Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Torres Strait Islanders claim climate change affects their human rights – Australia govt tries to stifle their claim

Australia asks UN to dismiss Torres Strait Islanders’ claim climate change affects their human rights

Complaint argues Morrison government has failed to take adequate action on emissions or adaptation measures, Guardian, Katharine Murphy Political editor 14 Aug 20  The Morrison government has asked the human rights committee of the United Nations to dismiss a landmark claim by a group of Torres Strait Islanders from low-lying islands off the northern coast of Australia that climate change is having an impact on their human rights, according to lawyers for the complainants.

The complaint, lodged just over 12 months ago, argued the Morrison government had failed to take adequate action to reduce emissions or pursue proper adaptation measures on the islands and, as a consequence, had failed fundamental human rights obligations to Torres Strait Islander people.

But the lead lawyer for the case, Sophie Marjanac, says the Coalition has rejected arguments from the islanders, telling the UN the case should be dismissed “because it concerns future risks, rather than impacts being felt now, and is therefore inadmissible”.

Marjanac said lawyers for the commonwealth had told the committee because Australia is not the main or only contributor to global warming, climate change action is not its legal responsibility under human rights law.

“The government’s lawyers also rejected arguments that climate impacts were being felt today, and that effects constituting a human rights violation are yet to be suffered”.

A spokesman for the attorney general, Christian Porter, said submissions to the human rights committee were not publicly available……

Lawyers for the islanders have alleged 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 challenges associated with sea level rise in the Torres Strait have been well documented. A report from the Climate Council on the risks associated with coastal flooding notes that Torres Strait Island communities are extremely low-lying and are thus among the most vulnerable in Australia to the impacts of climate change.

The report concludes the shallowness of the strait “exacerbates storm surges and when such surges coincide with very high tides, extreme sea levels result”. It cites sea level data collected by satellite from one location in the Torres Strait between 1993 and 2010 that indicated a rise of 6 mm per annum, “more than twice the global average”,

Although the report notes this was a single dataset, low-lying islands in the Pacific – and Torres Strait islands such as Masig and Boigu – are likely to be at the forefront of forced displacement. Some forecasts have predicted up to 150 million people could be forcibly displaced by climate change by 2040 – larger than the record number of people already forced from their homes globally.

The non-profit group ClientEarth is supporting the complaint. A spokesman for the group said: “It is shameful that Indigenous communities on Australia’s climate frontline are being told that the risk of climate change to their human rights is merely a future hypothetical issue, when scientists are clear these impacts will happen in coming decades”.

“Climate change risk is foreseeable and only preventable through immediate action in the present. States like Australia have legal duties to protect the human rights of their citizens”. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/aug/14/australia-asks-un-to-dismiss-torres-strait-islanders-claim-climate-change-affects-their-human-rights

August 15, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international

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