The top rights official has written an open letter calling for human rights to be at the heart of efforts to tackle climate change.
“The outcome of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference – COP27 – starting this weekend in Egypt, is critical for people’s effective enjoyment of human rights around the world, not just in years to come but now”, he said.
“People are losing their homes, their livelihoods, and their lives. Given the current trajectory of temperature increases, many parts of the world will be uninhabitable within our children’s lifetimes, with unimaginable consequences”.
Mr. Türk said the injustice being wrought by global warming was now catastrophic: “Look at Pakistan, where the recent flooding affected more than 30 million people. It will take years to rebuild and to even begin to understand the fallout from this single disaster.”
He warned that such disasters were likely to become “a recurring nightmare for people across the world if we do not take dramatic, rights-based action to respond to climate change, minimise its impacts, and address the human suffering it has already caused.”
He said it was significant that this year’s UN Climate Conference, COP27, being hosted by Egypt on the Red Sea coast, was taking place on a continent where millions on the climate change frontline are just victims, not contributors to rising emissions.
“The people of Africa are among those suffering the greatest consequences,” he said.
The Paris Agreement makes the need for rights-based climate action clear, the High Commissioner said, calling for all States to respect, promote, and consider their respective human rights obligations when doing so.
He highlighted recent findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that rights-based, participatory climate action leads to more effective, legitimate, and sustainable outcomes for people and the planet.
“To address the biggest challenge of the century, there needs to be a whole-of-society approach,” said Mr. Türk. “It is therefore essential that everyone – including civil society representatives – is able to participate meaningfully at the COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh. Decisions about climate change, including at this meeting, need to be transparent, inclusive and accountable, particularly for those most affected.”
Rights dimension to COP27
The High Commissioner outlined in his letter, some key steps that all countries should take, to minimize the risks to human rights from the warming world:
- Enhance climate ambition to protect human rights
- Guarantee meaningful and effective participation
- Address the human rights harms caused by climate change
- Mobilize resources for rights-based climate action
- Ensure the centrality of human rights in climate decision-making