“Climate Change Poses a Threat to Lives, Livelihoods and Peace and Security” – President’s Speech at High-Level Event on Integrating Human Rights in Climate Action
Bula vinaka, guten tag and a very good afternoon to you all.
It is fitting that we have a high level event integrating human rights in climate action. It reminds us that our work in responding to climate change must put people first, must be fair and just and must enable a transition towards a better way of living.
It’s clear that climate change poses a threat to lives, livelihoods and peace and security. Climate change amplifies conflicts between peoples. It accentuates the gap between rich and poor. And if left unchecked, it creates misery and human suffering.
We have too many examples already of distressed and dislocated people, of dispossessed and disadvantaged communities from the consequences of climate change in a world that has warmed by 1.1 degrees since the industrial age began. And where we fear the possibility of further warming beyond our capacity to manage.
Human rights are universal. In all legal systems, they protect the weak against the strong. And they offer hope for those most vulnerable. Rights arguments are now being pursued in courts all around the world to safeguard the interests of present future generations and call to account those who abuse their power by causing harm to our atmosphere.
These cases are complex and their outcomes are uncertain. But the essential truth is that future generations – our young and those to come – have an interest in what we decide to do about climate change today.
I’ve been very aware since I came to Bonn of the passion and conviction of the young people who have come to COP. I had a very inspiring encounter with youth leaders from 114 countries at the Conference on Youth before the opening of COP. Because integrating human rights and climate action is a central part of their campaign and I respect them for that.
The consequences of climate change for those most vulnerable sometimes means that they will have to leave their homes altogether. And it is just and right that they have somewhere to go where they will be secure and where they will be welcomed.
This is why Fiji has offered to give refuge to our nearest neighbours in the low-lying Pacific atolls of Kiribati and Tuvalu in the event that their nations become uninhabitable. We recognise that this is a realistic prospect that weighs heavily on the minds of our neighbours. And we want to reassurance them and offer an example to others.
Roughly 22.5 million people each year are displaced -internally and across borders- by climate and weather-related disasters. Which is why the international community has already made the connection between the Human Rights Council and the UNFCCC’s Warsaw International Mechanism on loss and damage, which now has a task force on displacement.
I’m proud that Fiji – like the two previous COP presidencies – is a member of the Geneva Pledge for Human Rights in Climate Action. In this Pledge, we committed to bring together our climate and human rights experts to share knowledge and insights between the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Human Rights Council.
This year, we supported Council resolution 35.20 on Human Rights and Climate Change, which specifically addresses the issue of cross-border migration.
So Fiji is doing what it can as a small nation but we need the UN system to be at its best in confronting the scale of the human suffering associated with displaced peoples. As time goes by, much more in the way of resources is going to have to be allocated for this. We are going to need new and more effective mechanisms. And, friends, that necessary response by international law and international institutions begins and ends with respect for the dignity of the individual human being.
Thank you for the opportunity to address you today on an issue that we must resolve to address more seriously, wherever we have the power to act.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.