OPINION: Putting people's fundamental rights at the core of climate solutions

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 05:30 GMT

Agiro Cavanda and his wife Agera wade through floodwaters outside their home in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth, at Wimbe village in Pemba, Mozambique, April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The human rights and environmental communities must seek responses to the climate crisis together

Kumi Naidoo is secretary general of Amnesty International and Jennifer Morgan is international executive director of Greenpeace International.

Our organisations seek a world where people thrive in a safe and healthy environment, where human rights come before corporate profits. To make it happen, we need to face the climate crisis united in the strongest and most diverse movement ever assembled. Only together can we make world leaders take this emergency seriously.

Real solutions to the climate breakdown must place people and our fundamental rights at the core. This is an invitation to all those who value human dignity and wellbeing to fully throw their weight behind the call for global climate justice. And to those working to protect our planet to centre their efforts in communities, particularly the people most impacted and least responsible for the climate crisis.

The human rights community can bring key constituencies, power and skills to the fight for climate justice. The strength of a collective movement to overcome the climate crisis needs to match the gravity of the problem. Our organisations are coming together to make it happen, and we are urging the environmental and human rights communities to join us. 

To meet the challenge we, the people, must be more connected with each other and more committed to our planet than ever before. This is a matter of survival. Rampant carbon emissions have triggered unprecedented, dangerous and destabilising changes in our climate. Corporate and governmental neglect has already exposed millions to increasingly extreme weather disasters. We must reverse course now; the window of opportunity to act is closing.

Make no mistake. The impacts of climate change already hinder our rights to health, food, water, housing, work and even life itself. These impacts are even more severe for people already in vulnerable situations in places impacted by severe weather, poverty or oppression. Our societies cannot keep on like this. People need access to justice, governments must work for the people and corporations need to be accountable for their actions.

Now is the time to act. The signs of a shared will to do so are everywhere. Students are taking to the streets to call for a safe future. Indigenous peoples are speaking up for the defense of land, water and communities’ rights. Workers are demanding safe and well-paying jobs in better, cleaner industries. Women’s rights activists are putting forward a wealth of feminist solutions. Religious leaders are calling on us to protect communities and nature. Scientists are gathering and sharing evidence to guide us out of the crisis.

We know the challenge, and the answers are there. Solutions are available now, including renewable energy sources, respect for fundamental rights and traditional knowledge, and a true focus on the needs of the people over corporate greed.

All of our organisations work on climate change already, some more explicitly than others. But now is the moment for us to connect the dots between our causes and join forces. A climate emergency is upon us, and we must act now.

Environmental human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and local activists have long risked everything to fight environmental degradation. They are now joined in their struggle by growing mass movements such as the school climate strikes, Extinction Rebellion and campaigners calling for a Green New Deal.

In this new era of climate activism, the human rights community cannot remain on the sidelines. It is more urgent than ever that we step up by working together to protect the communities and individuals on the frontlines of the climate struggle.

That is why 150 non-governmental leaders and activists from different communities are coming together on September 18 and 19 for the “People's Summit on Climate, Rights and Human Survival”. Our organisations will be there along with the UN Human Rights Office to support people demanding immediate and ambitious climate action from their governments to protect communities. We believe in unleashing the potential of a diverse movement to safeguard present and future generations. We are united to demand climate justice.

Signers

  • Carroll Muffett, President and CEO, Center for International Environmental Law
  • Chris Grove, Executive Director, ESCR-Net
  • Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director, Wallace Global Fund
  • Gillian Caldwell, CEO, Global Witness
  • Iago Hairon Souza, Coordinator, Engajamundo
  • Jennifer Morgan, International Executive Director, Greenpeace International
  • Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General, Amnesty International
  • May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org
  • Phil Bloomer, Executive Director, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
  • Philip Alston, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice Chair, New York University
  • Sofia Monsalve, Secretary General, FIAN International
  • Thalita Silva e Silva, Coordinator, Engajamundo
  • Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation