More than 59 million people were internally displaced in 2021 as a consequence mainly related due to climate events. To investigate the plight of people displaced by the impacts of climate change, and to fight for legal protection for them is one of the key tasks of Ian Fry, the first UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change.
“There is a huge number of people, a sort of an intolerable tide of people, moving as a consequence of climate change”, Mr. Fry said when speaking today at a briefing at the United Nations in Geneva. “This is an enormous number of people, and this is higher than the number of people displaced as a consequence of conflict”, he added.
The Special Rapporteur presented yesterday the first-ever report on human rights and climate change at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. In his report Mr. Fry outlined a six-point plan to address the human rights harms resulting from climate-induced loss and damage.
Mr. Fry mainly expressed worries about people displaced across international borders due to climate change as millions of them have no grounds for seeking asylum under international law. “I am certainly particularly concerned about this issue of people displaced across international borders that are not defined as refugees under the Refugee Convention and therefore fall through the cracks as far as legal protection is concerned”, he said.
The international environmental lawyer whose mandate started last month, also highlighted the many non-economic losses stemming from climate change and its consequences. “Where I come from in the Pacific, people are losing graves as a result of the seas washing away their loved ones”, he said.
Mr. Fry, who fought for least developed countries at the 2015 Paris climate conference, will also look into legislation, litigation and corporate responsibilities during his new mandate over the next three years.
“There are a number of cases being held questioning the role of governments setting targets for climate change, there are court cases against companies so there’ s a variety of litigation that’s before the court at the moment”, he said.
Ian Fry will also look at the fossil fuel industry, itself a major producer of greenhouse gases. He aims to look at their connection on what they are doing on human rights. “This is where businesses, financial institutions are investing in the fossil fuel industry. So, I want to pursue the issue of disclosure around disclosing investments in fossil fuel industry”, he said.
Another important point of his action plan is to address and involve the youth in the discussion around human rights and climate change.
“For our young people who now have an uncertain future, we want to guarantee their future”.