Climate Change

Info Note on Climate Change - Summary of activities of the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

Human Rights Council  

  • Annual thematic report on human rights obligations relating to climate change (31st session of the Human Rights Council)

In its resolution 28/11, the Human Rights Council recognized the ongoing need to clarify some aspects of the human rights obligations relating to the environment. The Council asked the Special Rapporteur to continue to study those obligations, in consultation with Governments, human rights mechanisms, civil society organizations and others. The present report (A/HRC/31/52) examines the human rights obligations relating to climate change.

In this report, the Special Rapporteur describes the increasing attention paid to the relationship between climate change and human rights in recent years, reviews the effects of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights and outlines the application of human rights obligations to climate-related actions. He explains that States have procedural and substantive obligations relating to climate change, as well as duties to protect the rights of the most vulnerable.

  • Panel discussion on climate change and human rights (28th session of Human Rights Council)

Pursuant to resolution 26/27, a full-day panel discussion was held during the twenty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council on 6 March 2015. The first part of the panel discussion focused on challenges and ways forward towards the realization of human rights for all, including the right to development, in particular those in vulnerable situations, as well as measures and best practices to promote and protect human rights that can be adopted by States in addressing the adverse effects of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights.  The second part focused on the adverse impacts of climate change on States’ efforts progressively to realize the right to food, and policies, lessons learned and good practices.

The concept note and summary of the panel discussion are each available.

  • Climate change mapping report

In response to Human Rights Council resolution 19/10, the Special Rapporteur (then the Independent Expert) undertook an extensive research project to map the statements made by important sources on the human rights obligations relating to the environment.  A specific report within the project was dedicated to the human rights obligations relating to climate change. This Climate Change mapping report describes statements made by human rights bodies on the human rights threatened by climate change and on the human rights obligations relating to climate change.

  • OHCHR study on the relationship between climate change and human rights

In accordance with the Human Rights Council resolution 7/23, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in consultation with and taking into account the views of States, other relevant international organizations and intergovernmental bodies and other stakeholders, conducted a detailed analytical study of the relationship between climate change and human rights. The Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the relationship between climate change and human rights (A/HRC/10/61), which was released in 2009, discusses how observed and projected impacts of climate change have implications for the enjoyment of human rights and for the obligations of States under international human rights law.

Engagement with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment has actively engaged various international mechanisms, in particular, the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), having attended the COP20 in Lima, Peru in December 2014 and the Bonn Climate Change Conference in June 2015.

  • Open Letter to State Parties to UNFCCC

In October 2014, the Special Rapporteur together with 28 Special Procedures mandate-holders transmitted an Open Letter to State Parties to the UNFCCC urging them "to adopt urgent and ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures to prevent further harm" and to include in the 2015 climate agreement a paragraph that "the Parties shall, in all climate change related actions, respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights for all, and to launch a work program to ensure that human rights are integrated into all aspects of climate actions."

The Open Letter is available in English and French.

  • Joint Statements by the UN Special Procedures

On 5 June 2015, on the occasion of World Environment Day, the Special Rapporteurs issued a joint statement drawing attention to the grave harm even a two degree Celsius increase in average global temperature would cause to the enjoyment of human rights around the world. The Special Rapporteurs urged the negotiators to reach a climate change agreement that reflects the obligations human rights law places on States to protect and promote human rights.

The joint statement draws on a report prepared by several Special Rapporteurs for the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of twenty countries that are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. On behalf of the Forum, the Philippines, the current chair, submitted the report, entitled “The Effects of Climate Change on the Full Enjoyment of Human Rights,” on 1 May 2015 to the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC. The Forum urged the COP to adopt a more ambitious target in the climate agreement currently under negotiation, in order to avoid the devastating effects of a rapidly warming planet on the basic rights of all of us who inhabit it.

On 22 December 2014, on the occasion of Human Rights Day, all of the United Nations Special Procedures mandate-holders issued a joint statement urging Member States of the UNFCCC to integrate human rights standards and principles in the climate change negotiations during the 20th Conference of the Parties, which was then taking place in Lima, Peru, and in the agreement to be adopted in Paris in December 2015.

  • United Nations Radio Interview

On 4 May 2015, the United Nations Radio interviewed the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment. Listen to the interview: “Incremental increases in global warming can impact human rights”.


In this section
Issues in focus
See also

To access the official independent website of the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Mr. John Knox, please visit: www.srenvironment.org

Follow the Special Rapporteur: @SREnvironment

Human Rights Council

Special Procedures