COP26: ‘We must change course now’ – UN rights chief

A triple threat confronts humanity: climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, Michelle Bachelet writes

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Michele Bachelet - UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre

It is time to put empty speeches, broken promises, and unfulfilled pledges behind us. We need laws to be passed, programmes to be implemented and investments to be swiftly and properly funded, without further delay.

Only urgent, priority action can mitigate or avert disasters that will have huge – and in some cases lethal – impacts on all of us, especially our children and grandchildren.

States attending the COP26 meeting in Glasgow [which started on Sunday, 31 October] need to fulfil their existing climate finance commitments, and indeed increase them – not ignore them for a second year in a row. They need to immediately mobilise resources to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The people who are most at risk from the adverse effects of climate change – including poor and marginalised communities – should be the first recipients of those resources. And those directly affected should have a seat at the table – their meaningful participation is key to effective and equitable action.

States also need to agree to environmental and social safeguards and ensure that those harmed when climate action is taken under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement have access to effective remedies.

This is a human rights obligation and a matter of survival. Without a healthy planet to live on, there will be no human rights – and if we continue on our current path, there may be no humans.

The world’s premier intergovernmental human rights body, the Human Rights Council, last month adopted a landmark resolution clearly recognising for the first time that every human being has a right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. This was a major step forward, but declarations of principles have to be turned into concrete action – backed by resources.

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Let me be very clear: the triple threat of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss constitutes the single greatest challenge to human rights in our era.

Governments and other authorities, businesses and individuals have a shared responsibility to prevent, mitigate and remedy the negative human rights impacts of climate change.

It is time to shift to a sustainable, zero-carbon economy and stop subsidising activities proven to harm our only home. We need business models that are respectful of the environment and protect human rights.

We much change course now – it is the only option if we want to safeguard humanity.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued this statement on the COP26 meeting

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