UN human rights chief calls for 'urgent, priority action' ahead of climate summit

UN human rights chief calls for 'urgent, priority action' ahead of climate summit
© Michelle Bachelet on December 9, 2020 in Geneva. (Getty)

The United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for action in combating climate change ahead of a global climate summit in Scotland.

"This is a human rights obligation and a matter of survival," Bachelet said in a statement regarding climate change. "Without a healthy planet to live on, there will be no human rights – and if we continue on our current path -- there may be no humans."

Bachelet added in her statement that issues of pollution, climate change and a decline in biodiversity combine to create "the single greatest challenge to human rights in our era."

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"Only urgent, priority action can mitigate or avert disasters that will have huge – and in some cases lethal – impacts on all of us, especially our children and grandchildren," Bachelet, who is the U.N.'s most senior human rights official, added.

The high commissioner official urged the countries that would be participating in the global climate conference to make good on their financial commitments to addressing environmental concerns "and indeed increase them — not ignore them for a second year in a row."

Bachelet noted that some already vulnerable, poor communities bear the brunt of environmental issues and should be among the first to receive resources that address climate change. 

"We must change course now – it is the only option if we want to safeguard humanity," she also said.

Bachelet's remarks come just days before the COP26 summit is scheduled to begin in Glasgow on Sunday. President BidenJoe BidenBiden and Harris host 'family' Hanukkah celebration with more than 150 guests Symone Sanders to leave the White House at the end of the year Overnight Defense & National Security — Senate looks to break defense bill stalemate MORE along with world leaders from nearly 200 other countries will gather for the meeting to discuss climate change. 

As the summit nears, the World Meteorological Organization reported earlier this week that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a record high last year despite temporary decreases during the pandemic. At the same time, the United Nations also announced that the world was off target in terms of reaching its goal of cutting emissions to reduce global warming internationally.