What are climate rights?

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What people are doing to our climate affects our human rights. Climate change is already threatening  many of our rights, and our ability to live well together. That’s why we refer to climate change as the climate crisis, because humanity needs to do more, and faster, to stop the worst effects from happening.  

People have a right to fresh water, food, housing, health and sanitation, adequate standards of living, work, a healthy environment and a culture. All of these are threatened by the climate crisis. Unprecedented heatwaves, wildfires, intense back-to-back tropical storms, severe drought and rising sea levels are having a negative effect people’s ability to live with the full enjoyment of these rights.  

The people feeling the impacts of the climate crisis first are those who live in close connection with nature and rely on natural resources for survival. For example, neighbouring countries around the Pacific are struggling to cope with erosion on their shores and salt water killing their main food crops like taro and coconuts.  

But there’s good news too! There’s a growing understanding across all countries of what needs to happen to take us out of crisis mode and into a future of sustainability. This movement is called a Just Transition and it’s a way of getting everyone on board to make positive change. We can all do things to make a difference such as refusing to buy foods packaged in plastic. But if we are to see real change it must be a structured effort by everyone, not just individual people doing good in their own lives. This means it must come from institutions and governments that guide the way we live. An example of a structured Just Transition could be how governments around the world are supporting fossil fuel workers into new jobs. 

Other positive structural changes include more of a global effort under the Paris Climate Agreement to keep climate pollution down. While this agreement doesn’t go far enough, it does have the recipe for a sustainable world. Governments now know what processes they need to put in place to reduce our human impact on the environment.  

Amnesty International is calling on all government to;  

  • Stop using fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) as quickly as possible. 
  • Reduce greenhouse gas pollution to zero by 2050 at the latest, and richer countries should do this faster. 
  • Make sure everyone, in particular those most affected by the climate crisis or the transition to a fossil-free economy, is properly informed about what is happening and is able to participate in decisions about their futures. 
  • Make sure that climate action is done in a way that does not violate anyone’s human rights, and reduces rather than increases inequality. 

The more people who know about this recipe for success, the more likely it is governments will feel pressure to implement news ways of living that enable us to enjoy all of our human rights with adequate housing, food, water, freedom of cultural expression, health and more. 

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