UN Special Rapporteur Highlights Climate Change Impacts on Human Rights
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A global temperature increase of one or two degrees Celsius would adversely affect human rights, including the rights to life, development, food, water, health and housing, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox, told the Human Rights Council (HRC).

Knox stressed that human rights obligations with respect to climate change include decisions about how much climate protection to pursue, as well as the mitigation and adaptation measures through which protection is achieved.

united_nations_human_rights4 March 2016: A global temperature increase of one or two degrees Celsius would adversely affect human rights, including the rights to life, development, food, water, health and housing, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox, told the Human Rights Council (HRC). Knox stressed that human rights obligations with respect to climate change include decisions about how much climate protection to pursue, as well as the mitigation and adaptation measures through which protection is achieved.

In its resolution 29/15, the HRC requested the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a detailed ‘Analytical study of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the relationship between climate change and the human right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (A/HRC/31/36).’ The High Commissioner has asked for additional time and research, and will submit its report to the HRC at its 32nd session.

The Special Rapporteur shared an informal summary of inputs received on the ‘Relationship between climate change and the human right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (A/HRC/31/CRP.4),’ which is expected to inform OHCHR’s final report. The informal summary notes, inter alia, that climate change: threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health; impacts physical and mental health in several ways; and disproportionately impacts the poor and other disadvantaged, marginalized and vulnerable groups.

According to the informal summary, respondents called for further integration of human rights in climate action at all levels of governance, as well as further analysis and study of the impacts of climate change on the right to health, among other recommendations.

During discussion, several delegations expressed support for protecting human rights in relation to climate adaptation and mitigation, including the European Union (EU) and Costa Rica. South Africa, on behalf of the African Group, supported enhanced, quick action to adapt to climate change to ensure the full realization of human rights, stressing that climate change threatens sustainable development. The Philippines called for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and scaling up additional and predictable means of implementation. Brazil recognized the impacts of climate change on human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights. The EU asked how to better plan and manage urban areas to address synergies among climate change, sustainable development and urbanization.

The world does not need to wait until 2018 to start strengthening its efforts to address climate change and begin implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Special Rapporteur reminded participants in his response, pointing to the use of renewable energy by Iceland, Morocco and Uruguay.

Knox presented on two aspects of his mandate, clarifying the human rights obligations relating to climate change, and on methods of implementing those obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, in Geneva, Switzerland, on 3 March 2016. [UNOG Press Release] [OHCHR Press Release] [A/HRC/31/36] [Special Rapporteur Website]

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