How is the climate crisis 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 one of the greatest human rights challenges 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?
Here are four ways to take action:
1. Sign our e-petition to the Canadian government to demand strong action on climate change that respects human rights.
2. Volunteer with us. Join Amnesty Canada's new Climate Justice and Corporate Accountability Specialized Team to get involved in the fight for climate justice. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. Support youth climate strikers - Visit www.fridaysforfuture.ca for a map of climate strike events being organized by youth across Canada.
Governments have understandably been focused on COVID-19 lately, but the pandemic has not washed the climate emergency away. This is a vitally important moment because countries are required to set their 2030 climate targets by the end of this year (and climate scientists have raised the alarm that the world must reduce global emissions by 45% by 2030 to avoid a climate catastrophe). This is the moment to shape the future we want! Governments must continue to make maximum efforts to tackle the climate crisis. Amnesty Canada will be launching a petition to the Canadian government in early September.
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.
Throne speech lacks transformative human rights vision Sept 23, 2020
Enjeu legal brief Feb 26, 2020
Factum of the Intervener (carbon pricing) Jan 27, 2020
Davos: Climate emergency must come top of the agenda Jan 21, 2020
Madrid climate talks failed: What now? Dec 17, 2019
Five reasons to join the global climate strikes Sept 19, 2019