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call for input | Special Procedures

Call for inputs – The toxic impacts of some climate change solutions

Issued by

Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights

Last updated

11 April 2023


Submissions now online (See below)

Purpose: To inform the Special Rapporteur’s 2023 thematic report to the Human Rights Council

Mandate of the Special Rapporteur

Pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 45/17, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Marcos Orellana, will present a thematic report, including recommendations, to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2023. His thematic report will focus, in accordance with his mandate, on a wide range of issues related to the toxic pollution and human rights implications of some climate change solution.

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 Member States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. Special Rapporteurs are selected on the basis of their expertise and experience in the area of their mandate, personal integrity, independence and impartiality and objectivity. They are not employed by the United Nations and do not receive remuneration for their work.

The mandate seeks to help States, businesses and other stakeholders to adopt solutions with regard to harmful substances and human rights issues.

Dr. Marcos A. Orellana was appointed Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights in August 2020. He is an expert in international law and the law on human rights and the environment. His practice as legal advisor has included work with United Nations agencies, governments and non-governmental organisations.

The Special Rapporteur is part of a system of so-called UN Special Procedures, made up of independent experts who regularly undertake country visits around the world to report on human rights issues.


Addressing climate change is an existential threat to the effective enjoyment of human rights and requires decisive action on multiple fronts. One of the key goals of the Paris Agreement is to bring about reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Aware of the risks posed by such climate action, the Agreement reaffirms State obligations to respect, promote, and consider human rights, including 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.

States and companies are rallying to build new technologies and innovations to reduce greenhouse gases. And yet, we are seeing proposals for, and application of, climate mitigation technologies that have the potential to exacerbate toxic pollution. This is particularly problematic in light of the severe toxification of the planet and resulting violations to human rights. Toxic substances and pollution cause at least 9 million premature deaths each year and disproportionately affect vulnerable communities.

For example, the transition towards electrification of cars is being done without an adequate lifecycle assessment, including the extraction, use, and waste that contain toxic and hazardous substances. The rapid mining of materials such as lithium, cobalt, and rare earth metals for climate change technologies can cause water contamination and shortages, greenhouse gases, as well as toxic mining wastes. Deep seabed mining for magnesium nodules used for electric vehicles can release toxic chemicals. Capacities and programs for the sound environmental management of spent lithium-ion batteries are yet to be designed and installed, and their unsound disposal contributes to environmental pollution and adverse health effects.

The climate emergency does not justify action that may infringe on the rights to life, health, personal integrity and a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.


To reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius climate goal and protect affected communities, decarbonization technologies should be integrated with detoxification strategies. A comprehensive human rights approach should guide the transition toward a circular economy that is both chemically and climate-safe. For example, manufacturers of climate technologies should use materials that do not contain toxic and hazardous substances. Human rights standards along the supply chain for climate change technologies should not be optional.  People in vulnerable situations should be protected from toxic pollution.

The report will identify gaps and shortcomings, as well as good practices, in relation to which the Special Rapporteur would seek to make constructive and concrete recommendations. The general objectives of this report are:

  • to highlight the impact of greenhouse gas emissions and toxics on human rights, including the rights to life, health and a clean, healthy and sustainable environment;
  • to analyze current solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and their use of toxic and hazardous substances and their impact on human rights;
  • to examine how decarbonization technologies often disregard the toxic impacts they impose on the environment, and identify ways to address this dire issue.

Key questions and types of input/comments sought

The Special Rapporteur would like to invite all interested individuals and organizations working on issues related to the toxic pollution and human rights implications of climate change solutions, including representatives of civil society organizations, journalists, experts, and academics, to provide input for the preparation of his thematic report. Inputs can be both country-specific or of a general nature and should contain information on the following subjects:

  • concrete examples of toxic pollution caused from the extracting minerals that are used in climate change solutions such as batteries, wind or solar power, geothermal energy, bio fuels, nuclear power, etc. 
  • information on the toxic substances used to make certain climate change solutions and their impact on communities including, but not limited to, indigenous peoples, women, children, local communities, persons with disabilities, etc.
  • good practices and lessons learned on prevent toxic pollution that can result from producing, using, or preventing waste from climate change technologies

Reports, academic studies and other types of background materials can be attached as an annex to the submission

How inputs will be used

All inputs will be treated to inform the preparation of the thematic report to the Human Rights Council.

If not indicated to the contrary your submission will be published on the website of the Special Rapporteur. If you would like your written submission or any other information NOT to be published on the website of the Special Rapporteur, please explicitly indicate this in your submission.

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The Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights thanks you for your inputs.

Inputs Received

Inputs Received

Private Sector:

  • Cameco Corporation [1, 2]