How is climate change a human rights issue?
Most people are familiar with climate change as an environmental issue. Climate change is already causing extreme storms and heat waves, droughts, floods, forest fires, sea level rise and more.
But what does that have to do with human rights?
The climate crisis is the greatest human rights challenge of our time. It affects many human rights, including the right to life, health, food, water, housing, security and the rights of Indigenous peoples. While all of us are affected by climate change, poorer countries and disadvantaged communities that have done the least to cause climate change will be hit the hardest. Climate change compounds and magnifies existing inequalities, and its effects will continue to grow and worsen over time, creating ruin for current and future generations. This is why the failure of governments to act on climate change in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence may well be the biggest inter-generational human rights violation in history.
What should governments be doing?
States have an obligation to protect human rights, including from harms caused by climate change.
A 2018 Special Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that in order to avoid the worst consequences for human rights from climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions must be halved from their 2010 levels by 2030. That’s just 11 years away!
So far, the actions and commitments taken by the Canadian government and other states are inadequate to prevent the climate crisis. Much more ambitious action is necessary. It is imperative that governments take urgent action to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, it is of utmost importance that they do so in a way that avoids harming human rights.
Amnesty Canada urges the Canadian government to rapidly and substantially strengthen its efforts to address the grave and mounting human rights implications of climate change by committing to end the use of all fossil fuels and shift to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible and no later than 2040. At the same time, the Canadian government must ensure that the transition to a zero-carbon economy respects, protects, and fulfills human rights. The Canadian government must also provide substantial financial and technical support to help the hardest hit communities both home and abroad to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
What can I do?
On Friday September 20th and Friday September 27th, youth in Canada and around the world are standing up for change as part of a Global Climate Strike. They encourage adults to join them.
If you plan to attend a climate strike, we invite you to order some free bandanas to wear to the strike and to distribute to youth strikers. To order your bandanas please email Don Wright.
2. Follow and share Amnesty’s #ClimateStrike updates on social media
3. Send a letter to the Canadian government to call for urgent climate action
4. Join us in making climate change an election issue
Amnesty has included addressing climate change as one of it's Top 10 Election Asks.
Register now to help us make climate change and human rights an election issue this October.
Where can I learn more about climate change and human rights?
For more information about what causes climate changes, what are the effects of climate change, why climate change is a human rights issue, who will be impacted by climate change, and why governments and corporations must take responsibility to urgently stop climate change click here.
Live-stream from the Peoples' Summit on Climate, Rights & Human Surivival Sept 18, 2019 (About the Summit: From Sept 18-19, 200 leaders from Indigenous, environmental, social justice and human rights movements are coming together to unleash new power, energy, and resources to overcome the climate crisis by putting people and human rights at the core of climate action.)