Rich can leave poor to bear brunt of climate change
MANILA, Philippines — The world is increasingly facing a “climate apartheid” where the rich would pay to escape the worst effects of global warming while the poor would be left to suffer, the United Nations warned.
A new report published last week said climate change would exacerbate poverty and inequality, pushing 120 million more people into economic difficulty by 2030, based on World Bank estimates.
The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, said the richest people, who are responsible for and have benefited from the vast amount of greenhouse gas emissions, will be at the best position to cope with the changing climate. Meanwhile, the poorest, who have contributed the least to emissions, will be the ones most harmed.
Alston also scored the privatization of basic services and social protection as a form of maladaptation to climate change.
“An overreliance on the private sector could lead to a climate apartheid scenario in which the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict, while the rest of the world is left to suffer,” he said.
The report noted that since 2000, people in poor countries have died from disasters at rates seven times higher than those in wealthy countries.
“In addition, authorities have a history of prioritizing wealthier areas for protection, further endangering people in poverty,” Alston said.
Climate change also threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health and poverty reduction, the UN warned.
Even in the best-case scenario of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, extreme temperature in many regions will still cause food insecurity, less income and worsening health among the poorest communities.
But beyond its threats on the basic rights to life, food and shelter, climate change also puts democracy and the rule of law at risk, Alston said.
He said governments struggling to cope with the consequences of global warming may augment their powers in the face of the climate crisis, rendering vulnerable the civil and political rights of the people.
“This will be a very fraught process and require great vigilance on the part of governments, human rights institutions and national and regional courts,” the UN expert said.
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