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Press releases Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Türk calls for human rights to guide action to stop climate crisis as COP28 set to open in Dubai

15 November 2023

Human Rights chief meeting with former farmer of the Shatt Al Arab area south of Basra ion Iraq last August. ©OHCHR, 8 Aug 2023.

GENEVA (15 November 2023) – The widespread harms already caused by climate change and the accelerating existential threat it poses to the future of all human life on our planet can only be overcome if human rights guide global climate negotiations and action, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk ahead of the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.

“For decades we have failed to do enough,” said Türk in an open letter to delegates. “But there is hope. If we resolutely steer away from short-sighted decisions based on self-interest, we still have a narrow window to keep this crisis from spinning further out of control and to limit heating to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

“We must act now, in solidarity, collectively and boldly - with human rights at the core - to remedy the deep damage that has already been done,” he added.

Noting that this year’s COP comes as the world marks 75 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, the High Commissioner called on delegates to “put human rights - consciously and explicitly - at the centre of all climate decision-making at COP28 and beyond”.

He called for a rapid and equitable phase out of fossil fuels through a just transition to renewable energy and commitment to rights-based climate action, including through regulation and changes to business models that damage, rather than enhance, the enjoyment of human rights.

Emphasizing that a continuation of the status quo was unconscionable, the High Commissioner urged negotiators to ensure COP28 outcomes include strong actionable commitments to fully mobilize the international community, Governments, businesses and their resources for the advancement of human rights, including the right to life, the right to a healthy environment, the protection of civic space, adaptation that empowers people in vulnerable situations, and effective measures of remedy to address loss and damage people have suffered from climate change.

The COP is the supreme decision-making body of the 1992 UN Climate Change Convention. All 197 States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP, at which they review the implementation of the Convention. COP28 takes place from 30 November to 12 December 2023.