Climate change is not only having a devastating impact on the environments in which we live, but also on respect for human rights worldwide, warned the UN.
The UN chief of rights, Michelle Bachelet, cited the civil wars provoked by a warming planet and the plight of indigenous peoples in a Amazon devastated by fires and rampant deforestation.
She also denounced attacks on environmental activists, particularly in Latin America, and abuses aimed at prominent figures such as teenage teenager Greta Thunberg.
"The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope," she told the UN human rights council in Geneva.
"The economies of all nations, the institutional, political, social and cultural fabric of each state, and the rights of all its people and future generations will be impacted" by climate change, he warned.
42 Council Session opens with a minute of silence for hurricane victims Dorian in the Bahamas, where at least 44 were killed and thousands of homes reduced to rubble.
"The storm has accelerated with unprecedented speed over a climate-warmed ocean, making it one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes to hit land," said Bachelet.
Small island states such as the Bahamas, which are heavily affected by climate change, are rapidly seeing rights to water, sanitation, health, food, work and adequate housing, he warned. She called for international action to mitigate the impact there.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also denounced the “dramatic acceleration of Amazon deforestation.
"Fires across the rainforest today can have a catastrophic impact on humanity as a whole, but their worst effects are suffered by women, men and children living in these areas," she said.
She urged the authorities of Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil to "ensure the implementation of longstanding environmental policies ... thus avoiding future tragedies."
Bachelet's comments run the risk of further irritating the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, who last week accused her of meddling in her country's affairs after she criticized the deteriorating rights situation in the country.
The UN rights chief also highlighted the impact climate change is having on insecurity around the world. She cited a UN estimate that 40% of civil wars in the last six decades have been linked to environmental degradation.
In the Sahel region of Africa, for example, degradation of arable land "is intensifying competition for already scarce resources," she said. This in turn exacerbates ethnic tensions and fuels violence and political instability, he added.
Bachelet lamented that those who sound alarmed by the devastating impacts of climate change are often attacked.
UN experts, she said, "observed attacks on environmental human rights defenders in virtually every region, especially in Latin America."
“I am discouraged by this violence and also by the verbal attacks on young activists like Greta Thunberg and others, which galvanize support for preventing the damage your generation can endure, ”said Bachelet.
"The demands made by environmental advocates and activists are compelling, and we must respect, protect and fulfill their rights."
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