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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Türk calls for climate action – now

15 November 2023

Delivered by

Video message from Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


Advancing Equity and Rights for People and States on the Frontlines of the Climate Crisis Online Event jointly organised by the Climate Vulnerable Forum and UN Human Rights

Everywhere – and especially in your countries – the climate crisis is generating profound and increasing threats to human rights.

This is a matter of life and death. The dignity and the very survival of communities, of nations – and ultimately, all of humanity – is at stake.

Two weeks from now, global climate negotiations will resume in Dubai. It is absolutely essential that they lead to decisive, united, immediate and equitable action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, and to remedy the impacts that can no longer be prevented.

We have to ensure that Governments, businesses and individuals prioritise the interests of humanity over their short-term, narrowly defined self-interest.

I am deeply worried that global climate negotiations have to date fallen far short of what is needed to stop climate change and remedy its worst impacts. The world is dangerously off-track to meet the promises made in the Paris Agreement. And if this inaction continues, the consequences for current and future generations will be catastrophic.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum’s important work on equity highlights the vastly disproportionate impacts of climate change on the countries and people who have been least responsible for causing them.
Today, you will hear from leaders of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, and people on the frontlines of the climate crisis. I emphatically support their demand for justice, and I urge all States to drive concrete action at COP28 to meet this demand.

Recent discussions on loss and damage are an example of how the world continues to fall short of that imperative.

The climate justice movement, and many of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, struggled for years for an agreement to establish a new loss and damage fund, finally achieving this objective at COP27. But the recommendations that have been sent to COP28 for operationalization of that fund do not satisfy the demands of those that most affected by climate change. A strong governance framework that is grounded in human rights; environmental and social safeguards; an inclusive and participatory Board; and a fair funding mechanism: these should be viewed as essential, not a point of contention.

We have to do better, much better.

Point one: We must protect civic space.
Full and meaningful participation by all communities lead to better, more sustainable outcomes. But on the climate and environmental issues that affect us all, key decisions continue to be made behind closed doors – and are often influenced by fossil fuel lobbies.

In particular, environmental human rights defenders working to protect communities and land from environmental harm are often vilified, attacked and even killed. When I go to countries around the world I hear direct testimonies of what is happening to them when they act in defence of the environment. Their rights to participation, freedom of expression, and access to information and to justice must be secured.

Point two: climate action must advance equality and equity.
Adaptation strategies and all other measures need to prioritize the situation of people that are most affected by climate change, in accordance with the Paris Agreement: Adaptation funding must go first to the people who need it most.

Point three: We need to ensure access to effective remedy, and accountability, for climate-related harm.

Point four: we need resources for a rapid and just transition that advances human rights, including the right to a healthy environment.

To achieve all this, the outcomes of the Global Stocktake at COP28 must reflect the reality of the climate crisis as it is being lived on the ground. I urge States to work together to ensure that the Global Stocktake outcome calls for:

  • The rapid and equitable phase-out of all fossil fuels.
  • Effective regulation of businesses.
  • A concrete plan to ensure adequate and equitable mobilization of resources for mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage.
  • Free, meaningful and safe participation in all climate discussions of women, Indigenous Peoples, and all those most affected by climate change.

To be effective, and to ensure justice, all climate action, from this date on, must be embedded in human rights.

You can count on my Office to support those goals.

Thank you.