The impact of climate change on the rights of people in vulnerable situations

Climate change has a negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights. Persons in vulnerable situations – owing to factors including geography, poverty, gender, age, indigenous or minority status, national or social origin, birth or other status and disability – may experience heightened exposure and vulnerability to climate-induced human rights harms.

People living in small island developing States and least developed countries, and in conditions of water scarcity, desertification, land degradation and drought are amongst those most affected by climate-related harms. Rising sea levels, tropical and extratropical cyclones, increasing air and sea surface temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and loss of adaptive capacity and ecosystem services have implications for the right to self-determination, cultural rights, the right to health and the right to life among other human rights. These impacts also severely affect peoples’ livelihoods and may act as a driver of migration.

The meaningful inclusion and participation of persons in vulnerable situations within disaster risk management and climate-related decision-making at the local, national, regional and global levels, lies at the heart of a human rights-based approach to climate action.

Secretary-General’s report on the rights of people in vulnerable situations in the context of climate change

Human Rights Council resolution 47/24 (A/HRC/RES/47/24) requested the Secretary-General to consult Member States and other relevant stakeholders in order to prepare and submit to the fiftieth session of the Human Rights Council a report on the adverse impact of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights of people in vulnerable situations.

To inform the study and panel discussion, OHCHR transmitted a Note Verbale and Questionnaire [English] [French] to Member States, NGOs, UN Agencies, IGOs, Academic Institutions and NHRIs, inviting them to respond to the questionnaire and provide input. The inputs received will be made available below.