Delegates stand for a minute of silence following the deadly 6.8-magnitude September 8 earthquake, in central Morocco, at the opening of the 54rd UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, on September 11, 2023. AFP
Speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council, Volker Turk pointed to recent examples of the "environmental horror that is our global planetary crisis", including in Basra, Iraq, where "drought, searing heat, extreme pollution and fast-depleting supplies of fresh water are creating barren landscapes of rubble and dust".
"This spiralling damage is a human rights emergency for Iraq, and many other countries," he said in his address opening the 54th council session in Geneva.
"Climate change is pushing millions of people into famine. It is destroying hopes, opportunities, homes and lives. In recent months, urgent warnings have become lethal realities again and again all around the world," Turk said.
"We do not need more warnings. The dystopian future is already here. We need urgent action now."
He was speaking after the G20 at the weekend backed the goal of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030, but failed to commit to a phase-out of fossil fuels.
"Nonchalance" to migrants deaths
At a time when the ravages of climate change are forcing more and more people to leave their homes, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said he was "shocked by the nonchalance" seen towards surging numbers of migrant deaths.
"It is evident that far more migrants and refugees are dying, unnoticed," he said.
He highlighted the more than "2,300 people reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean this year, including the loss of more than 600 lives in a single shipwreck off Greece in June."
He also pointed to migrant deaths in the English Channel, the Bay of Bengal, in the Caribbean, and along the US-Mexican border.
And he highlighted migrant deaths at "the border of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where my office is seeking urgent clarification about allegations of killings and mistreatment".
Last month, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch said Saudi border guards had fired "like rain" on Ethiopians trying to reach Saudi Arabia from Yemen.
Amid these towering problems facing the world, Turk decried "politics of deception".
"Helped by new technologies, lies and disinformation are mass-produced to sow chaos, to confuse, and ultimately to deny reality and ensure no action will be taken that could endanger the interests of entrenched elites," he said.
"The most apparent case of this is climate change."
Urging international probe
The UN human rights chief also decried the lack of accountability for the 2020 Beirut port blast, urging an international probe into the massive explosion that destroyed swathes of the city.
"Three years after the Beirut explosion, ... there has been no accountability," Turk said , adding "it may therefore be time to consider an international fact-finding mission to look into human rights violations related to this tragedy."