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Tuesday 20 August 2019

World faces 'climate apartheid' where rich save themselves

Hotting up: A man looks on as tourists take selfies on in the French city of Nice, where temperatures reached 33C. A heatwave this week will push tempratures up to 41C across Europe. Photo: Getty
Hotting up: A man looks on as tourists take selfies on in the French city of Nice, where temperatures reached 33C. A heatwave this week will push tempratures up to 41C across Europe. Photo: Getty

Tom Miles

The world is on course for "climate apartheid", where the rich buy their way out of the worst effects of global warming while the poor bear the brunt, a UN human rights report said yesterday.

The report, submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by its special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, said business was supposed to play a vital role in coping with climate change, but could not be relied on to look after the poor.

"An over-reliance 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 wrote. He cited vulnerable New Yorkers being stranded without power or healthcare when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, while "the Goldman Sachs headquarters was protected by tens of thousands of its own sandbags and power from its generator".

Relying exclusively on the private sector to protect against extreme weather and rising seas "would almost guarantee massive human rights violations, with the wealthy catered to and the poorest left behind", he wrote.

"Even under the best-case scenario, hundreds of millions will face food insecurity, forced migration, disease and death."

His report criticised governments for doing little more than sending officials to conferences to make "sombre speeches", even though scientists and climate activists have been ringing alarm bells since the 1970s.

"Thirty years of conventions appear to have done very little. From Toronto to Noordwijk to Rio to Kyoto to Paris, the language has been remarkably similar as states continue to kick the can down the road.

"States have marched past every scientific warning and threshold, and what was once considered catastrophic warming now seems like a best-case scenario."

Since 1980, the United States alone had suffered 241 weather and climate disasters costing $1bn or more, at a cumulative cost of $1.6 trillion.

There had been some positive developments, with renewable energy prices falling, coal becoming uncompetitive, emissions declining in 49 countries, and 7,000 cities committing to climate mitigation.

But China was still exporting coal-fired power plants and Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro planned to open up the Amazon rainforest for mining.

Irish Independent

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