Thursday, 30 May 2019

United Nations asked to pass judgement on the impact of Australian Morrison Government's climate change 'denialism'

The Conversation, May 2019:

Climate change threatens Australia in many different ways, and can devastate rural and urban communities alike. For Torres Strait Islanders, it’s a crisis that’s washing away their homes, infrastructure and even cemeteries.

The failure to take action on this crisis has led a group of Torres Strait Islanders to lodge a climate change case with the United Nations Human Rights Committee against the Australian federal government.

It’s the first time the Australian government has been taken to the UN for their failure to take action on climate change. And its the first time people living on a low lying island have taken action against any government.

This case – and other parallel cases – demonstrate that climate change is “fundamentally a human rights issue”, with First Nations most vulnerable to the brunt of a changing climate.

The group of Torres Strait Islanders lodging this appeal argue that the Australian government has failed to take adequate action on climate change. They allege that the re-elected Coalition government has not only steered Australia off track in meeting globally agreed emissionsreductions, but has set us on course for climate catastrophe.

In doing so, Torres Strait Islanders argue that the government has failed to uphold human rights obligations and violated their rights to culture, family and life.

This case is a show of defiance in the face of Australia’s years of political inertia and turmoil over climate change.

It is the first time people living on a low-lying island – acutely vulnerable in the face of rising sea levels – have brought action against a government. But it may also be a sign of things to come, as more small island nations face impending climate change threats…..

The Guardian, 13 May 2019:

The complaint will assert that the Morrison government has failed to take adequate action to reduce emissions or pursue proper adaptation measures on the islands and, as a consequence, has failed fundamental human rights obligations to Torres Strait Islander people.

One of the complainants, sixth-generation Warraber man, Kabay Tamu, said in a statement: “When erosion happens, and the lands get taken away by the seas, it’s like a piece of us that gets taken with it – a piece of our heart, a piece of our body. That’s why it has an effect on us. Not only the islands but us, as people.

“We have a sacred site here, which we are connected to spiritually. And disconnecting people from the land, and from the spirits of the land, is devastating.
 “It’s devastating to even imagine that my grandchildren or my great-grandchildren being forced to leave because of the effects that are out of our hands.

“We’re currently seeing the effects of climate change on our islands daily, with rising seas, tidal surges, coastal erosion and inundation of our communities.”

The non-profit coordinating the complaint by the Torres Strait Islanders says this will be the first climate change litigation brought against the Australian government based on a human rights complaint, and also the first legal action worldwide brought by inhabitants of low-lying islands against a nation state.

Lawyers with environmental law non-profit ClientEarth, are representing the islanders, with support from British-based barristers.

The UN Human Rights Committee is a body of 18 legal experts that sits in Geneva. The committee monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The complainants are alleging that Australia has violated article 27, the right to culture; article 17, the right to be free from arbitrary interference with privacy, family and home; and article 6, the right to life.

According to briefing material supplied by ClientEarth, the complaint alleges these rights have been violated both by Australia’s insufficient greenhouse gas mitigation targets and plans, and by its failure to fund adequate coastal defence and resilience measures on the islands, such as seawalls.

Lawyers for the islanders allege that the catastrophic nature of the predicted future impacts of climate change on the Torres Strait Islands, including the total submergence of ancestral homelands, is a sufficiently severe impact as to constitute a violation of the rights to culture, family and life.

The islanders want the government to commit at least $20m for emergency measures such as seawalls, as requested by local authorities, and sustained investment in long-term adaptation measures to ensure the islands can continue to be inhabited.

They want a commitment to reduce emissions by at least 65% below 2005 levels by 2030 and going net zero before 2050 and a phase out of thermal coal, both for domestic electricity generation and export markets....

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