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Human Rights Law Requires States to Pursue the Highest Possible Ambition in Emissions Cuts

17 September 2019

Five UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies Demand Global Climate Action

GENEVA/NEW YORK (16 September 2019) - Five UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies issued a joint statement on Monday warning that States must act on climate as failure to do so may constitute a breach of their obligations under human rights international law.

The five bodies highlight that under these treaties, States have legally binding obligations to protect human rights by urgently addressing the climate crisis. Under international law, "Failure to take measures to prevent foreseeable human rights harm caused by climate change, or to regulate activities contributing to such harm, could constitute a violation of States' human rights obligations," the Statement says.

The endorsing bodies, between them, are mandated to monitor the international human rights obligations of 196 States. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, urged States to fulfill their human rights commitments by taking urgent, ambitious action to meaningfully address the climate crisis and protect human rights.

"In order for States to comply with their human rights obligations, and to realize the objectives of the Paris Agreement, they must adopt and implement policies aimed at reducing emissions, which reflect the highest possible ambition, foster climate resilience and ensure that public and private investments are consistent with a pathway towards low carbon emissions and climate resilient development."

The statement coincides with next week's Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary General. In this context, the Committees "urge all States to take into consideration their human rights obligations as they review their climate commitments." Citing the 2018 IPCC special report concerning global warming of 1.5°C, the Committees warn that climate change threatens, among others, the rights to life, food, housing, health, water, and cultural rights and states that "States are exposing their populations and future generations to the significant threats to human rights associated with greater temperature increases."

The Committees collectively committed to continue to review the impacts of climate change on the rights protected under the human rights treaties and to provide guidance to States on how they can meet their legal obligations, through mitigation and adaptation to climate change.


See full statement

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