Global Rights Watch (GRW) called, in a joint of statement signed by dozens of human rights groups, on governments around the world to protect people from the current and foreseeable harms of extreme heat fueled by climate change.
Governments have human rights obligations to help people adapt to the impacts of climate change. This includes an assessment of the foreseeable impact of extreme heat, especially for the populations who are the most at-risk, followed by effective plans to mitigate the expected harm.
We call on governments to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop subsidizing fossil fuels to prevent the most catastrophic climate outcomes and protect the rights of at-risk populations.
As temperatures that used to be extreme become more common, and with global temperatures increasing for the foreseeable future, governments should urgently cut emissions and prepare for the already unavoidable consequences of global warming.
The world’s leading scientific body on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has reported that extreme temperatures are increasing on every continent due to human-caused climate change. This past decade was the hottest on record, and each of the past four decades has been hotter than the one before it because of climate change.
On July 18, 2022, the United Kingdom announced its first “Red warning” as temperatures in the country hit over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time since the government began recording temperatures.
Over 1,000 people have died in the Iberian Peninsula as a result of a searing heat wave making its way across Europe.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provide for the right to health, including the need for governments to respond to foreseeable threats to public health.
Government actions to uphold their international human rights obligations to protect people from heat should include the 10 measures below:
1- Assess public health risks of extreme heat.
2- Develop heat mitigation and emergency response plans.
3- Implement risk reduction and capacity building policies.
4- Ensure access to water and sanitation, and energy services
5- Ensure that the public is informed of imminent risk and availability of emergency assistance during a heatwave.
6- Ensure access to cool environments during a heat wave.
7- Ensure safety of outdoor workers.
8- Ensure access to medical care and social services for people suffering heat-related health emergencies.
9- Continuously monitor the impact of heat and the effectiveness of emergency responses.
10- Regularly revise and strengthen national and local heat plans.