The climate and environmental crisis is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It emerged as a consequence of the (colonial) exploitation of humans and nature – and now continues to reinforce global injustice and inequality. The current economic system, in which corporations from the Global North (and also increasingly from the Global South) make billions, is based on this exploitation. The complex relationship between the economy and politics also continues to hinder the development of viable and fair solutions to the climate crisis, as companies and governments are often not interested in change. This has severe consequences: water shortages; loss of biodiversity; as well as air, soil, and water pollution. The people who suffer the most from this system are mostly those who contribute least to climate change: children, indigenous communities, and those who are subject to discrimination or who live in poverty. In this fashion, systems of global injustice exhibit the continuities of colonial history, as often the Global North continues to profit, while the South is exploited.
What can ECCHR and human rights contribute to the fight against the climate crisis? Human rights and environmental protection are interconnected. A healthy environment is a precondition for the enforcement of all human rights. In this sense, we must consider human rights not only as individual, but also as collective, rights. These rights must be asserted when battling against those responsible for the crisis. And often it is exactly those economic practices and legal frameworks which violate human rights that are also responsible for the climate crisis: exploitation of raw materials, dam projects, fast fashion, or agribusiness.
In order to overcome the climate crisis in any real sense, every solution will necessarily be involved with social-ecological transformation. Those marginalized by the economic system from which this crisis emerged must have a say in this transformative process – they must not be made to suffer from this system again. Their human rights must also be kept at the core of all climate debates, their voices must be heard and their perspectives taken seriously on what a decent life might look like in the future – a life that respects the planetary boundaries.