Just Transition and Human Rights

Fast & Fair: The Climate Transition, with DLA Piper – Episode 1

Between the north of Australia and Papua New Guinea sit the Torres Straits Islands. There are more than 270 of them, although just 14 are inhabited. People have lived there for 70,000 years, but now the islands are under threat from climate change. Overfishing, coral bleaching, and rising sea levels are putting the continued existence of indigenous communities under threat.

“We are so connected to our islands; we are the islands,” explains Tishiko King, a Torres Strait Islander and environmental campaigner. “When our land, our home is hurting, so are we. Because it provides us with our food, it provides us with our medicine, our health, our stories. Our history is deeply embedded and rooted into it. So it’s not just a loss of homes, it’s a loss of culture.”

There is much at stake. “The global community needs to make sure there is adequate protection, safeguards and prior planning. What we don’t want is people to be displaced and leaving in a way when they are evacuating at the last minute.” said Yasmine Ahmed, UK Director of Human Rights Watch in this episode.

The UN’s Human Rights Commission has recently recognised that having a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a human right, something which Ahmed describes as an important and exciting development. And the Torres Islanders have now taken the Australian government to court, arguing the country is acting unlawfully failing to stop climate change.

How can we can help indigenous communities to maintain a connection to their culture if their land is lost to climate change? The population of the Torres Straits Islanders is small, but what will happen when more densely populated countries such as Bangladesh (frequently affected by flooding) start to produce more climate refugees? And how might legal protections force climate action to happen to prevent people from losing their homes in the first place? Listen to this episode to find out.

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