Greenpeace international director Jennifer Morgan spoke to DW about how climate change is linked to human rights and why the world’s poorest countries might eventually have to go to court to get climate funding.
If the world doesn’t get its act together on climate change, then humanitarian crises will worsen, says Jennifer Morgan, who took over as Greenpeace International director in April 2016, having previously headed the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute. She spoke to DW about the need for more humane international cooperation and environmental justice.
DW: What should be expected when it comes to the humanitarian impacts of climate change in the future?
Jennifer Morgan: Many of the humanitarian crises or events will often be exacerbated and multiplied by climate change. For example, in places where there are droughts, those droughts will be longer and could be across more countries. So from a humanitarian perspective you are looking at how you actually support these people.
If you are thinking about conflicts — to take the drought example, climate change isn’t the primary cause of conflict, but fighting over water might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. You are looking at storms getting more intense, and more people being displaced. There’s also lots of work on the health impacts of climate change.
And the thing that’s so unfair is that it is very clear it’s the most vulnerable people around the world that are hit hardest by humanitarian crises and they are hardest hit by climate change.
What does addressing environmental injustice look like to you in concrete terms?
There is a lot of work that’s been done by Oxford University and the Union of Concerned Scientists on top corporations in the world and how much they have attributed to the rise of temperature. So I think what it should look like is that those companies should pay for the damages that they are causing to local communities.
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On the governmental side of things in climate change negotiations, it means that developed countries need to be ready to fund help and support poor countries to make the shift to renewable energy and stopping deforestation. They need all of their development aid to be supporting adaptation and they need to be ready to pay reparations.
What form can you imagine reparations taking?
So there’s different levels of it within the Paris agreement. You do have a mechanism for loss and damage [in the agreement] which is there to support the poorest countries. The North would rather not just pay for the actual damage but they may look at how to pay for avoidance of damage in the future: so more infrastructure.
What I expect in the years to come is litigation. I think that the poorest countries in the world and most vulnerable are eventually going to have to go to human rights courts and the court of justice to actually work to try and get some of the funding.
Do you see an opportunity to address inequalities and human rights issues while tackling climate change?
I think there is a huge opportunity. I think we all see that the root causes, this short-termism, putting corporate profit over people, the role of those companies in decision making in government, I think all of that joins up.
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And the fact that we can address many of these issues together I think is the way that we have to go forward. If you look at how corporates are governed around the world as well that’s part of the issue. There’s very little corporate governance…