violations as the wealthy are catered to and the poorest are left behind.

And if climate change is used to promote business-friendly policies and widespread privatisation, then exploitation of natural resources and global warming may be accelerated rather than prevented.

The report calls for local policies that support displaced workers and ensure quality jobs, and for a robust social safety net to mitigate the unavoidable harms of climate change.

“There is no shortage of alarm bells ringing over climate change, and an increase in biblical-level extreme weather events appear to be finally piercing through the noise, misinformation, and complacency, Alston continued.

“This crisis should be a catalyst for states to fulfil long ignored and overlooked economic and social rights, including to social security, access to food, healthcare, shelter, and decent work.

Image credit: iStock


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