There is no longer any doubt that climate change is a human rights issue. The adverse impacts of climate change constitute one of the most significant global threats for the enjoyment of human rights – especially the rights protected under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
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As the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment has underlined: ‘The foreseeable adverse effects of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights give rise to duties of States to take actions to protect against those effects. Human rights obligations apply not only to decisions about how much climate protection to pursue, but also to the mitigation and adaptation measures through which the protection is achieved.’ (A/HRC/25/53).
All of the international human rights mechanisms are now considering the impacts of climate change on human rights and reminding States of their human rights obligations in climate action. In this context, the international human rights mechanisms are important accountability spaces for ..
In our work we aim to
deepen the understanding and awareness of the very serious impacts on human rights of climate change;
influence States to employ greater ambition in their climate and energy policies and ensure that these policies are based on human rights; and
hold States accountable for their human rights obligations in the context of climate change.
We do this work in partnership with our NGO colleagues and by facilitating access to the international human rights mechanisms for our NGO colleagues working at the national or sub-national.
Global events, such as the 2008 financial crisis, which damaged affordability of housing, and the global food price crisis which led to extensive land grabbing by States and corporations displacing millions from their homes has also significantly impacted the right to adequate housing. The financialistion of housing and privatisation of social housing, has led to housing being considered a commodity, rather than a right or a social good. This has caused severe unaffordability and homelessness crises.
The global phenomena of urbanisation, climate change and mass migration flows, are also having a significant and complex impact on the right to adequate housing.With this changing global context, the international normative framework on the right to adequate housing, has failed to keep pace. International human rights mechanisms often give comparatively little, or narrowly focused attention to the right to adequate housing.
The contemporary international discussions on sustainable development, climate change and urbanisation, a strong housing rights voice is often missing.
A re-invigoration of this crucial right is urgently needed to restore a human rights based approach to housing, to return housing rights to the centre of human rights discourse, to advance the normative development of this right, and ensure housing rights are taken into consideration in the relevant contemporary international discussions.
We have engaged in the development of new jurisprudence on ESC rights and climate change, such as General Recommendation #37 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, on ‘the gender dimensions of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change’.
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Together with our colleagues from CIEL and Observatorio Sur, we have highlighted the human rights dimensions of unconventional fossil fuel exploration in the Vaca Muerta in Argentina, when the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights was considering Argentina’s ESC rights record.
In relation to Australia, we drew to the attention of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the significant impacts on the right to health and cultural rights, of Australia’s energy policies, such as continuing coal exports and failure to support renewable energy. The Committee took up these issues in its Dialogue with Australia and made recommendations to take immediate measures to reverse the current trend of increasing absolute emissions of greenhouse gases, to pursue renewable energy production and to review its position in support of coal mines and coal exports.
Jointly with CIEL, we have published a complication of the work of the UN treaty bodies on climate change and human rights, which is being used to inform the work of NGOs, Committee members and UN agency staff as they address the linkage between climate change and human rights.