OPINION Ahead of the United Nations Climate Conference COP26, which started Oct. 31 in Glasgow, Scotland, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said it’s time to act, to put “empty speeches, broken promises and unfulfilled pledges behind us.”
“We need laws to be passed, programs to be implemented, and investments to be swiftly and properly funded, without further delay,” Michelle Bachelet said. “(Only urgent action) can mitigate or avert disasters that will have huge – and in some cases lethal – impacts on all of us, especially our children and grandchildren.”
Bachelet said Member States attending the meeting in Glasgow “need to fulfil their existing climate-finance commitments, and indeed increase them, not ignore them for a second year in a row.”
People most at risk from the adverse effects of climate change, including poor and marginalized communities, should be the first recipients of those resources, she said.
“And those directly affected should have a seat at the table,” she said. “Their meaningful participation is key to effective and equitable action.”
Member States also need to agree to environmental and social safeguards. They should ensure that those harmed when climate action is taken, under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, have access to effective remedies.
“This is a human-rights obligation and a matter of survival,” she said. “Without a healthy planet to live on, there will be no human rights. And if we continue on our current path, there may be no humans.”
The world’s intergovernmental human-rights body, the Human Rights Council, has adopted a landmark resolution recognizing for the first time that every human being has a right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
“This was a major step forward,” Bachelet said. “(But those) declarations of principles have to be turned into concrete action backed by resources.
“Let me be very clear. The triple threat of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss constitutes the single greatest challenge to human rights in our era.”
Governments and other authorities, businesses and individuals have a responsibility to act. They need to shift to a sustainable zero-carbon economy, and stop subsidizing activities proven to harm our only home.
“We must change course now,” she said. “It is the only option if we want to safeguard humanity.”