UN Human Rights Council Topic 1
Effects of Climate Change on the Global South
Climate change has emerged as an urgent and far-reaching global issue, with its detrimental consequences felt acutely in the Global South. Developing nations in these regions bear the brunt of the adverse impacts resulting from the changing climate, including intensified weather events, dwindling access to food and water, and the displacement of entire communities. These consequences of climate change put the already vulnerable citizens of the Global South in greater danger of having their human rights infringed upon. Recognizing the intricate entwinement of climate change and human rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council is pivotal in addressing these multifaceted and pressing concerns.
Severe heat waves, characterized by soaring temperatures, result in heat-related illnesses and, tragically, even fatalities, undermining the fundamental rights to life and health. Furthermore, alterations in precipitation patterns coupled with prolonged periods of drought have dire implications for agricultural productivity, jeopardizing the right to food and livelihoods that depend on agricultural activities. Additionally, the rising sea levels pose an imminent and substantial threat to coastal communities, imperiling their homes and infrastructure and, in turn, compromising the rights to adequate housing and a safe environment. These adverse effects disproportionately afflict marginalized populations, exacerbating pre-existing socio-economic inequalities and further entrenching vulnerable communities.
The Human Rights Council has met many times and passed dozens of resolutions to recognize the importance of climate change and its effects on human rights. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has stated, “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” Humans have many influences, from manufacturing goods to transportation and food waste, contributing to climate change. IPCC scientists believe that to slow down climate change, greenhouse gasses would need to be slashed in half by 2030 and entirely by 2050.
However, addressing the effects of climate change on the Global South and protecting human rights remains a complex challenge. It requires the integration of human rights considerations into climate change policies, ensuring that human rights are at the forefront of mitigation and adaptation efforts. Adequate financial resources and technology transfer are essential to support vulnerable communities in building resilience and adapting to climate change. International cooperation and collaboration are crucial for sharing best practices, knowledge, and resources to address the global nature of the climate crisis. One example of global cooperation is the Paris Agreement adopted by 196 parties at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in 2015. The main goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit the increase in the global average temperature to prevent further consequences such as increases in droughts and heat waves. Through this agreement, nations have come together and adapted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the goal of the Paris Agreement.
Your task is to find a practical and effective solution to mitigate the effects of climate change on the Global South while upholding human rights.
Questions to consider:
- What do human rights mean to your state?
- Has your country taken action to slow down climate change?
- Has your country been affected by climate change? If so, what steps have been taken by your country to safeguard the human rights of marginalized communities affected by climate change?
- How can we ensure that policies and initiatives on climate change are inclusive, considering the needs and rights of all citizens, particularly those from vulnerable communities?
- What are the challenges and obstacles faced in ensuring the realization of human rights in the context of climate change, and how can we overcome them?
Resources to Consider:
“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights
“The World Factbook.” Central Intelligence Agency, 2022, https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/
“Human Rights Council resolutions on human rights and climate change.” United Nations, https://www.ohchr.org/en/climate-change/
“Causes of climate change.” European Commission, https://climate.ec.europa.eu/climate-change/causes-climate-change_en
Climate change impacts. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (n.d.). https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/climate/climate-change-impacts
IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA, pp. 3-24, doi:10.1017/9781009157940.001.
Malhotra, S. (2023, June 5). Climate emergencies photos from the year so far. Greenpeace International. https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/60150/climate-emergencies-photos-from-the-year-so-far/
Melges, K., & Hocevar, J. (2021, November 24). Climate change: The science. Greenpeace USA. https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/fighting-climate-chaos/climate-science/
Nawaz, A. (2023, March 20). UN scientists warn drastic steps needed to prevent climate change catastrophe. PBS. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/un-scientists-warn-drastic-steps-needed-to-prevent-climate-change-catastrophe
The Paris Agreement. Unfccc.int. (n.d.). https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement
United Nations. (n.d.-a). Start with these ten actions!. https://www.un.org/en/actnow/ten-actions