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The impact of climate change on the enjoyment of the right to health

OHCHR and climate change


In Article 4(f), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change commits to adaptation and mitigation considerations and actions "with a view to minimizing adverse effects [of climate change] … on public health and on the quality of the environment". Expanding on this, the Preamble to the Paris Agreement states that "parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on […] the right to health".

How does climate change affect health?

Climate change impacts health in a number of ways: directly, through extreme weather or changes in temperature; and indirectly through changes to natural systems that result in crop failures, expanding disease vectors, and displacement of persons. These mechanisms contribute to human vulnerability to disease and injury, diminished occupational and mental health, and risks posed by resource scarcity and migration.

According to the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC, climate change will result in greater risk of injury, disease, and death due to increased heat and fire; higher risk of undernutrition due to decreased food availability and accessibility; lowered work capacity and productivity; and greater risk of food-, water- and vector-borne diseases. Globally, 400,000 premature deaths have been linked to climate change (DARA, 2012) and approximately 250,000 additional deaths due to climate change effects are expected per year between 2030 and 2050 (WHO, 2014). 

Activities, events and reports

Analytical study on the impact of climate change on the right to health

In preparing this study, OHCHR requested inputs from relevant stakeholders to a questionnaire on climate and health. These were summarized in a conference room paper for the panel discussion on 3 March 2016. Based on the panel discussion and inputs received, OHCHR submitted its analytical study to the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council.

The right to health and the Nairobi Work Programme: input to the UNFCCC

This submission highlights the normative basis and recommendations for protecting the right to health from the negative impacts of climate change in the context of the Nairobi Work Programme.

  • OHCHR's response to the UNFCCC Secretariat request for submissions on the Nairobi Work Programme on the questions of impact, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change: health impacts, including occupational health, safety and social protection, FCCC/SBSTA/2016/2, para 15(a) (i), August 29, 2016.

Human Rights Council panel discussion on the impact of climate change on the right to health

Pursuant to resolution 29/15, OHCHR organized a panel discussion on the impacts of climate change on the right to health during the 31st session of the Human Rights Council. The panel discussion was moderated by H.E. Mr. Trung Thanh Nguyen, Permanent Representative of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva.

Statements by panellists

Inputs received for the Analytical Study on the Impacts of Climate Change on the Right to Health


United Nations

Intergovernmental organizations

National human rights institutions

Non-governmental organizations

Academic institution