'Climate crisis destroying human rights of those least responsible for it'

Footprints of climate change ‘evident’ in Himalayas, Karakoram ranges

The global climate crisis is destroying the human rights of those least responsible for the same, according to a British newspaper report co-authored by Bangladesh foreign minister AK Abdul Momen.

"There is no time to lose. The longer we delay action to support people, who are vulnerable to climate breakdown, the worse the consequences are likely to be, making responses even more complex and costly," Momen and Patrick Verkooijen wrote in 'The Guardian'.

Patrick Verkooijen is the CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, while Bangladesh is presiding over the Climate Vulnerable Forum this year.

Quoting UNHCR prediction that the number of climate refugees and displaced people could reach 200 million a year by 2050 -- nearly double the number than that of today, the authors called on the United Nations to urgently appoint a special rapporteur on climate change and human rights "to galvanise action on the biggest threat to fundamental freedoms".

"The special rapporteur will have a duty to witness the impact of climate breakdown on human rights first-hand, visiting countries affected by climate disasters and galvanizing action across the family of UN organisations and the wider public sphere."

The UN's top scientists warned in August that "even if we were to succeed in reining in emissions, we still face many decades of climate disruption because of the greenhouse gases that are already trapped in the atmosphere".

"This decision to appoint a UN special envoy on climate and human rights is long overdue. The UN Human Rights Council, currently in session, could take this decision now," Momen and Verkooijen wrote.

This is precisely what the CVF has called for in its manifesto for Cop26. By doing so, the authors said the Council would demonstrate that UN bodies can take decisive climate measures, a much-needed positive impulse for the Glasgow summit on which our planet's fate hinges.

"That move is also the international community's strongest signal it is prepared to staunch the climate emergency's hemorrhaging of human rights. We sincerely hope it will," they wrote.

Two million people have died as a result of a five-fold increase in weather-related disasters in our lifetimes, according to the write-up.

"And given that 90 per cent of these deaths have occurred in developing countries, which have contributed the least to global heating, the climate crisis is also making a mockery of the notion that we are all born equal - as the UN Declaration of Human Rights and numerous national constitutions assert."

UNHCR estimates that 21.5 million people are displaced by climate change-related disasters every year - more than twice the number of those forced to flee conflict or violence, the authors said in their write-up.

"Rights that most of us take for granted - the right to nationhood, for example - could soon be denied to citizens of island nations if rising sea levels continue unchecked.

"The climate crisis is setting back the clock on human progress. More than two billion people live in countries with high exposure to climate-related hazards.

"Their capacity to recover when disaster strikes is limited. And when those affected are refugees and displaced populations, the impact are simply heartbreaking," they wrote.

When flooding and landslides struck the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh this summer, thousands of people relived the nightmare of losing everything and being displaced yet again.

"We believe it's time to train the spotlight on the impact our climate emergency is having on human rights. It may sound obvious, but it is not happening," they wrote.