Climate Change and Human Rights

TitleClimate Change and Human Rights
Publication TypeBook
Subtitle / Series TitleA Rough Guide
Year of Publication2008
Number of Pages127 pp.
PublisherInternational Council on Human Rights Policy (ICHRP)
ISBN Number2-940259-83-6
Accession Number1182

(The following text has been taken from the executive summary:)This report discusses a spectrum of human rights concerns raised by anthropogenic climate change and by the strategies devised to address it. It does not seek to reframe climate change as a "human rights issue" or to buttress the many existing grounds for urgent cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with human rights rationale. Rather, it pinpoints areas where climate change will have direct and indirect human rights impacts, and where human rights principles might sharpen policy-making on climate change, including in the two core policy areas of adaptation (preparing for the unavoidable and foreseeable effects of climate change) and mitigation (reducing GHG emissions in order to curb climate change).The report is intended primarily as a mapping exercise. It lays out a range of research agendas that deserve greater attention than they can be given here. It also assesses the adequacy of human rights conceptions and processes to the larger justice concerns climate change raises. Although human rights considerations arise throughout climate change policy, the report suggests that human rights applications will be most useful if they are narrowly tailored to specific problems.The report has five chapters. The introduction provides an overview of human rights concerns raised by climate change and asks why they have received so little attention to date. It discusses briefly the likely drawbacks and potential benefits of applying a human rights optic to climate change, and summarises existing rights-based perspectives on the subject.Chapter II examines policy.Chapter III turns to litigation.Chapter IV discusses procedural human rights.Chapter V examines four of the human rights dimensions of several ethical and legal concerns that have consistently surfaced in the context of climate change. First, competing justice claims saturate and sometimes distort the climate change debate; but it is not always clear how they interact, and whether the mix of solutions now on the table addresses them adequately or consistently. Second, notions of \"equity\" and \"common but differentiated responsibilities\" lie at the heart of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the centrepiece of the evolving international climate change regime. These principles appear to open the way to consideration of human rights claims across borders, but they have yet to fulfil that promise in practice. Third, human rights lawyers are already grappling with the difficulty of assigning liability to public and private actors for climate change related harms. The report reviews this issue and considers structural obstacles that make it difficult to assign fault in this context. Fourth, the report looks at the potential value of the right to development. Though contested, ongoing negotiation of this right has provided an official forum for reflection on human rights and development that may prove constructive in future climate change discussions.A concluding chapter summarises the report's main findings and suggests what these might imply for future climate change policies and programmes. The report can be downloaded in full from ICHRP's website (see link below).

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