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Climate Change and Human Rights: Case Law

Developed by Anna Ansari. Updated by Rosemary Campagna

Case Law

Inuit Circumpolar Conference Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Seeking Relief from Violations Resulting from Global Warming Caused by Acts and Omissions of the United States:

In 2005, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, claiming that their human rights had been violated by the effects of global warming.  The Inuits charged that the United States, as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter at the time, was responsible for the detrimental effects of climate change to the Inuit way of life.  Specifically, the Inuits claimed that their fundamental human rights, as protected by both the international human rights framework as well as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, had been violated by the effects of climate change.  The implicated rights included the rights to “the benefits of culture, to property, to the preservation of health, life, physical integrity, security, and a means of subsistence, and to residence, movement, and inviolability of the home.” (Summary of the Petition to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights Seeking Relief from Violations Resulting from Global Warming Caused by Acts and Omissions of the United States, at 5.)

While the petition was ultimately dismissed, it stands alone as an example of how indigenous people may attempt to use international human rights to combat the negative effects of climate change.

Inuit grandmother and grandson, 1995

*Image taken from Wikimedia Commons, a database of freely usable media files.