Climate change and human rights. We care about them both, but we often think of them separately. Violations of human rights we usually associate with brutal regimes, unjustified imprisonment and violence carried out between people.
“Climate change” creates images of melting glaciers, radical and unseasonal temperature changes and creeping desertification. But climate change may contribute increasingly to extreme weather events. From events that build to a crescendo; like the cold snap in December associated with a weakened "polar vortex", or the impacts of the current intense El Nino – to weather events that slam into us like a fist; like the hurricane that devastated New Orleans and the typhoons that repeatedly wreak havoc in the Philippines.
Enshrined in our understanding of human rights are notions of the right to clean water, to be healthy, to have food on our plates, to have a home and the basic right to life itself.
Due to extreme weather, the Philippines alone has seen millions of its people unable to access potable water. This lack of clean water and proper sanitation has bred disease and illness in parts of the country. People suffered as farmland and food stocks were devastated, homes destroyed and thousands of lives lost.
None of this has been because of a tyrannical regime or weak humanitarian regulations. This has been because of typhoons – extreme weather events. Extreme weather events which may have been made worse by climate change. Climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels; oil, coal and gas mined and burned by corporations geographically and morally distant from communities who suffer the most from their negligence.
The violation of human rights in the Philippines in the wake of extreme weather events can be traced to individuals who are desperate to turn a profit from pushing dirty fuels. Tackling climate change and upholding human rights are not different forms of ethical and moral currency, they are two sides of the same coin.
This is why Amnesty International and Greenpeace have come together to make the connection between climate change and human rights crystal clear.
In the Philippines, and across the world, people already understand this all too well. Investigations into the dirty energy companies who set in motion a dangerous chain reaction – from burning fossil fuels to harming human lives – are already underway.
Responsibility rests not only on massive, multinational dirty energy conglomerates, but on our governments and lawmakers who can hold to account the faceless and distant corporations that seek to operate with impunity.
The responsibility also rests on us to make sure that now, and after the climate negotiations in Paris, we continue to amp up the pressure on our leaders to act against climate change. They must hear us demand the end of emissions. They must see the light we’re shining on a 100% renewable energy future which cuts through the thickening pollution and dense political wrangling of decision-makers.
We can and must break the chain between dirty energy, climate change, devastating weather patterns and human rights violations and add a new link which leads us to a sustainable future which improves security, betters lives and rebuilds a healthier planet.
Solar, wind and other sustainable energies is that link, and it is achievable. The fact is, if you believe in human rights you’ve already signed up for a 100% renewable energy future.
Let’s make sure our leaders know it.