Environmental threats are biggest obstacle to human rights, UN chief warns

    23 Sep 2021

    The triple threats of climate change, pollution, and nature loss are posing the greatest threat to human rights

    worldwide, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned, calling for greater action.

    Speaking at a conference on Monday in Geneva, Michelle Bachelet stressed that global environmental threats are

    “directly and severely impacting a broad range of rights, including the right

    to adequate food, water, education, housing, health, development, and even life


    Bachelet continued, explaining that “the interlinked crises of pollution, climate change and biodiversity act as threat

    multipliers – amplifying conflicts, tensions and structural inequalities, and

    forcing people into increasingly vulnerable situations.” She warned that as

    these environmental obstacles intensify, they “will constitute the single

    greatest challenge to human rights in our era.”

    The UN human rights chief touched on the

    freak weather conditions that have scathed every region of the world, stating

    that these “extreme” climate events have “potentially forced millions of people

    into misery, hunger and displacement.”

    Bachelet said that “the greatest

    uncertainty about these challenges is what policymakers will do about them,”

    adding that “we must set the bar higher – indeed, our common future depends on


    The warning comes just before the UN

    General Assembly is set to begin, and echoes the coordination of over 200

    health journals publishing the same editorial stressing the “catastrophic harm”

    of climate change on health.

    Data from the European Union’s Copernicus

    Climate Change Service found that summer 2021 was the hottest ever, mentioning

    “record-breaking maximum temperatures in Mediterranean countries,

    warmer-than-average temperatures in the east, and generally below-average

    temperatures in the north.”

    Meanwhile in China, heavy flooding in

    Sichuan province led to the evacuation of over 80,000 people from their homes

    by authorities in August. Record rainfall in July in the central province of

    Henan claimed over 300 lives. On the other end of the spectrum in Iran, water

    shortages caused by the most severe drought in fifty years prompted a string of

    protests in the southern region of Khuzestan in July.

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