Climate change threat to human rights

Climate change is violating human rights - and this should be recognised by the United Nations when it marks this year's Human Rights Day on December 10.

That is the opinion of senior figures at the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), which this week called for the UN to emphasise the link between global warming and human rights.

The organisation criticised the inequality between industrialised countries – which produce half of global carbon dioxide emissions despite containing only 15% of the world’s population – and developing countries.

Ninety-eight per cent of those affected by climate change between 2000 and 2004 lived in the developing world.

CIWEM said climate shocks such as droughts, floods or hurricanes can result in malnutrition, withdrawal from schools, cuts in healthcare investment or forced migration in poor nations.

Nick Reeves, CIWEM’s executive director, urged the UK Government to meet the challenge highlighted in a UN report recommending that rich nations need to cut their emissions by at least 80%.

Mr Reeves said: “In his first green speech as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown promised to take difficult decisions for action on climate change.

“This latest report from the UN calls on Britain and other developed countries to take urgent steps to prevent global warming from causing irrevocable damage that would hurt the world’s poor and most vulnerable.

“Mr Brown now has his chance to show that he really can take those tough decisions.”

He added that the Government needed to recognise the environmental impact of existing policies on airport expansion, road building and development.

CIWEM has backed an Inuit petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights linking the thinning of sea ice and erosion of shorelines to climate change.

It is also supporting the Alliance of Small Island States, which is planning to present a resolution to the UN climate conference in Bali claiming that climate change is a threat to human rights.

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie