Climate change report draws call for action from UN rights expert

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment David Boyd called Monday for accelerated action to combat climate change. The statement comes after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C.

Boyd said that climate change is “one of the greatest threats to human rights” and will have devastating effects on the “rights to life, health, food, housing, and water, as well as the right to a healthy environment.” In order to meet human rights obligations, Boyd called on counties to exceed their Paris Agreement obligations. If the temperature is allowed to increase to 2.0°C, it would likely result in “human rights violations upon millions of people.”

The IPCC report estimates that a temperature increase of 1.5°C will be reached between 2030 and 2052 if no changes are made. Current global temperatures have already increased by 1.0°C. In order to limit the increase to 1.5°C, the models predict that a 45 percent decline in CO2 emissions is necessary from 2010 levels by 2030. In order to limit temperature rise to under 2.0°C, CO2 emissions need to be reduced by 20 percent by 2030, with net zero CO2 emissions being achieved by 2075.

In order to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, by 2050, coal electricity generation would need to be reduced to 0-2% of global generation. Natural gas electricity generation with carbon dioxide capture and storage would need to be reduced to 3-11 percent of total global generation.

Climate change has been the subject of several statutes and laws throughout the world. In July the US Supreme Court rejected an administrative stay petition in a lawsuit against the US government regarding 50 years of US environmental policy. In January citizens in Colombia filed a lawsuit to end deforestation of the Amazon rain forest due to rising sea levels and other climate change effects.

The Paris Agreement, which set legally binding limits on global temperature rises, went into effect on November 4, 2016.