I read an article recently written by Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food (via the Guardian) in which he outlined how the issue of climate change, and the myriad critical, human-related problems associated with it, should be brought up to the status of a human rights issue - by damaging our climate and endangering our societies, we are actively ignoring a basic human right. Well that’s the premise at least.
As we all know, climate change, whether it be natural or man-made, or more than likely a complex combination of both, is directly affecting every human on the globe and is a severe problem we are in desperate need of fixing.
The advent of multiple climate conventions and meetings of world powers began decades ago and still continues on today, but they’re becoming more and more like a session in the House of Commons or a high-school debate than a truly successful stage for solving the issues. Each nation leader has their own opinion and they’re not afraid to shout it loudly to the rest of the world, most of the time in contention with almost everyone else in the room.
We are quick to finger those developed and rapidly developing states which act almost to stagger climate decisions, such as Canada, the US or China to name a few, but in all reality, it’s the whole crowd. As De Schutter suggests in his article, “does this mean that democracy has failed, and must be sacrificed for authoritarian solutions?”. While it may seem that our democratic way of debating and considering things has done little to affect response to climate change, I feel it is still a premature idea to condemn the process altogether just yet.
The idea of branding the climate issue as a human rights issue thus stems from this, as these rights are global, powerful and upheld by almost every country on the planet, although there is plenty of scope for local tweaks and bending of the rules for evil. However, in a broad sense, De Schutter believes it will bring about a hyper-democratic approach, as climate change affects all those other human rights in which so many depend upon - water, food, electricity, sanitation and development.