Maldives secures climate change inquiry
"We feel it is very important that the Human Rights Council start addressing the issue of climate change," said the Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid.
"If we look at the consequences of climate change, it is the individual human rights of every person on the planet which is going to be violated, including the right to life," he told The Associated Press by telephone from the Maldives.
Some countries were unhappy to link climate change to human rights. Russia said the United Nations already has enough agencies tackling the problem.
But Shahid said the Maldives wants the council's work to be complementary to other U.N. organizations dealing with climate change, such as the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The 47-nation council said in the document adopted by consensus that it is "concerned that climate change poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights."
The Maldives, which consist of 1,200 islands, were joined by other small island countries such as the Fiji Islands and Tuvalu in offering the resolution. They have said they risk disappearing altogether if global warming continues unabated and that the world would see hundreds of thousands of stateless people who have nowhere to go, no government to protect them or to deliver basic services.
The 3,000 inhabitants of Papua New Guinea's Carteret Islands, in the far western Pacific, are already preparing to be among the world's first "climate refugees."
As seas expand from warming and from the runoff of melting land ice, higher and higher tides are eating away at tiny places like the Carterets, a sandy atoll of a half-dozen islands. Its people are getting ready to abandon the islands over the next several years, resettling on designated land on nearby Bougainville island.
Shahid said the inhabitants of the Maldives "don't intend to go anywhere."
If significant measures are taken now, the tiny island nation can be saved, he said. "It's not too late, but time is ticking."