Climate & Environment

The climate emergency is upon us. Extreme weather events, rising water levels, air pollution compounded by high temperatures and other impacts of global warming pose significant threats to present and future generations around the world.They particularly affect people in the global South, who are already struggling to access their rights to water, food, shelter, livelihood, and culture. What is the role of human rights in climate and environmental advocacy and what are the opportunities and challenges for human rights advocacy in the midst of the climate emergency?


View collections on:

Litigating the Climate Emergency


Overturning 1.5°C: Give science a chance

By: Kelly Matheson
Español | Français

With the success of efforts to secure climate-based rights internationally, now is the time to push for the most up-to-date scientific evidence to inform climate ...

Justice for animals and expanding our communities

By: Ezio Costa Cordella

An animal justice approach that respects all life while recognizing significant differences could transform humans’ relationship with nature.

The radical implications of justice for animals

By: Jeff Sebo

A consensus on animal justice may already be achievable, but it should aim to include not only some but all animals.

Addressing climate change through the right to an adequate standard of living

By: Anika Baset

Social inequalities will intensify in a climate-affected world. The right to an adequate standard of living can protect those most vulnerable to the impacts of ...

The right to strive in a changing world

By: Dale Jamieson

A philosopher prioritizes agency and Anthropocene concerns in a theory of animal justice.

Justice for Animals: A theory in search of moral principles

By: David Bilchitz

To respect all animals’ diverse ways of flourishing, we need a consistent set of moral principles that hold up across practical scenarios.

Climate colonialism: Is it time to rethink alternatives?

By: Paula Alejandra Camargo Páez

The uneven effects of climate change can be traced back to colonial legacies that still linger in mitigation and adaptation actions.

Indigenous human rights claims outline promising new ways of life

By: Benjamin Davis

The West ultimately needs to be more reflective about how we live our lives in a very ordinary, everyday sense.

Leaving the “Goldilocks Zone”: Will human rights survive climate change?

By: Devon Kearney

Recent years have seen backsliding on our common, global commitment to human rights, and climate change threatens to further erode that support.

The climate emergency at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

By: Thalia Viveros Uehara & Juan Auz

The Inter-American Court will likely be the first regional human rights tribunal to develop an advisory opinion on the climate emergency, prompting normative effects ...

Exploring the scope of ecofeminism in the biodiversity-climate nexus

By: Susan Ann Samuel

The need to include ecofeminism in climate and biodiversity discussions is now more crucial than ever.

The flawed case against more-than-human rights

By: Joshua Gellers
Español | Français

Steps have been taken to widen the scope of the “human” part of human rights—and to rethink the way those more-than-human entities also impact human rights.

Small Data for sustainability: AI ethics and the environment

By: Elisa Orrù
Español | Deutsch | Italiano

Moving away from the currently prevalent Big Data mindset towards a Small Data approach would help improve the sustainability of AI systems and would additionally ...

Participatory baseline water study improves scientific data and strengthens community power

By: Ellie Happel & Beth Hoagland & Olriche Jean Pierre & Tess Russo
Español | Kreyòl

An interdisciplinary research team conducted the first community-owned baseline study on water in an area included in a mining permit in northern Haiti.

Transforming the climate crisis into opportunity: A step towards gender equality

By: Madhumita Pandey & Promil Pande

There is a substantial need to bring marginalized voices into our climate change responses and rebuild eco-feminist archives, as that will impact not only our society ...

Biodignity: Rethinking life and respect in the Anthropocene

By: Antonio Pele & Katharina Bauer & Stephen Riley

Human dignity, when it asserts humanity’s moral primacy in the world, or when it over-values human reason, is symptomatic of humanity’s self-destructive and dominating ...

More than human rights: What can we learn from trees, animals, and fungi?

By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

Changing the focus from a human-centric approach to human rights will help the movement advance on environmental agendas with an inter-species recognition.

Children’s right to climate justice

By: Belinda Walzer

The landmark case of 2019 where sixteen children and young people from twelve different countries opened the door to think about guaranteeing rights now and in ...

Countering the impact of discrimination against pregnant women exposed to high temperatures with human rights

By: Thomas Bundschuh

Poor pregnancy outcomes due to hot temperatures include stillbirth and preterm birth before the completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Fragility, climate change, and the uncertain lives of agro-pastoralist women and girls in East Africa

By: Holly A. Ritchie

Alongside political and social pressures that agro-pastoralist women and girls face, they must add an urgent one: climate change.

