climate change reality
Image credit: University of Cape Town

A UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human rights has predicted a “Climate Apartheid” that will see tens of millions of people impoverished, displaced, and hungry, even if climate change targets are met.

The UN’s Philip Alston says that wealthier countries will be able to invest in solutions to escape overheating, conflict and hunger, “while the rest of the world is left to suffer” with their rights to food, housing, water, and life, compromised.

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Alston further warns of wider issues such as human rights and democracy, potentially undoing the last 50 years progress in terms of economic development and health.

The Special Rapporteur stresses that even the best-case projections of a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures will force up to 120 million people to choose between migration, and starvation as soon as 2030, with the bulk of these based in worst-affected countries, such as Bangladesh.

To avoid these outcomes, says Alston, economic wellbeing and poverty reduction must be de-linked from fossil fuel emissions regulations, with strong policies put in place to ensure good jobs remain in potentially-afffected areas, and support for displaced workers.

He said: “Perversely, while people in poverty are responsible for just a fraction of global emissions, they will bear the brunt of climate change and have the least capacity to protect themselves.

“As a full-blown crisis that threatens the human rights of vast numbers of people bears down, the usual piecemeal, issue-by-issue human rights methodology is woefully insufficient.”