Environmental threats are biggest obstacle to human rights, UN chief warns
The triple threats of climate change, pollution, and nature loss are posing the greatest threat to human rights worldwide, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned, calling for greater action.
Speaking at a conference on Monday in Geneva, Michelle Bachelet stressed that global environmental threats are “directly and severely impacting a broad range of rights, including the right to adequate food, water, education, housing, health, development, and even life itself.”
Bachelet continued, explaining that “the interlinked crises of pollution, climate change and biodiversity act as threat multipliers – amplifying conflicts, tensions and structural inequalities, and forcing people into increasingly vulnerable situations.” She warned that as these environmental obstacles intensify, they “will constitute the single greatest challenge to human rights in our era.”
The UN human rights chief touched on the freak weather conditions that have scathed every region of the world, stating that these “extreme” climate events have “potentially forced millions of people into misery, hunger and displacement.”
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Bachelet said that “the greatest uncertainty about these challenges is what policymakers will do about them,” adding that “we must set the bar higher – indeed, our common future depends on it.”
The warning comes just before the UN General Assembly is set to begin, and echoes the coordination of over 200 health journals publishing the same editorial stressing the “catastrophic harm” of climate change on health.
Data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service found that summer 2021 was the hottest ever, mentioning “record-breaking maximum temperatures in Mediterranean countries, warmer-than-average temperatures in the east, and generally below-average temperatures in the north.”
Meanwhile in China, heavy flooding in Sichuan province led to the evacuation of over 80,000 people from their homes by authorities in August. Record rainfall in July in the central province of Henan claimed over 300 lives. On the other end of the spectrum in Iran, water shortages caused by the most severe drought in fifty years prompted a string of protests in the southern region of Khuzestan in July.
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