Geneva (Switzerland), September 14: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday named the climate change crisis as "the single greatest challenge to human rights of our era".
In her opening statement for the 48th session of the Human Rights Council which will last until Oct. 8, Bachelet noted that the interlinked crises of pollution, climate change and biodiversity act as threat multipliers, amplifying conflicts, tensions and structural inequalities, and forcing people into increasingly vulnerable situations.
"As these environmental threats intensify, they will constitute the single greatest challenge to human rights in our era," she said.
In Madagascar, hundreds of thousands of people were facing extreme hunger after four years without rainfall, leading the World Food Programme to warn of "the world's first climate change-induced famine," said Bachelet.
The humanitarian emergency in Sahel countries was also fueled by climate change, which has been more severe and rapid across Africa than elsewhere, she said, citing a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Another example given by the UN official was Bangladesh, where one report has estimated that by 2050, 17 percent of the country will be submerged by rising sea levels, depriving 20 million people of their homes.
"Addressing the world's triple environmental crisis is a humanitarian imperative, a human rights imperative, a peace-building imperative and a development imperative," she stressed.
According to the UN rights chief, environmental damage usually hurts mostly those who were least protected -- the poorest and most marginalized people, and the poorest nations, which often have the least capacity to respond.
She cited a study by the World Meteorological Organization as saying that, more than two-thirds of deaths from weather- and water-related disasters since 1970 have been in the least developed countries.
Bachelet also told the audience that she noted with great interest China's latest national action plan on human rights for 2021-2025 which was released earlier this month, including its focus on climate change, environment, digital privacy, and responsible business practice.
"I look forward to exploring it for possible areas of engagement and cooperation," she said.