The gold standard of the Lima Programme

By: Freya Doughty

What’s next for the Lima Programme, a two-year work program created during COP20 to advance gender-responsive climate policies.

Women, Climate, Insecurity

By: Alexandra S. Moore & Sunita Toor

This series highlights feminist approaches to understanding climate change's impact on women, as well as women's role in addressing those impacts.

Land grabs in Haiti sow climate vulnerability and violence against women

By: María Alejandra Torres García
Español | Kreyòl

Land grabs in Haiti cause women to further suffer violations of environmental and women’s rights and exacerbate climate vulnerability.

Addressing the climate crisis: how Pacific youth voices can change climate governance

By: Johanna Gusman

The continual failure of governments to adequately address the climate crisis constitutes a violation of children’s rights and Pacific youth know this better than ...

Putting people and the planet at the helm of transformative climate action

By: Marisa Hutchinson & Jhannel Tomlinson

For many Global South activists and communities, the pledges and actions agreed upon at COP26 were too late, inadequate, and exclusive.

Can commercialized healthcare systems help us adapt to the climate crisis?

By: Thalia Viveros Uehara

The Paris Agreement calls on states to consider their human rights obligations in climate adaptation.

Private law is no longer working to protect communities from toxic floodwaters

By: Jonathan Sharp

Contractual arrangements, insurance, and tort law, all private law tools, fail to address the awful threat of hazardous substance leaks because they are unable ...

Radical uncertainty and human rights

By: Garth Meintjes

We would do better to deepen our understanding of human rights as a kind of reference narrative that can help to guide decision-making in the face of radical uncertainty.

The (science) fiction of human rights

By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

How a particular kind of science fiction resonates with a wide audience and can enrich human rights thinking and practice

Justice for Miskito divers: a turning point for business and human rights standards from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

By: Maysa Zorob & Hector Candray
Español | Français

For the first time in its history, the Court explicitly stipulates clear business and human rights standards to be met by states and companies.

The need for community-based ancestral technologies for socio-environmental defense work

By: Thaynah Gutiérrez Gomes
Español | Português

We must seek technologies from the ancestral past of native peoples and connect them with the knowledge from the urban peripheries.

The Human Rights Council takes a crucial step forward on climate change

By: Peter Splinter

The new Special Rapporteur on climate change should avoid the “blah, blah, blah” that has characterized far too much discussion.

Gender-based violence and the climate crisis: an obstacle to climate-resilient communities

By: Paula Alejandra Camargo Páez

Risk factors for GBV, such as stress and trauma, increase dramatically after natural disasters or prolonged climate stress scenarios.

Why the “Global South” matters in young people’s right to a healthy environment

By: Claudia Ituarte-Lima & Sri Aryani & Delia Paul

If transformation towards global sustainability is to happen, we need to value the work of young climate advocates, and help make it visible.

It is time to make ecocide an international crime

By: James Dawes

“The time is right to harness the power of international criminal law to protect our global environment.”

Finding more than cynicism after COP26

By: Chiara Liguori

Reading between the lines of the COP26 decisions, you can find small wins that are the result of the tireless efforts and dedication of the climate justice movement.

The eight-year decade that will determine the fate of the planet and human rights

By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

If slowing climate change is a game, how is it going and what's left to accomplish?

What does the right to a healthy environment mean for wildlife crime?

By: Tamara Léger & Rob Parry-Jones

Understanding RTHE through the lens of wildlife crime is a reminder that tackling crime through a rights-based approach contributes to the fulfilment of human rights.

What’s missing in climate lawsuits of the future?

By: Miriam Saage-Maaß
Español | Deutsch

A human rights-based approach should always ask who is affected and how by certain climate mitigation measures.

Solving the climate crisis together: a message to the delegates at COP26

By: Eszter Hartay & Ivana Rosenzweigova

Restrictions on civil society undermine climate mitigation efforts and impede the collaboration that is so crucial to slowing the climate crisis over the next decade.

Bilingual climate justice trajectories

By: Sebastián Villamizar Santamaría

In this Data Column, we explore and compare the usage of several climate-related terms in English and Spanish to track how they have evolved over time.

Lifting the veil of secrecy on rights abuses caused by Brazil’s mining industry

By: Athayde Motta & Miles Litvinoff
Español | Português

Mining companies must tackle human rights abuses or risk communities saying no to their operations.

The urgent need for policy coherence to achieve rights-respecting climate action

By: Els Heile

Legal action should not substitute a holistic approach to green transition.

