“We cannot leave it for our children to fix – no matter how inspiring their activism is,” he told the Human Rights Council, advocating for a “just transition” to a green economy.
“I ask every member of this Council to take this clear message from the Palais des Nations and into every aspect of their work,” he said, stressing that today’s leaders have the responsibility to take climate action. .
Mr. Türk warned that on the current course of the world, “our air, our food, our water, and human life itself will be unrecognizable”, with average temperature increases by the end of the century rising to 3 °C, more than the 1.5 °C limit, as outlined in the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.
He lamented that despite all the alarm bells, leaders are still not acting with the determination required and are “stuck in the short term”.
“If this is not a human rights issue, what is?”, he asked.
The right to food is increasingly challenged
The High Commissioner emphasized that the the right to food is “absolutely threatened” by climate change and recalls that there has been a 134 percent increase in climate-induced, flood-related disasters since the turn of the century.
Not only do extreme weather events and disasters destroy ecosystems and farmers’ livelihoods, but their rapid and relentless recurrence makes it impossible for communities to rebuild and sustain themselves, he said.
Paths for action
With millions starving in countries that contribute “for nothing” to industrial processes that “kill our environment and violate rights”, Mr. Türk emphasized the urgency to end fossil fuel subsidiestransforming international development and financial institutions into “climate action engines”, and making this COP28 conference in November a “decisive game changer”.
He also called good governance to ensure that climate funding goes to the most affected people and cited climate litigation as a way to hold businesses and Governments accountable in court.
‘Now is the time’
The UN rights chief said that humanity must not hand over a “future of hunger and suffering” to the next generations, and insisted that, equipped with the most powerful technological tools in history, “we have the capacity to change the status quo“.
“There is still time to act, but that time is now,” he insisted.