Australia’s climate failure breached Torres Strait Islander rights, UN says

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GENEVA, Sept 23 (Reuters) – A U.N. committee found on Friday that Australia had violated the human rights of a group of islanders off its northern coast by failing to adequately protect them from the effects of climate change, such as by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The complaint, filed over three years ago by eight Torres Strait Islanders and their children, is one of a growing number of climate cases being brought around the world on human rights grounds, and the ruling is expected to encourage others .

Rising sea levels have already damaged food sources and ancestral burial sites and scattered human remains, the islanders claimed, saying their homes are at risk of being submerged.

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The committee said Australia had violated two of the three human rights set out in a UN treaty International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) relating to culture and family life, but not Article 6 on the right to life.

It urged Australia to provide the islanders with an effective remedy.

“This decision marks a significant development as the Committee has created a pathway for individuals to assert claims where national systems have failed to take adequate measures to protect those most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change on the enjoyment of their human rights ,” UN committee member Hélène. said Tigroudja.

A spokesman for Australia’s Energy and Climate Change Minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Torres Strait Islanders are part of Australia’s indigenous population, along with the Aborigines, who live on small clusters of low-lying islands scattered between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The case was brought when the former Conservative government, seen as a laggard in the fight against climate change, was in power. Since then, Parliament has passed legislation on emissions reductions and Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen visited the islands this year.

About 173 of the 193 UN member states have ratified the convention, including Australia. There is no enforcement mechanism, but there are follow-up steps and states generally comply with the committee’s findings.

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Reporting by Emma Farge and Sonali Paul, Editing by Rachel More and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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