UN urges states to prevent, alleviate climate change

UN human rights chief sends open letter to member countries ahead of climate change meeting in December

UN urges states to prevent, alleviate climate change

All countries have legal obligations to prevent and alleviate climate change, the UN human rights chief said Thursday, ahead of a meeting on the issue in less than 10 days.

“Human rights are under threat from a force which challenges the foundations of all life, as we know it, on this planet we share,” warned Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, in an open letter she sent to all states.

Bachelet urged the participating states “to take effective, ambitious, urgent, human rights-based climate action now.”

The 24th Session of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) will be held on Dec. 2-14 in Katowice, Poland.

“Climate change is already affecting people’s lives, the effective enjoyment of their rights, and the ecosystems on which we all rely,” she said.

She noted that the contributions of the member states so far could put them on track for 3º C of warming -- more than twice the target agreed on in the 2015 Paris climate change agreement.

“Entire nations, ecosystems, peoples and ways of life could simply cease to exist,” Bachelet warned, speaking of the consequences of such a degree of climate change.

“They [states] also have an obligation to strengthen their mitigation commitments in order to prevent the worst impacts of climate change,” she said.

In 2017, Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), warned that greenhouse gas emission in the atmosphere, which is the main element of climate change, hit record-breaking levels.

 The WMO also said in a report it released Thursday that “globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 405.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2017, up from 403.3 ppm in 2016.”