UN Committee Calls on Norway to Revise its Energy Policy, Noting Climate Impacts of Arctic Oil Extraction
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Geneva, SWITZERLAND – Today, the UN human rights committee mandated to review states’ respect for and protection of women’s rights (CEDAW Committee*), expressed concerns about the climate impacts of oil and gas extraction in the Arctic and the adverse consequences for women’s rights. The committee noted that, given the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women, the Norwegian State should review its policy on oil and gas extraction.
The CEDAW Committee has repeatedly emphasised the need for States to address the impacts of climate change on women and to ensure that women can adequately participate in climate-related policy making. The Committee is currently finalising a new general recommendation, which will lay out the obligations of States with respect to women’s rights in the context of reducing risks of climate-induced disasters. With today’s recommendation, the CEDAW Committee highlighted that women’s rights must also guide climate and energy policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement only require States to account for emissions of greenhouse gases generated within their national territory. On the other hand, obligations under UN human rights treaties require States to take measures to reduce any contributions to climate change that might be linked to the actions of the States, which includes emissions resulting from the export of fossil fuels” said Sébastien Duyck, Senior Attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). “Consequently, human rights obligations can play a critical role complementing climate agreements to compel states to take all measures in their capacity in order to prevent dangerous climate change.”
The recommendations by the CEDAW Committee follow growing concerns and recommendations expressed by UN human rights bodies regarding the failure of states to curb fossil fuel extraction despite the climate impacts that inevitably result from such exports. In June, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights called for a review of Australia’s policies regarding their coal exports. This committee also recently asked Argentina to justify how its plans for large-scale shale gas extraction is compatible with its obligations to promote and respect economic, social, and cultural rights.
The recommendations provide guidance for States regarding the scope of their obligations under CEDAW and can guide national courts as they interpret the legal obligations of States vis a vis women’s rights.
“The Committee’s recommendations on Norway highlight that climate change is not gender neutral, and women will suffer disproportionately from its impacts. They also underscore that States must account for the human rights impact of all carbon emissions emanating from its territory, including those embedded in exports, such as in Norway’s oil and gas exports. In essence, the Committee is saying that in order to take substantive equality and the protection of women’s rights seriously, States must address the causes of climate change, and those efforts cannot stop at a State’s borders.”
The recommendations addressed to Norway are particularly timely as this week the Oslo District Court is reviewing whether the decision of the Norwegian government to grant new licences for the extraction of oil and gas in the Arctic have violated its obligations under the Norwegian Constitution. Article 112 of the Constitution states that present and future generations have a right to a healthy environment and that Norwegian authorities must take adequate measures to safeguard this right. In the case pending in Oslo, Greenpeace and the youth organisation Natur i Ungdom argue that the Norwegian government is failing to uphold its constitutional obligations when it offers new licenses for the continuing extraction of Arctic oil and gas.
The recommendations of the CEDAW Committee today confirm that States can no longer continue to authorise the exploitation of fossil fuels while turning a blind eye to and washing their hands of the climate impacts that their oil and gas exports would inevitably result in, including the impacts on women’s rights.
Amanda Kistler, Communications Director, CIEL: email@example.com, +1.202.742.5832
Lucy McKernan, Geneva Representative, GIESCR: firstname.lastname@example.org, +41791037719
Notes to editors:
CIEL has submitted an amicus brief to the Oslo District Court regarding the growing recognition of states’ legal obligations towards future generations, in particular in the context of environmental degradation. Read the brief here [link].
*Convention on the Elimination of of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Established under the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – one of the most widely ratified UN human rights treaties, the Committee periodically reviews the compliance of the each of the 189 States that have ratified the Convention.
Citations from the Committee on the Elimination of of All Forms of Discrimination against Women:
Extraterritorial State obligations
The Committee commends the State Party for its International Cooperation Programmes, however, it is concerned that continuing and expanding extraction of oil and gas in the Arctic by the State party and its inevitable greenhouse gas emissions undermines its obligations to ensure women’s substantive equality with men, as climate change disproportionately impacts women, especially in situations of poverty, since they are more reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods than men and have lesser capacity to deal with natural hazards.
The Committee recommends that the State party review its climate change and energy policies, and specifically its policy on extraction of oil and gas, to ensure it takes into account the disproportionate negative impacts of climate change on women’s rights.
Citation from the Norwegian Constitution:
Every person has a right to an environment that is conducive to health and to natural surroundings whose productivity and diversity are preserved. Natural resources should be made use of on the basis of comprehensive long-term considerations whereby this right will be safeguarded for future generations as well. In order to safeguard their right in accordance with the foregoing paragraph, citizens are entitled to be informed of the state of the natural environment and of the effects of any encroachments on nature that are planned or commenced.
The State authorities shall issue further provisions for the implementation of these principles.