Climate change, extreme poverty and human rights: Report
The Special Rapporteur for extreme poverty
To the HRC at its 41st session, 17 July 2019
Climate change threatens the full enjoyment of a wide range of rights (A/HRC/31/52, paras. 23–32). In addition, climate change will exacerbate existing poverty and inequality. It will have the most severe impact in poor countries and regions, and the places where poor people live and work. Rapid action and adaptation can mitigate much of this, but only if done in a way that protects people in poverty from the worst effects.
Within the United Nations system, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has prepared reports on climate change in general, on its relationship to the right to health, to the rights of the child, to migration, and to the rights of women (see A/HRC/10/61, A/HRC/32/23, A/HRC/35/13, A/HRC/37/35 and A/HRC/41/26 respectively.)
The High Commissioner has noted that States have "an obligation to strengthen their mitigation commitments in order to prevent the worst impacts of climate change" and the current OHCHR management plan for the period 2018 to 2021 lists climate change as one of five "frontier issues".
In the light of this, the Special Rapporteur presented this thematic report on climate change and extreme poverty to the Human Rights Council at its 41st session in July 2019.
Climate change will have devastating consequences for people in poverty. Even under the best-case scenario, hundreds of millions will face food insecurity, forced migration, disease and death. Climate change threatens the future of human rights and risks undoing the last 50 years of progress in development, global health and poverty reduction.
Staying the course will be disastrous for the global economy and pull vast numbers into poverty. Addressing climate change will require a fundamental shift in the global economy, decoupling improvements in economic well-being from fossil fuel emissions. It is imperative that this is done in a way that provides necessary support, protects workers and creates decent work.
Although climate change has been on the human rights agenda for well over a decade, it remains a marginal concern for most actors. However, it represents an emergency without precedent and requires bold and creative thinking from the human rights community and a radically more robust, detailed and coordinated approach.