A new UN report asserts that the world is on the brink of a “Climate Apartheid” where the rich will use their wealth to escape the consequences of climate change, while the poor are left to suffer. The report also states that despite contributing the least to global emissions, those living in poverty will be the biggest victims of rising temperatures and the resulting hunger and conflict.
UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, cited the example of Hurricane Sandy in New York to show that while most citizens struggled without power, the Goldman Sachs headquarters remained fully functional. He also rebuked authorities including Trump’s government and even the UN for not acknowledging the severity of the situation at hand.
This UN report states clearly that “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction.” These consequences will not just affect basic human rights like water, food and shelter, but will also have an impact on democracy and justice systems, as inequalities escalate. The report cautions against risk of “greater levels of deprivation among some groups that will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses”.
International treaties and global institutions have both failed to meet necessary timelines to tackle changes. In this scenario where human rights and equal opportunities are threatened, there is a dire need for complete transformation of economies and societies by the state, since businesses will not come to the aid of the poor at the brunt of these outcomes. How soon will states take on this role and how effectively can they protect their vulnerable citizens?