Climate change will have particularly devastating consequences for hundreds of millions of poor people and will bring a radically decreased standard of living for billions. Governments in Australia and the United States are world leaders in pretending that none of this will happen and enabling fossil-fuel businesses to profit massively as they contribute to the undermining of civilization as we know it.
Since climate change threatens the future of human rights and risks undoing the last fifty years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction, it is appropriate to ask what the human rights community is doing in response. The answer so far is: not much.
This is the inaugural public lecture of the Poverty and Inequality Research Centre.
Philip Alston is John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law at New York University. He is currently UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. In 2014 he was a member of the Security Council-established commission of inquiry on the Central African Republic. He previously served as Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions (2004–10), as well as Chairperson of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1991–98). During the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he was UNICEF’s Legal Adviser.