World Council Of Churches Leader: Climate Change A Human Rights Issue
If a government or other body limited its people’s access to food or water, or created other conditions that impacted health, wellness, and the ability to survive, the international community would likely condemn such actions as a violation of universal human rights. World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit noted earlier this month that the consequences of global climate change pose just such threats, and as “Our actions have a positive or negative impact on the basic conditions for the life of others – of all… we need to see this in the perspective of universal human rights.”
Despite the potential threats posed by a warming atmosphere, though, Tveit, along with other leader participating in a panel at the 28th session of the Human Rights Council, sees “a right to hope” in the face of such challenges. The human rights framework creates that hope, as it universalizes climate change in the context of stewardship for creation, and for one another as human beings. The secretary-general noted the ecumenical nature of this observation, quoting Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who recently argued “We cannot separate our concern for human dignity, human rights or social justice from concern for ecological preservation and sustainability.”
“Hope” in this context doesn’t involve passively waiting for things to get better; rather, Tveit argued for active work towards peace and social justice, and pushed specifically for the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights.
No doubt, there are people of genuine faith who don’t see global warming as their issue – it’s for scientists and policy makers to work out. Tveit’s argument isn’t new, but it does remind us that believers have a stake in this argument: all faiths see creation as handiwork of their God/gods, and all see human beings as reflections of divine being. Why wouldn’t believers want to get involved in this debate?