The climate crisis is not ‘just’ an environmental issue – it is also one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time. Climate change impacts the rights to life, health, food, water, housing and more, and disproportionately affects those who are already vulnerable, disadvantaged or facing discrimination.
A 2018 Special Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that in order to avoid the worst consequences for human rights from climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions must be halved from their 2010 levels by 2030. That’s just 11 years away! Governments and corporations must act urgently to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions – while always ensuing that human rights are protected.
You may have noticed changes in the climate already, such as flooding, drought, forest fires and extreme heat. If you live in Northern Canada, climate change impacts are likely even more profound. And in fact, Indigenous communities have long been raising concerns about the changes they’re observing on their traditional territories. Unless urgent action is taken, the effects of climate change will continue to grow and worsen over time, creating ruin for current and future generations.
But young people are speaking out – and their efforts are gaining attention and momentum around the world.
A year ago, Greta Thunberg, age 15, decided to miss school every Friday to protest outside the Swedish parliament until it took more serious action to tackle climate change. Her efforts to raise awareness of the climate crisis quickly went global, with more than 1 million young people from all over the world taking part in the “Fridays for Future” school strikes. Demonstrations were held in more than 100 countries, including Australia, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, the Philippines and Uganda. In May, Canadian students held approx. 100 Fridays for Future climate strikes across the country.
“You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.” –Greta Thunberg, Climate activist and Founder of Climate School Strike
The next big global climate strikes are planned for Sept 20 and 27, and adults are encouraged to join. Visit the Fridays for Future Canada website fridaysforfuture.ca to find the time and location of the next strike in your community.
To support the Fridays for Future movement, Amnesty International will be asking school boards to respect and support the students’ right to protest.
Amnesty International will also be providing green bandanas to Fridays for Future strikers across Canada. If you will be joining one of the climate strikes on Sept 20 or 27, you can order some bandanas – for yourself and to distribute to other strikers. Contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org to order your free climate strike bandanas.
The Ambassador of Conscience Award is Amnesty International’s highest honour, celebrating people who have shown unique leadership and courage in standing up for human rights. This year’s winners are Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement.
“We are humbled and inspired by the determination with which youth activists across the world are challenging us all to confront the realities of the climate crisis. Every young person taking part in Fridays for Future embodies what it means to act on your conscience. They remind us that we are more powerful than we know and that we all have a role to play in protecting human rights against climate catastrophe.” Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International Secretary General
The failure of governments to act on climate change in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence may well be the biggest inter-generational human rights violation in history.
Shamefully, Canada is one of the world’s largest contributors to climate change. The Canadian government must do everything it can to prevent a climate emergency, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2040 and ending subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. It is vital that any climate action taken must be done in a way that does not violate anyone’s human rights and reduces rather than increases inequality. Everyone, in particular those affected by climate change or the transition to a fossil-free economy, must be properly informed about what is happening and have the opportunity to participate in decisions about their futures. And rich countries like Canada must provide financial and technical support to others, to help mitigate climate change and adapt to climate change impacts.
For more information about what causes climate changes, what are the effects of climate change, why climate change is a human rights issue, who will be impacted by climate change, and why governments and corporations must take responsibility to urgently stop climate change, please visit our Climate Change page.