Climate change the greatest threat the world has ever faced, UN expert warns
21 October 2022
NEW YORK (21 October 2022) – Human-induced climate change is the largest, most pervasive threat to the natural environment and societies the world has ever experienced, and the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price, a UN expert said.
“Throughout the world, human rights are being negatively impacted and violated as a consequence of climate change. This includes the right to life, health, food, development, self-determination, water and sanitation, work, adequate housing and freedom from violence, sexual exploitation, trafficking and slavery,” said Ian Fry, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, in a report to the General Assembly today.
“There is an enormous injustice being manifested by developed economies against the poorest and least able to cope. Inaction by developed economies and major corporations to take responsibility for drastically reducing their greenhouse gas emissions has led to demands for ‘climate reparations’ for losses incurred. The G20 members for instance, account for 78 per cent of emissions over the last decade.”
The Special Rapporteur’s report focuses on the topics of mitigation action, loss and damage, access and inclusion, and the protection of climate rights defenders.
“The overall effect of inadequate actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is creating a human rights catastrophe, and the costs of these climate change related disasters are enormous,” Fry said.
Those most affected and suffering the greatest losses are the least able to participate in current decision-making and more must be done to ensure they have a say in their future, including children and youth, women, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and minorities.
Fry also raised deep concern about climate rights defenders. “As groups and communities become increasingly frustrated with the lack of action on climate change, they have turned to protests and public interventions to bear witnesses to the climate emergency. Sadly, we are seeing many climate rights defenders persecuted by governments and security organisations. Some defenders have even been killed.”
The expert emphasised that indigenous peoples, in particular, have been the target of serious attacks and human rights abuses.
Fry presented several recommendations to the General Assembly, including a proposed High-Level Mitigation Commitment Forum to be held in 2023, the establishment of a consultative group of finance experts to define the modalities and rules for the operation of a Loss and Damage Finance Facility, and a climate change redress and grievance mechanism to allow vulnerable communities to seek recourse for damages incurred.
Mr. Ian Fry is the first Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change. He was appointed by the Human Rights Council at its 49th session in March 2022 and started his mandate on 1 May 2022. Mr. Fry is an international environmental law and policy expert. His focus has primarily focussed on mitigation policies and loss and damage associated the Paris Agreement, Kyoto Protocol and related instruments. He worked for the Tuvalu government for over 21 years and was appointed as their Ambassador for Climate Change and Environment 2015-2019.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.