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OHCHR’s role in promoting rights-based climate action

OHCHR and climate change

Taking a human rights-based approach to global policies and measures designed to address climate change means that as these are developed, their main objective should be to fulfil human rights. Principles and standards derived from international human rights law, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core universal human rights treaties, should guide all policies and programming in all phases of the process.

OHCHR aims to provide guidance that encourages policy coherence and ensures that climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts are adequate, sufficiently ambitious, non-discriminatory and compliant with human rights obligations.

To help States, businesses and other duty-bearers meet this expectation, OHCHR's Key Messages on Human Rights and Climate Change, summarized below, outline key human rights obligations in the context of climate change:

  1. Mitigate climate change and prevent its negative human rights impacts
  2. Ensure that all persons have the necessary capacity to adapt to climate change
  3. Ensure accountability and effective remedy for human rights harms caused by climate change
  4. Mobilize maximum available resources for sustainable, human rights-based development
  5. International cooperation
  6. Ensure equity in climate action
  7. Guarantee that everyone enjoys the benefits of science and its applications
  8. Protect human rights from business harms
  9. Guarantee equality and non-discrimination
  10. Ensure meaningful and informed participation

These messages are also reflected and expanded upon in OHCHR's submission, 'Understanding Human Rights and Climate Change', to the 21st Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (COP21) in 2015.

Organizing climate change discussions

Since 2015, OHCHR has organized annual Human Rights Council (HRC) panel discussion on climate change, covering diverse subjects such as climate change and the rights of the child; human rights, climate change and human mobility; climate change and the effective enjoyment of the right to health; gender-responsive climate action; and the impacts of climate change on the rights of persons with disabilities. The Office has also produced analytical studies on all these subjects.

This work has been guided by the HRC resolutions on human rights and climate change, the first of which was adopted in 2008.