The United Nations Council on Human Rights officially adopted climate change as a human rights issue last Friday in Geneva, calling for a “detailed analytical study of the relationship between climate change and human rights”.
The UN ambassador to Maldives, one of the principal nations proposing the resolution, told the session
Until now, the global discourse on climate change has tended to focus on the physical or natural impacts of climate change… The immediate and far-reaching impact of the phenomenon on human beings around the world has been largely neglected," he said. "It is time to redress this imbalance by highlighting the human face of climate change.
Global warming will impact coastal areas and island nations such as Maldives, Tuvalu (which will likely disappear entirely), and Micronesia with rising seas, flooding, and intense storms.
Whether rising seas, drought, or disease, the world’s poorer nations will bear the brunt of climate change. Increasingly, those nations are letting the rest of the world know that they’re not too happy about it.
But not everyone thinks it’s necessarily a good idea for the United Nations to officially tangle human rights with global warming. Russia, in particular, said that the UN has enough agencies working on the problem.
The document adopted by the 47–nation council said, in part, that it is “…concerned that climate change poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights”.
Maldives and other island nations have warned that if inaction continues to seriously address climate change, the world will soon have hundreds of thousands of “stateless people who have nowhere to go, no government to protect them or to deliver basic services.”
Even now the first 3,000 climate refugees are preparing to leave their home on the Carteret Islands of Papua New Guinea.
While representatives from other island nations remain guardedly optimistic, insisting that the tide can be turned – to use an ironic analogy – but warn that time is indeed short, emphasizing the need for significant policy changes and emissions reductions worldwide within the next ten years.