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Report: Human Rights implications of climate change mitigation actions, second edition

151126_CDM_watch-human-rightsExecutive Summary

Countries’ obligations under international human rights law are well established. These include the obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights, which are applicable in the context of climate change.

Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognize that they must respect human rights—including procedural rights—in all climate-related actions. As early as 1992, when countries negotiated the UNFCCC in Rio de Janeiro, the right to public participation and the principle of sustainable development were high on the political agenda, as reflected in the Rio Declaration of the same conference. Since then, the UNFCCC, the UN Human Rights Council, and other bodies have helped to further develop and clarify the legal obligations related to climate change.

Yet, as this policy brief demonstrates through various case studies, these obligations have not been fully operationalized in the development and implementation of climate mitigation actions.

In the aftermath of Paris, and the Parties’ most recent recognition of the linkage between human rights and climate change, the UNFCCC has a renewed mandate to ensure that human rights are taken into account in all climate actions. The preamble to the Paris Agreement provides that “Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.”

This policy brief reflects on the obligations of States to protect human rights and promote sustainable development and analyzes lessons learned from past mitigation actions and projects, as a means to inform and strengthen future mitigation policies and mechanisms such as the newly established sustainable development mechanism.

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 To this end, this report offers the following recommendations:

  • Ensure that climate actions are based on a human rights-based approach that secures respect, protection, and fulfillment of human rights
    • The interconnectivity of climate change and human rights needs further to be strengthened
    • Existing human rights obligations related to climate change need to be effectively operationalized
    • Safeguards and accountability processes need to be established that secure climate actions are designed, implemented and monitored in such a manner that rights of affected individuals, indigenous peoples and communities are protected
  • Establish best-practice guidelines with clear, detailed guidance on local stakeholder consultation, including
    • who must be consulted (at minimum, affected people);
    • how (through means of communication, including language and media, appropriate to the people being contacted);
    • when (early and throughout the project cycle, to ensure a communication channel if the project causes harm after approval or registration); and
    • how the concerns expressed in the consultations are taken into account in the decision making processes about the project. A refusal of the project by affected communities and indigenous peoples must be respected.
  • Adopt clear, detailed guidance for sustainable development assessment and monitoring based on sustainable development indicators, including on
    • minimum standards for sustainable development, reflecting international law obligations including the do-no-harm principle and requiring assessment throughout the project cycle and with indicators made publicly available
    • public participation;
    • gender equality; and
    • safeguards against negative social and environmental impacts.
  • Establish international-level communication channels and grievance mechanisms for people and communities regarding social and environmental impacts of climate change mitigation projects or actions.
  • Adopt guidance, including minimum standards, for establishing grievance and complaint procedures at the national level, with reporting and transparency requirements.

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