Moving fast on climate: the urgent need to tackle short-lived climate pollutants in Latin America and the Caribbean

By: Viviana Krsticevic

The human rights framework can buttress the responses needed to address the emergency, providing tools to guarantee human dignity and the right to a healthy environment.

The UN Human Rights Council dithers while Earth Burns

By: Peter Splinter

It is essential to translate human rights principles and standards into practicable pragmatic measures that can provide that coherence, legitimacy, and sustainability.

The doughnut approach: how to climatize human rights

By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

If human rights are to remain relevant in the Anthropocene, budding theoretical, doctrinal, and advocacy efforts to address the climate emergency need to be expanded.

The vitality of human rights in turbulent times

By: Gráinne de Burca

If attention is directed towards the dynamism of social movements and human rights activism around the world, a different set of views of the cathedral emerges.

A call to the human rights movement for going broader and refining the interdisciplinary tools to push for dignity

By: Viviana Krsticevic

Increasing the breadth of actors involved in the common platform of fundamental rights ideals would strengthen the human rights movement’s ability to hold its ground ...

Taking climate duties seriously for the protection of the Amazon rainforest: strategic legal choices, science, and human rights

By: Délton Winter de Carvalho
Español | Português

This lawsuit not only builds on undisputed constitutional rights, but also argues for a fundamental right to climate stability.

Litigating the future: climate rights before the German Constitutional Court

By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

Human rights analysts and practitioners will recognize in the decision of the German Court an important turn in the evolution of rights.

Inaction on ecological contamination finds a market

By: Tarini Manchanda

“We want to live safe lives, and this is how we want to live. We don’t just care for ourselves, we care for the animals.”

Does Jair Bolsonaro commit crimes against humanity by devastating the Amazon rainforest?

By: Flavio Siqueira
Español | Português

Bolsonaro's devastation policies in the Amazon region could prompt a new international paradigm of protection for human rights and the environment.

Women human rights defenders lead in the collective protection to defend life and territory

By: Aura Lolita Chávez Ixcaquic & Marusia López Cruz & Laura Carlsen

"To confront attacks on women and land simultaneously, we have had to learn to tackle discrimination and dismantle unequal power relations in all spheres at once."

Facing Intersecting Crises: LGBTIQ+ Resilience in Fiji

By: Marisa Hutchinson

The resilience of the LGBTIQ+ community is admirable and inspiring; however, governments must ensure that all communities are safe and secure in times of crises, ...

From Barbuda to the World: Love (and Peace and Happiness) in the Time of Climate Emergency

By: César Rodríguez-Garavito & Elizabeth Donger

Barbuda is a microcosm of larger trends and issues from climate-induced displacement and disaster capitalism, to the greenwashing of policies that undermine climate ...

Making the [In]Visible Powerful: Leveraging Climate Visuals in Courts

By: Kelly Matheson

As visual evidence galvanizes movements around the world and provides irrefutable evidence, climate litigators have an opportunity to leverage phone, drone, and ...

Closing the supply-side accountability gap through climate litigation

By: Michelle Jonker-Argueta

Closing the impunity gap on climate change includes making fossil fuel suppliers accountable for their emissions.

Moving beyond allyship with Indigenous communities to defend the environment

By: Wyatt Gjullin
Español | Português

For environmental and human rights defenders in support of indigenous communities, one of the paths forward is through legal arguments.

Will climate change litigation save the Brazilian Amazon?

By: Caio Borges
Español | Português

A new generation of climate cases being brought before Brazilian courts is addressing climate change more directly in an effort to save the Amazon.

Courts in Pakistan are facilitating climate dialogue between state and citizens

By: Waqqas Mir

There is inherent value in superior courts acting as a platform that facilitates dialogue between the state and citizens. But how far should courts go in their ...

The quest for butterfly climate judging 

By: Catalina Vallejo & Siri Gloppen

With climate litigation, seemingly minor interventions in the legal realm can have a butterfly effect and generate major social and cultural transformations.

Fossil fuel producers and the climate: responsibilities and opportunities

By: Richard Heede
العربية | Español

We can trace the majority of climate-altering emissions to individual fossil fuel companies that have the skills, resources, and moral obligation to help fix the ...

Climate litigation against “Carbon Majors”: economic impacts

By: Joana Setzer

Is climate litigation against so-called “Carbon Majors” capable of changing behaviour and guiding climate change-responsive adjudication in the long term?

Toppling modern-day Goliaths in the fight against climate polluters

By: Hasminah Dimaporo Paudac

In climate litigation in the Philippines against 47 large corporations, a Greenpeace legal team showed that big polluters can be held morally and legally responsible ...

