Climate change is one of the greatest threats to human rights of our generation, posing a serious risk to the fundamental rights to life, health, food and an adequate standard of living of individuals and communities across the world.
More than 2 million annual deaths and billions of cases of diseases are attributed to pollution. All over the world, people experience the negative effects of environmental degradation ecosystems decline, including water shortage, fisheries depletion, natural disasters due to deforestation and unsafe management and disposal of toxic and dangerous wastes and products. Indigenous peoples suffer directly from the degradation of the ecosystems that they rely upon for their livelihoods. Climate change is exacerbating many of these negative effects of environmental degradation on human health and wellbeing and is also causing new ones, including an increase in extreme weather events and an increase in spread of malaria and other vector borne diseases. These facts clearly show the close linkages between the environment and the enjoyment of human rights, and justify an integrated approach to environment and human rights.
• Human rights are relevant to all of us, every day
• Our shared humanity is rooted in these universal values
• Equality, justice and freedom prevent violence and sustain peace
• Whenever and wherever humanity's values are abandoned, we all are at greater risk
• The Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all
• We need to stand up for our rights and those of others
Climate change and human rights
Climate change and its associated impacts – higher global temperatures, rising water levels, and increasingly frequent and extreme weather events – pose significant threats to people around the world. These threats are not just long-term, but are already being felt here and now. They particularly affect people in the global South, who are already struggling to access their rights to water, food, shelter, livelihood, and culture. Climate change policies adopted by governments at the national and international level raise a range of human rights concerns. Hence, it is crucial that human rights remain front and centre at international climate change negotiations such as the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in the future.
All human beings depend on the environment in which we live. A safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is integral to the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation. Without a healthy environment, we are unable to fulfil our aspirations or even live at a level commensurate with minimum standards of human dignity. At the same time, protecting human rights helps to protect the environment. When people are able to learn about, and participate in, the decisions that affect them, they can help to ensure that those decisions respect their need for a sustainable environment.
We urgently need stronger global partnerships
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said: “Our planet is being recklessly destroyed, and we urgently need stronger global partnerships to take action to save it...We call on leaders and governments to recognise that climate change and environmental degradation severely undermine the human rights of their people, particularly those in vulnerable situations – including the generations of tomorrow.”
A key part of the new protection agreement is to monitor threats to environmental human rights defenders more closely, develop better defenders’ networks, urge more effective accountability for perpetrators of violence and intimidation, and promote “meaningful and informed participation by defenders and civil society, in environmental decision-making.
Ms. Bachelet said every State needed to be encouraged “to develop and enforce national legal frameworks which uphold the clear linkages between a healthy environment and the ability to enjoy all other human rights, including the rights to health, water, food – and even the right to life...We also strongly encourage greater recognition that the actions and advocacy of environmental human rights defenders are deeply beneficial to all societies.”