Environmental threats are biggest challenge to human rights -UN

By Emma Farge
FILE PHOTO: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The U.N. rights chief said the "triple planetary crises" of climate change, pollution and nature loss represented the biggest threat to human rights globally at the opening on Monday of a month-long session set to prioritise environmental issues.

"As these environmental threats intensify, they will constitute the single greatest challenge to human rights of our era," said Michelle Bachelet, referring to recent "extreme and murderous" climate events such as floods in Germany and California's wildfires.

"We must set the bar higher – indeed, our common future depends on it," she added.

Her remarks come at the opening session of the Sept. 13-Oct.8 session of the Human Rights Council, where climate change themes were expected to be central, alongside debates on rights violations in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Tigray, Ethiopia. In the same speech, she voiced alarm at attacks on indigenous people in Brazil by illegal miners in the Amazon.

Geneva-based diplomats told Reuters that two new resolutions on the environment were expected, including one that would create a new Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and another that would create a new right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

Germany's foreign minister Heiko Maas on Monday voiced support for the first idea, which has not yet been formally submitted in draft form. "Climate change affects virtually all human rights," he said.

Marc Limon of the Universal Rights Group think-tank said the Council's recognition of the right to a healthy environment would be "good news". "It would empower individuals to protect the environment and fight climate change," he said.

Decisions made by the Council's 47 members are not legally binding but carry political weight.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Toby Chopra, Aurora Ellis and Alex Richardson)


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