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Climate Change and Human Rights - UNEP December 2015

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Climate change, and our responses to it, will have a profound effect on the enjoyment of human rights for millions, perhaps billions, of individuals and communities across the planet. This is the context for this comprehensive United Nations Environment Programme report that investigates the potential impact of climate change on human rights around the world, and examines the various obligations that international, national, and private actors have at the intersection of climate change and human rights.

Part one of the report discusses the human rights implications of climate change, looking in-depth at the potential effect on human rights via climate change impacts on ecosystems and natural resources, physical infrastructure and settlements, and livelihoods, health, and security. The effects of mitigation, adaptation, and geoengineering on human rights is also mentioned. Part two discusses the various obligations of governments and private actors to respond to the human rights implications of climate change, including to women, children, and indigenous peoples in particular. Part three comprises of an implementation assessment of various aspects of climate related activities (mitigation, adaptation, finance, communications, and planning) and mechanisms (such as REDD+, and the Green Climate Fund).

Drawing from this research, the report makes a number of recommendations in part four on how the UNFCCC Parties and other actors can better integrate human rights considerations into their mitigation and adaptation activities. In terms of international cooperation, the report suggests: more ambitious mitigation targets; greater recognition of the link between climate change and human rights presented in the Paris Agreement; consistent and universal human rights safeguards incorporated into the various climate funds and mechanisms; providing increased financial assistance to developing countries, especially for adaptation projects; greater cooperation between nations to develop mechanisms to deal with climate displacement and migration, loss and damage; information sharing, and human rights accountability; and a continued focus on environmental protection and conservation.

The final recommendations include a call for national governments to continue to pursue ever-more ambitious mitigation efforts, national adaptation planning that integrates disaster risk reduction, and the adoption of human rights protections into domestic legal frameworks. Local governments are encouraged to undertake emissions reductions efforts themselves, and pursue adaptation objectives in a manner that is mindful of human rights. The private sector is advised to pressure national governments to adopt more ambitious policies, and undertake their own initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint.

The concise conclusion to the report reminds that states have an obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights for all, including by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring that responses to climate change do not result in human rights violations. Despite progress by many states in this regard, there is much more that can and should be done, not least increasing global ambition and cooperation.