New Report Shows UN Human Rights Bodies Increasingly Concerned about Climate Change in 2018


March 26, 2019

In 2018, the human rights treaty bodies of the United Nations (UN) made an unprecedented number of recommendations to States concerning their legal obligations to protect people from the adverse impacts of climate change, according to a new report by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR).

The report, States’ Human Rights Obligations in the Context of Climate Change - 2019 Update, reveals the increasing engagement of these UN human rights institutions on climate change and identifies how these bodies could play an important role in holding states accountable for their climate-related obligations in the future. In particular, the human rights institutions have increasingly stressed the importance of States acting on the root causes of climate change, such as the extraction and financing of fossil fuels.

The world has already warmed by 1°C, with the changing climate increasingly impacting the human rights of people around the world. In the 2015 Paris Agreement, all States formally reaffirmed the importance of placing human rights at the core of their climate policies.

Today’s report builds on this commitment and compiles all recommendations made in 2018 by the human rights treaty bodies regarding states’ climate-related obligations under human rights treaties. The report updates States’ Human Rights Obligations in the Context of Climate Change, published in January 2018.

“With the global scope and scale of the impacts of the climate crisis, no single institution will be able to single-handedly ensure the protection of human rights in the face of climate change,” says Sébastien Duyck, Senior Attorney at CIEL. “In this context, we welcome the increasing role of human rights institutions in providing guidance regarding how countries must urgently respond to climate change and take steps to phase out any support for fossil fuels.”

“This Synthesis Note will be useful for States in assisting them to identify and address their human rights legal obligations, with respect to climate change. This includes obligations across different human rights treaties and for different groups, such as women, children, and indigenous people, as well as obligations with respect to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the regulation of private actors,” says Lucy Mckernan, Geneva Representative at GI-ESCR.


Notes to Editors:


  • Amanda Kistler, Communications Director, CIEL:, +001.202.742.5832

  • Sarah French, Campaigner, GI-ESCR:, +001.613.203.8093

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)

Since 1989, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) has used the power of law to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL is a non-profit organization dedicated to advocacy in the global public interest, including through legal counsel, policy research, analysis, education, training, and capacity building.

The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR)

Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Gl-ESCR) is a non-governmental organisation that believes transformative change to end endemic problems of social and economic injustice is possible only through a human rights lens.