Litigation in Ireland’s Supreme Court may condemn inaction on climate change

By: Victoria Adelmant & Philip Alston & Matthew Blainey

Public support in Ireland for taking action against climate change is high, but the government has not adequately mitigated its impact—a recent Supreme Court case ...

Unprecedented ruling for Indigenous peoples by Inter-American Court of Human Rights

By: Matías Duarte & Diego Morales & Erika Schmidhuber Peña

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has set a precedent with its decision to grant territorial and ancestral rights to Indigenous peoples in Argentina—how ...

Why ideas and identity matter in climate change litigation

By: Lisa Vanhala

Existing research on climate change litigation ignores questions about who is mobilizing the law to address the climate crisis. But who isn’t turning to the courts ...

Climate litigation through an equality lens

By: James A. Goldston

Applying an equality lens to climate litigation is not just the right thing to do; it’s also more effective.

Climate science in rights-based advocacy contexts

By: Michael Burger & Jessica Wentz & Daniel Metzger

The science showing causal links between climate change, country emissions, and individual harms is a critical component in human rights litigation on climate change.

Litigation to challenge large extractive projects is gaining traction in Africa

By: Pooven Moodley

Communities in Africa are increasingly using litigation to challenge large extractive projects that exacerbate the climate emergency and loss of biodiversity.

Are matters of national survival related to climate change really beyond a court’s power?

By: Sophie Marjanac & Sam Hunter Jones

Courts can adjudicate the effectiveness of emissions reduction policies in protecting fundamental rights without encroaching on the powers of the political branches ...

The farmer or the hero litigator? Modes of climate litigation in the global South

By: Jolene Lin & Jacqueline Peel

Climate litigation shows that the global South experience is a rich and powerful one that offers many opportunities for multi-directional learning.

Judges within their powers: determining the lower limit for countries’ climate action

By: Dennis van Berkel

Are courts able to determine that a government’s climate change policy is insufficient and order governments to do more?

Thinking strategically about climate litigation

By: Ben Batros & Tessa Khan

Climate litigators can learn from human rights actors on how and when to use litigation strategically to create systemic change.

The promises and challenges of climate change litigation in India

By: Arpitha Kodiveri

As India surges forward with an aggressive development agenda, the judiciary’s involvement in climate change litigation is viewed by many as an obstacle to speedy ...

Climate litigation and human rights: averting the next global crisis

By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

OGR's newest series explores a rising wave of lawsuits that is laying bare the profound impacts that a warming planet has on basic human rights and future generations.

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

By: Marianela Garione

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

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

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

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

Can protecting indigenous human rights also improve conservation efforts?

By: Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
Español | Français

Lands under secure indigenous tenure often have better conservation outcomes—can stronger protections around indigenous rights also protect the environment?

Climate change and human rights: lessons from litigation for the Amazon

By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

Lawsuits have become an increasingly frequent route for urgent action on climate change, but the impact of this litigation depends on citizens’ mobilization

If nature has rights, who legitimately defends them?

By: Arpitha Kodiveri

Who speaks for nature’s rights? The question needs careful consideration, or we risk in protecting nature to further disenfranchise the already marginalized.

Litigating the right to a sustainable climate system

By: Jacqueline Peel & Hari M. Osofsky
Español | Français

As the climate crisis deepens, can litigation advancing a human right to a stable and sustainable climate system make a difference?

Rights as a response to ecological apocalypse

By: David R. Boyd
Français | العربية | Español

Recognizing the human right to live in a healthy environment, and the rights of nature itself, are both essential to securing humanity and the planet’s future.

Human and non-human rights – convergence or conflict?

By: David Petrasek
Español | Français | العربية

On the 70th anniversary of the UDHR, claims to recognize non-human rights are advancing and pose challenges to the anthropocentrism at the heart of the human rights ...

The rights of nature gaining ground

By: Mari Margil
Español | Français

Nature has been treated in law as property, and exploited. But there is growing legal recognition that nature has rights, and affirming these is essential to both ...

Climate Land Banks: addressing displacement in Myanmar and beyond

By: Scott Leckie

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

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

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

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

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.

The struggle for nonhuman rights

By: Steven M. Wise
Español | Français

The Nonhuman Rights Project argues that certain animals should be legal persons. In the world of rights, what divides persons and things?

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 ...

Stay connected! Join our weekly newsletter to stay up-to-date on our newest content.  SUBSCRIBE