Due to sea-level rise, many islands in the Gangetic delta region of West Bengal, India are facing fast erosion.

Due to sea-level rise, many islands in the Gangetic delta region of West Bengal, India are facing fast erosion. The island of Mousuni is one such island which is sinking with each passing tide. Homes, lands are sinking at a steady rate and people are staring at a bleak future where the probability of them becoming climate refugees looms large. (Photo: Arka Dutta/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

At 'Pivotal Moment' in Planetary Emergency, UN Appoints Inaugural Expert on Climate Crisis and Human Rights

"There is so much at stake," said the new special rapporteur.

Environmental defenders welcomed the United Nations' inaugural appointment Friday of a special rapporteur on the climate crisis and human rights.

Academic Ian Fry--a dual citizen of Tuvalu and Australia and an expert on Pacific Island climate policy--was appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council following the body's October 2021 adoption of a historic resolution recognizing the human right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.

The Human Rights Council at the time also established the expert position, formally called the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change.

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) welcomed Fry as the new mandate holder.

In a statement, CIEL pointed to Fry's background as a climate negotiator for the Pacific Island States within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and praised his sustained support for "human rights-based approaches to climate action" as well as "insights into the heightened risks faced by the most vulnerable communities, least responsible for the climate emergency, such as small island states," expertise that "positions him well to leverage the human rights regime in support of those needing urgent action and justice."

The appointment of the climate-focused rapporteur could additionally "galvanize much-needed attention to the intersection of human rights and climate change at a pivotal moment" and "be an opportunity to protect and uplift the human rights of communities and Indigenous Peoples at the frontlines of the climate crisis," said CIEL.

Fry, for his part spoke of an "enormous challenge" in front of him.

"We already know that thousands of people are being displaced each day as a consequence of climate change-related weather events," he said in a statement. "We know that Indigenous peoples are at the forefront of climate change impacts. From my personal experience in working in a coral atoll nation like Tuvalu, I know that the human rights of the inhabitants are being affected by the impacts of climate change."

"I hope I can do [the position] justice," he added. "There is so much at stake."

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