GENEVA – The UN Human Rights Council has begun its annual session in Geneva, and in an opening speech Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned that climate change and pollution are serious threats to human rights and humanity.
The UN chief said human inaction in the face of planetary disasters was having a devastating effect on a wide range of rights, including adequate food, water, education, health and even the right to life itself.
Michelle Bachelet says extreme and deadly climate events have hit people in every region in recent months.
“Memorial fires in Siberia and California; Massive flash floods in China, Germany and Turkey; Arctic heatwaves lead to unprecedented methane emissions; And the continuing drought from Morocco and Senegal to Siberia, potentially forcing millions of people into misery, hunger and displacement, ”Bachelet said.
Bachelet warns that intensifying environmental threats is the biggest challenge to human rights. Environmental disasters increase conflict, tensions, vulnerabilities and structural inequalities around the world, he said.
For example, he noted that humanitarian emergencies in coastal countries in Africa are being fueled by climate change. He said the region was plagued by sudden floods, unequal access to natural resources and high youth unemployment after a long drought.
“This trend is forcing people to relocate, to engage in intense conflict and political instability, and to hire fuel by violent extremist groups,” Bachelet said. UNHCR estimates that four million people have been displaced across the coast to date.
The same trends and challenges exist in different forms and at different levels in all regions of the world, Bachelet said. Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, for example, are plagued by water crisis, which has led to growing tensions over this scarce resource.
He reports that climate change is having a devastating effect on poverty, displacement and basic human rights in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He said environmental and human rights defenders in Latin America, Southeast Asia and other regions were being threatened, harassed, and even killed, often with complete impunity.
The UN rights chief said a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is the foundation of human life. He added that the future of humanity depends on the government working to preserve the precious resources of the government.