“We must not leave this for our children to fix – no matter how inspiring their activism,” 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 out of the Palais des Nations and into every aspect of their work,” he said, stressing that it was today’s leaders who had the responsibility to take climate action.
Mr. Türk warned that on the world’s current trajectory, “our air, our food, our water, and human life itself would be unrecognizable”, with an average temperature increase by the end of the century soaring to 3°C, well above the 1.5°C limit, as outlined in the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.
He deplored that despite all the alarm bells going off, leaders were still not acting with the determination required and getting “stuck in the short term”.
“If this is not a human rights issue, what is?”, he asked.
Right to food increasingly challenged
The High Commissioner underscored that the right to food was “comprehensively threatened” by climate change and recalled that there had been a 134 per cent increase in climate-fuelled, flood-related disasters since the turn of the century.
Not only do extreme weather events and disasters destroy ecosystems and farmers’ livelihoods, but their fast and relentless repetition makes it impossible for communities to rebuild and support themselves, he said.
Avenues for action
With millions going hungry in countries which contributed “next to nothing” to the industrial processes which are “killing our environment and violating rights”, Mr. Türk stressed the urgency of ending fossil fuel subsidies, transforming international development and financing institutions into “engines of climate action”, and making this November’s COP28 conference a “decisive game-changer”.
He also called for good governance to ensure that climate funds go to the most affected people and pointed to climate litigation as a way of holding businesses and Governments accountable in court.
‘The time is now’
The UN rights chief said that humanity must not deliver 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.