Dr Kerry Kennedy urges greater protection for environmental activists tackling climate change

Wed, 19 Jun 2019 14:12:00 BST

The first World Forum on Climate Justice, being held at Glasgow Caledonian University, has heard two leading international figures call for a stronger connection between human rights and environmental activism. Human Rights activist Kerry Kennedy and former President of Ireland, Dr Mary Robinson called for urgent action to tackle the climate crisis and address the impact it is already having on the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Dr Kennedy, who is director of Robert F Kennedy Human Rights, told delegates it was important that each individual person recognises they can make a difference on climate change. She said: "Each of us has the power to create change in our community, in our countries and globally on these critical issues.

"So often I think in European countries and in the United States we don’t see the connection between human rights and environmental activism. But in so many places around the world the environmental activists face imprisonment, torture and death for basic rights most of us take for granted. We need to partner with them and see this as a holistic issue, impacting women, impacting communities of colour, impacting poor communities, indigenous communities and impacting all of our lives."

Dr Robinson, who is Chair of the Elders, a group brought together by Nelson Mandela, said the Forum will help join the dots between different movements tackling climate change. She said: "I am so pleased that Glasgow Caledonian University has brought together a number of us now who understand the importance not just of climate change or climate crisis, but of climate justice.

"Starting with the injustice of climate change which affects the poorest countries, the poorest communities and increasingly school children and young people who are realising the injustice that is intergenerational. I think we are now realising that we have not been careful and prudent on our watch, that we have allowed time to pass and now we are facing a crisis."

The Forum is being organised by Elsevier in partnership with the University’s Centre for Climate Justice. More than 130 delegates representing 35 countries, including the United States, China, India and many African countries, are attending.

The Director of the Centre, Professor Tahseen Jafry, says it is the first time researchers with a focus on how climate change is affecting the poorest and most vulnerable have been brought together to discuss their work.

She said: "I am pleased to see the Scottish Government and now the UK Government setting bold and ambitious targets.  We need to create an enabling environment and put in place transformational approaches to get there. Public engagement is key.  I am hopeful this Forum will make a significant contribution on how we create the necessary engagement to achieve a climate just world."