Climate Apartheid

The Guardian represents a report by Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, stating that the world is at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the increasing climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers. Moreover, developing countries bear an estimated 75% of the costs of the climate crisis, despite the poorest half of the world’s population causing just 10% of carbon dioxide emissions.

According to Alston, the steps taken by the UN itself, countries, NGOs and businesses, are “entirely disproportionate to the urgency and magnitude of the threat”. His report to the UN human rights council (HRC) concludes that human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.

He mentioned that the risk of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses and hence, maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex.

The wealthy will be able to pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict while the rest of the world will be left to suffer. He brings the example of Hurricane Sandy, when it wreaked havoc on New York in 2012, low-income and vulnerable New Yorkers were left without access to power and healthcare, while the Goldman Sachs headquarters was protected by tens of thousands of its own sandbags and power from its generator.

Alston said the required changes to societies and economies could be an opportunity to improve poor people’s lives, improve economic and social rights, including to social security and access to food, healthcare and shelter.

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