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Special Rapporteur on climate change
30 November 2023
One of the thematic issues identified by the UN Special Rapporteur relates to corporate accountability in the context of human rights and climate change.
There is a growing call for companies to disclose the risks they are facing with respect to their human rights responsibilities and their actions to address climate change through transitioning to low-carbon economies. The idea is that disclosure will help investors understand such risks so that they can make more informed investment decisions. There is a growing need to ensure that companies assess and report these risks, throughout their supply chain. Initiatives that establish mandatory disclosure and reporting will be explored and evaluated. Gaps in reporting requirements will also be explored.
The Special Rapporteur will also review various initiatives related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) and other corporate disclosure mechanisms to determine whether they provide effective means of reporting on human rights and climate change. Within this context, “greenwashing”, “greenhushing” and net zero claims will be reviewed.
The Special Rapporteur will explore the issue of climate change risk for corporations. This will primarily be considered in the context of exposure to climate change litigation risks associated with investments in the fossil fuel industry and greenhouse gas intensive industries.
In 2011, the Human Rights Council endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (res 17/4). The Special Rapporteur will examine whether these Guiding Principles are being applied with respect to human rights and climate change and give consideration as to whether legally binding requirements are needed. Consideration will be given to the work of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, with a view to elaborating an internationally legally binding instrument to regulate, in human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises (A/HRC/RES/26/9).
The Special Rapporteur will also review the voluntary carbon market and the compliance carbon market established under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement to determine whether these market mechanisms are consistent with human rights obligations and consistent with obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The finance and banking sector has a critical role to play in decarbonising the global economy or doing the opposite. It is well recognised that there are considerable flows of finance to the fossil fuel industry. Such financial support prolongs the effects of climate change and the subsequent suffering of those affected by climate change impacts. The Special Rapporteur will review the role of the finance and banking sector, including offshore banking facilities to develop a better understanding of their role in addressing the connection between human rights and climate change. The use of green bonds and green loans will be reviewed.
Furthermore, governments provide considerable subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, thus creating a significant economic disadvantage for the renewable energy and energy efficiency industry. The human rights implications of fossil fuel subsidies will be explored.
The Special Rapporteur is therefore, seeking input from States, business enterprises, civil society organizations and intergovernmental organizations on corporate accountability with respect to human rights and climate change.
All submissions will be made publicly available and posted on the Special Rapporteur’s homepage at the OHCHR website.
Input may be sent by e-mail. They must be received by 30 November 2023 18:00 CET.
Email subject line:
Input for report on climate change displacement
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