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Climate change ‘dystopian future already here’: UN rights chief

The UN rights chief, Volker Turk, highlights climate change as a source of human rights emergencies in multiple countries.

He decries misinformation and calls for urgent action to address the devastating impacts of climate change.



GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — Climate change is sparking human rights emergencies in numerous countries, the UN rights chief said Monday, decrying widespread misinformation sowing chaos and confusion to deny that reality.

Speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council, Volker Turk pointed to recent examples of the “environmental horror that is our global planetary crisis”, including in Basra, Iraq, where “drought, searing heat, extreme pollution and fast-depleting supplies of fresh water are creating barren landscapes of rubble and dust”.

“This spiralling damage is a human rights emergency for Iraq, and many other countries,” he said in his address opening the 54th council session in Geneva.

“Climate change is pushing millions of people into famine. It is destroying hopes, opportunities, homes and lives. In recent months, urgent warnings have become lethal realities again and again all around the world,” Turk said.

“We do not need more warnings. The dystopian future is already here. We need urgent action now.”

He was speaking after the G20 at the weekend backed the goal of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030, but failed to commit to a phase-out of fossil fuels.

At a time when the ravages of climate change are forcing more and more people to leave their homes, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said he was “shocked by the nonchalance” seen towards surging numbers of migrant deaths.

“It is evident that far more migrants and refugees are dying, unnoticed,” he said.

He highlighted the more than “2,300 people reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean this year, including the loss of more than 600 lives in a single shipwreck off Greece in June.”

He also pointed to migrant deaths in the English Channel, the Bay of Bengal, in the Caribbean, and along the US-Mexican border.

And he highlighted migrant deaths at “the border of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where my office is seeking urgent clarification about allegations of killings and mistreatment”.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch last month said Saudi border guards had fired “like rain” on Ethiopians trying to reach Saudi Arabia from Yemen.

Amid these towering problems facing the world, Turk decried “politics of deception”.

“Helped by new technologies, lies and disinformation are mass-produced to sow chaos, to confuse, and ultimately to deny reality and ensure no action will be taken that could endanger the interests of entrenched elites,” he said.

“The most apparent case of this is climate change.”


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