My presentation is entitled The Obligation of States to Prevent Negative Effects to Human Life and Health Caused by Climate Change: The View from International Human Rights Frameworks. Presentation Summary and PowerPoint Slides follow. The PowerPoint Slides may also be accessed HERE.
The Obligation of States to Prevent Negative Effects to Human Life and Health Caused by Climate Change: The View from International Human Rights FrameworksPresentation SummaryESIL Research Forum on “International Disorder and Contestation”Hebrew University of Jerusalem28 Feb.- 1 March 2018In late November 2017, it was reported that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Committee, expressing concern about the climate impacts of oil and gas extraction in the Arctic along with its consequential effects on women’s rights, addressed a series of recommendations to Norway. The recommendations embraced the principles that climate change is not gender neutral and that states must account for the human rights impacts of carbon emissions originating within their territory. It was reported that the Committee argued that the disproportionate effect on women is especially powerful for women living in poverty since they may be more reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods. Even a decade ago the work of human rights and environmental advocates rarely met. Today that is changing dramatically. Issues of environmental degradation, of sustainability and of human rights have begun to converge even as the normative bases of each remain within conceptual or regulatory silos to some extent. This paper examines the possibilities of convergence but form the human rights side. It considers the extent to which emerging human rights instruments—and particularly the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the OCED Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines) may serve as a basis for embedding issues of environmental degradation, sustainability and more specifically climate change, within their frameworks. The UNGP established a three-pillar framework for defining a state duty to protect human rights, a corporate responsibility to respect human rights and a general obligation to provide a remedy for human rights wrongs. The paper will first examine the governance structures human rights based governance, focusing specifically ion the UNGP and the OECD Guidelines.The paper will then consider the way that environmental and climate change issues can be embedded within those frameworks. It will use by analogy the recent move to embed indirect obligations of actors within these frameworks—with a focus of the obligations of states and enterprises to ensure human rights compliance through their lending or financing activities. The underlying notion, that actors are liable for the consequential effects of their actions, not just their direct effects, has a powerful resonance in the area of environmental policy. The paper will look as well to the movement by private sovereign investors to seek to influence environmentally sensitive conduct through their lending and investment activities. It will then suggest the ways that such obligations—a state duty to protect human rights as well as a corporate responsibility to respect human rights—to include the obligation to preserve healthy environments. In that context, it will also suggest the way that such an obligation might be implemented through the use of the OECD Guidelines NCP procedures for lodging complaints, specific instances—and the way those might be coupled with legal action within state judicial systems—to advance the human rights approach. Lastly, the paper will suggest how the UNGP might produce differing human rights obligations on enterprises and states. In that context, it examines the way that the human rights of climate change might be more effectively embedded into the business practices of enterprises.