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  


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Delivering on the SDG’s promise to reduce economic inequality requires progressive taxation and effective ...

Illegal logging fuels conflict and violence against women in South Sudan

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By: Caroline Kiarie-Kimondo

Mismanagement of timber resources and illegal logging are exacerbating South Sudan’s conflict and destroying ...

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

March 13, 2018
By: Camila Bustos

A new lawsuit in Colombia involving young plaintiffs seeks to protect their rights to life and health ...

Time to act – recognizing the right to a healthy environment

February 1, 2018
By: Marcos A. Orellana
Español | Français

Global recognition of the right to a healthy environment is long overdue. There are opportunities emerging ...

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

January 11, 2018
By: Juan Auz

The Inter-American Human Rights System is an important tool for Latin American human rights defenders, ...

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

November 10, 2017
By: Astrid Puentes Riaño
Español | Português

Due to lack of community consultation and negative socio-environmental impacts, the Belo Monte dam in ...

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

November 6, 2017
By: Hwei Mian Lim

Climate change takes a higher toll on women than on men. Women’s health and well-being, including their ...

Putting human rights at the centre of the renewable energy sector

November 3, 2017
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 ...

Intergenerational commitments are critical to protecting future climate leaders

November 2, 2017
By: Leah Davidson

Intergenerational commitments in climate change are critical to protect children’s rights now and to ...

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

November 1, 2017
By: Alice Thomas
Español | Français

Across the globe, more extreme weather and climate change are displacing the most vulnerable, including ...

Protecting environmental defenders should be a central issue at climate talks

October 31, 2017
By: Katharina Rall
Español | Français | العربية

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

Collaborating with scientists for climate justice

November 21, 2016
By: Ellen Platts & Claire Sabel

The impacts of climate change intensify existing social inequities by placing disproportionate burdens ...

Digging deeper: the impact of coal on human rights

December 9, 2015
By: Krizna Gomez & Gregory Tzeutschler Regaignon

With governments making commitments at the Paris Conference of Parties (COP21), global leaders must ...

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

September 2, 2015
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 ...

Climate change poses an existential threat to human rights

July 16, 2015
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 ...

Greening human rights

July 14, 2015
By: John Knox
Español | Français | العربية

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

Corporate concern for human rights essential to tackle climate change

March 12, 2015
By: Asuncion Lera St. Clair

We have the means to create a green and equitable economy, but first corporations must embrace sustainable ...

Human rights – help or hindrance to combatting climate change?

January 9, 2015
By: Usha Natarajan

Although the human rights framework brings out the inequities inherent in both the causes and impacts ...