Climate change and human rights

What exactly are the opportunities and challenges for human rights advocacy surrounding climate change?

© 2014 Brent Stirton for Human Rights Watch

Climate change and its associated impacts – higher global temperatures, rising water levels, and increasingly frequent and extreme weather events – pose significant threats to people around the world. These threats are not just long-term, but are already being felt here and now. They particularly affect people in the global South, who are already struggling to access their rights to water, food, shelter, livelihood, and culture. Climate change policies adopted by governments at the national and international level raise a range of human rights concerns. Hence, it is crucial that human rights remain front and centre at international climate change negotiations such as the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP23).

This series examines the role of human rights in climate advocacy and the challenges activists face in this space. What exactly are the opportunities and challenges for human rights advocacy surrounding climate change? How can humans rights be further incorporated into climate negotiations and advocacy?

Collaborating Guest Editors (2017): Human Rights Watch’s Environment and Human Rights Division  
 

 

The international protection of climate migrants: is Chile up to the challenge?

By: Marianela Garione
Español

Monte Patria in Chile is the first migrant community due to climatic causes in the country—why is it generating so much controversy?

Using legal empowerment to fight exploitative land investors in Sierra Leone

By: Hassan Sesay & Daniel Sesay
Español | Français

Legal empowerment helps locals to understand and claim their rights, resulting in a legal victory for communities in Sierra Leone against exploitative corporations.

Challenging the oil industry through community action in Western Uganda

By: Wangũi wa Kamonji
Español | Português

One women’s group in Uganda is showing that solidarity, community and the determination to sustain generative ways of life can be unstoppable, even in the face ...

Learning from Dalit women fighting for land rights in Punjab

By: Tarini Manchanda
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ | Español | हिन्दी

In Punjab—where about 32% of people are Dalit—Dalit women are fighting for the right to cultivate land, and they are winning.

First UN human rights decision on climate migration—a modest step forward

By: Deborah Casalin
Español

For the first time, a UN body has decided the case of a climate migrant, and in doing so strengthened the duty on states to address climate change because it poses ...

Waorani women resist Ecuador’s extractive agenda in the Amazon

By: Vanessa Daza Castillo
Español | Português

Indigenous women in Ecuador are standing up to an extractive industry that has displaced vulnerable communities and concentrated land ownership in the hands of ...

Indigenous women in Kenya rebuild resilience amidst an eco-cultural crisis

By: Wangũi wa Kamonji
Español | Português

In the face of growing climate change, indigenous women in Kenya are remembering and reinstating their native agricultural practices, to build resilience and reclaim ...

Colombian activists use music and art to call for climate action

By: Vanessa Daza Castillo
Español | Português

In Colombia, children and young people are finding different ways to raise awareness and stimulate action on climate change.

“Our house is on fire”: the Asian climate emergency

By: Beatrice Tulagan
Español | Tagalog

Declaring a climate emergency is not enough, but women activists in Asia are pushing for these declarations to send policy signals across every level of government.

Is climate change worsening gender-based violence in the Pacific Islands?

By: Erin Thomas & Megan Lee Candolfi
Français

In the Pacific Islands, gender inequality and gender-based violence are being exacerbated by climate change, including through natural disasters, migration, and ...

Fiscal policy is key to achieving SDGs and avoiding “climate apartheid”

By: Philip Alston & Nikki Reisch
Español

Delivering on the SDG’s promise to reduce economic inequality requires progressive taxation and effective enforcement to ensure wealthy businesses and individuals ...

Climate Land Banks: addressing displacement in Myanmar and beyond

By: Scott Leckie
မြန်မာဘာသာ

Countries exposed to the worst impacts of climate change, like Myanmar, should consider establishing Climate Land Banks to meet the looming problem of massive climate ...

Illegal logging fuels conflict and violence against women in South Sudan

By: Caroline Kiarie-Kimondo

Mismanagement of timber resources and illegal logging are exacerbating South Sudan’s conflict and destroying the environment, and women are the most severely affected.

New climate change lawsuit in Colombia part of growing, worldwide trend

By: Camila Bustos
Español

A new lawsuit in Colombia involving young plaintiffs seeks to protect their rights to life and health by preventing deforestation and holding the government accountable ...

Time to act – recognizing the right to a healthy environment

By: Marcos A. Orellana
Español | Français

Global recognition of the right to a healthy environment is long overdue. There are opportunities emerging to do so, and this would give crucial support to threatened ...

Why is the Inter-American Human Rights System lagging on climate change?

By: Juan Auz
Español

The Inter-American Human Rights System is an important tool for Latin American human rights defenders, but why are the Court and the Commission lagging behind on ...

How not to produce energy: lessons from Brazil’s Belo Monte dam

By: Astrid Puentes Riaño
Español | Português

Due to lack of community consultation and negative socio-environmental impacts, the Belo Monte dam in the Brazilian Amazon has become a prime example of how not ...

Climate change exacerbates gender inequality, putting women’s health at risk

By: Hwei Mian Lim
Español

Climate change takes a higher toll on women than on men. Women’s health and well-being, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights are all at stake.

Putting human rights at the centre of the renewable energy sector

By: Eniko Horvath & Christen Dobson
Español | 简体中文

In our efforts to quickly mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, advocates have a critical opportunity and responsibility to put human rights at the centre ...

Intergenerational commitments are critical to protecting future climate leaders

By: Leah Davidson
Español

Intergenerational commitments in climate change are critical to protect children’s rights now and to build the next generation of environmental defenders.

Climate change talks must focus on the most vulnerable: the world’s children

By: Alice Thomas
Español | Français

Across the globe, more extreme weather and climate change are displacing the most vulnerable, including children. Yet not enough is being done to uphold their human ...

Protecting environmental defenders should be a central issue at climate talks

By: Katharina Rall
Español | Français | العربية

As attacks on environmental rights defenders escalate, the stakes are high for the upcoming climate change talks in Germany.

Collaborating with scientists for climate justice

By: Ellen Platts & Claire Sabel

The impacts of climate change intensify existing social inequities by placing disproportionate burdens on vulnerable populations. Collaborations with scientists ...

Digging deeper: the impact of coal on human rights

By: Krizna Gomez & Gregory Tzeutschler Regaignon

With governments making commitments at the Paris Conference of Parties (COP21), global leaders must understand the impact and future of coal as a matter of human ...

Human rights mainstreaming in climate change policy: a glass half full

By: Marc Limon
Español | Français

The UN’s human rights bodies can’t solve the problem of climate change – but that doesn’t mean they have no role to play in pushing for more ambitious action to ...

Climate change poses an existential threat to human rights

By: Stephen Humphreys
Español | Français | العربية

It’s obvious climate change is a human rights issue. Less obvious is that saying so doesn’t necessarily help much, and indeed exposes the limitations of rights ...

Greening human rights

By: John Knox
Español | Français | العربية

The protection of human rights and a healthy environment are mutually reinforcing – a fact that is gaining increasing international legal recognition.

Corporate concern for human rights essential to tackle climate change

By: Asuncion Lera St. Clair

We have the means to create a green and equitable economy, but first corporations must embrace sustainable growth strategies that include a concern for human rights.

Human rights – help or hindrance to combatting climate change?

By: Usha Natarajan

Although the human rights framework brings out the inequities inherent in both the causes and impacts of global warming, it risks perpetuating a flawed development ...