The world is increasingly at risk of "climate apartheid," where the rich pay to escape the heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, according to a report by a human rights expert from the ONU.
Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the impacts of global warming are likely to undermine not only the basic rights to life, water, food and shelter of hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the rule of law.
Alston is critical of the "obviously inadequate" steps taken by the UN itself, countries, NGOs and companies, saying they are "totally disproportionate to the urgency and magnitude of the threat." His report to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) concludes: "Human rights may not survive the coming turmoil."
The report also condemns Donald Trump for “actively silencing” climate science and criticizes Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for his promise to open the Amazon rainforest to mining. But Alston said there were also some positive developments, including legal cases against states and fossil fuel companies, Greta Thunberg's activism and school strikes around the world, and the Extinction Rebellion.
In May, Alston's report on poverty in the UK compared the welfare policies of conservative parties to the creation of 19th-century workplaces. The ministers said their report gave a completely inaccurate picture, but Alston accused them of "total denial of a series of uncontroversial facts."
Alston's report on climate change and poverty will be formally presented to the HRC in Geneva these days. He said the biggest impact of the climate crisis would be on those living in poverty, as many will lose access to adequate food and water.
"Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health and poverty reduction," Alston said. Developing countries will bear about 75% of the costs of the climate crisis, according to the report, despite the fact that the poorest half of the world's population causes only 10% of carbon dioxide emissions.
"However, democracy and the rule of law, as well as a wide range of civil and political rights are at risk," the Alston report said. “The risk of community discontent, growing inequality and even higher levels of deprivation among some groups is likely to stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses. Maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex. "
The impacts of the climate crisis could increase divisions, Alston said. "We risk a 'climate apartheid' scenario where the rich pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict, while the rest of the world has to suffer," he said.
“When Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in New York in 2012, trapping low-income and vulnerable New Yorkers without access to energy and healthcare, Goldman Sachs headquarters was protected by tens of thousands of its own sandbags and energy from your generator ”.
Alston strongly criticizes all those who work to defend human rights, including his own past work, for not making the climate crisis a central issue. He said that the most recent resolution of the HRC on the climate crisis did not recognize "that the enjoyment of all human rights by large numbers of people is seriously threatened" or "the need for a profound social and economic transformation, which almost all observers they agree that it is urgent ”. If you want to avoid a climate catastrophe ”.
International climate treaties have been ineffective, according to the report, even with the 2015 Paris agreement still leaving the world on course for a catastrophic 3C (equivalent to a 5.4F increase) of heating without further action. "States have exceeded all scientific warnings and thresholds, and what was once considered catastrophic warming now appears to be the best scenario," the report notes.
"However, the necessary changes in societies and economies could be an opportunity to improve the lives of poor people, Alston said. "This crisis must be a catalyst for states to fulfill long-ignored economic and social rights, including social security and access to food, health care, housing and decent work," the report says.
Ashfaq Khalfan at Amnesty International said: “Climate change is a human rights problem, precisely because of the impact it has on people. The main obligation to protect people from harm to human rights resides with the states. "A state that does not take possible measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is violating its human rights obligations."
He said Amnesty planned to attack governments and fossil fuel companies. "We need everyone to fulfill their responsibilities to act on climate change and protect human rights," he said.