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A safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is essential to the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to health, food, water and sanitation. Climate change threatens the enjoyment of these rights. States have an obligation to prevent the foreseeable adverse effects of climate change. They also have an obligation to ensure that those affected by it, particularly those in vulnerable situations, have access to remedies and means of adaptation to enjoy lives of human dignity.

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Our work

UN Human Rights aims to promote a human rights-based approach to climate action. We collaborate with partners to integrate human rights in environmental laws and policies. We support the inclusion of civil society in environmental decision-making, access to information and effective remedies for victims. We also advocate on behalf of human rights defenders, and conduct research to address human rights harms caused by environmental degradation.

In most of our country presences, UN Human Rights works with rights holders and duty bearers to create a better understanding of the relationship between climate change and human rights and facilitates actions to improve the level of respect for the related rights. UN Human Rights support and collaborates with UNEP.

Since 2015, we have organized annual Human Rights Council panel discussions on a wide range of climate change, covering subjects such as the impact of climate change on the rights of the child, persons with disabilities, the right to health and more. We have also produced analytical studies on all these subjects.

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Current focus


COP events

As part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), we participate in the regular COP events, supporting a human rights-based approach to climate action. The next event, COP26, will take place in Glasgow in October 2021.

Who else is involved

Special Rapporteur on climate change

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert mandated to examine how the adverse effects of climate change affect the full and effective enjoyment of human rights and to identify existing challenges in States’ efforts to promote and protect human rights while addressing climate change. The Special Rapporteur is also tasked with identifying good practices, strategies and policies that address how human rights are integrated into climate change policies.

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Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert who examines the human rights obligations relating to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The mandate promotes best practices relating to the use of human rights in environmental policymaking, especially in the area of environmental protection.

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Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert mandated to examine the human rights implications of toxic and otherwise hazardous substances. The scope of the mandate includes extractive industries, particularly oil, gas and mining; labour conditions in manufacturing and agricultural sectors; consumer products; environmental emissions of hazardous substances from all sources; military activities, war and conflict; and the disposal of waste.

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