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Climate Change and Human Rights: Reports

Developed by Anna Ansari. Updated by Rosemary Campagna

Reports from International Organizations

All of the following reports are very useful resources for anyone interested in human rights and climate change.  The reports focus generally on the relationship between climate change and human rights, and are listed in descending order of usefulness. The last three reports are more specific and will only be of use to researchers already familiar with the topic; they are also listed in descending order of usefulness.


United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights Report on the Relationship between Climate Change and Human Rights

Bluebook citation: U.N. Office of the High Comm'r on Human Rights [OHCHR], Report of the OHCHR on the Relationship Between Climate Chnage and Human Rights, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/10/62 (Jan. 15, 2009).

An invaluable resource to a researcher interested in this topic, this 2009 report, written in response to Human Rights Council Resolution 7/23, details the relationship between human rights and climate change from an international legal standpoint. 

After discussing the physical effects of climate change, the report proceeds to lay out the different rights already protected by international legal instruments that will be affected by climate change: the right to life, the right to adequate food, the right to water, the right to health, the right to adequate housing, and the right to self-determination. Additionally, the report discusses the different groups that will be most affected by climate change and cites the international protections currently in place to protect these groups. Also included is an analysis of the security threat posed by climate change, as well as a discussion of “climate refugees,” those people who have been or will be displaced as a result of climate change.

Not only should the report itself be a required resource for anyone researching this topic, but it also provides an extremely useful annex that is divided into physical effects of climate change, examples of rights affected by those effects, and the international human rights and climate change standards that are implicated in the process.

United Nations Development Program Report: "Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World"

Bluebook citation: U.N. Dev. Programme [UNDP], Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World, Human Development Report (2007/08).

UNDP’s 2007/2008 development report highlights the relationship of climate change and human rights, suggesting that climate change is “a human tragedy in the making,” and that “allowing that tragedy to evolve…would represent a systematic violation of the human rights of the world’s poor and future generations and a step backwards from universal values.” UNDP urges collective action on the part of the international community, as well as that any action be taken with a sense of urgency of the situation that UNDP believes is currently missing.

The report makes several recommendations to the international community: the development of a post-2012 Kyoto Protocol framework to combat climate change, the implementation of mitigation techniques that minimize the use of carbon, the strengthening of international cooperation, and the placement of climate change adaptation at the heart of any post-Kyoto international agreement.

This report is useful for a researcher interested in a getting a broad understanding of the challenges posed by climate change to the most vulnerable people of the world.  The website to which the link above leads offers both the full report as well as the summary of it; the summary alone is over 30 pages and is very effective.

International Council on Human Rights Report: "Climate Change and Human Rights: A Rough Guide"

Bluebook citation: Int'l Council on Human Rights Policy, Climate Change and Human Rights: A Rough Guide (2008), available at http://www.ichrp.org/files/reports/45/136_report.pdf.

While a hefty 127 pages, this “rough guide” to climate change and human rights is a very useful resource.   The report gives an overview of the relationship between human rights and climate change, suggests human rights concerns related to adaptation and mitigation policies, includes a discussion of the role of litigation in the human rights/climate change context, and ends with an analysis of the human rights aspects of a few ethical and legal issues that have arisen, including the notion of “common but differentiated responsibilities” as enunciated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

This report gives not only a great overview of the climate change/human rights relationship, but also devotes an entire section to procedural rights affected by climate change, something that is rarely highlighted in the existing literature on the topic.

Global Humanitarian Forum Human Impact Report: "Climate Change-- The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis"

Bluebook citation: Global Humanitarian Forum, Human impact Report, Climate Change: The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis (2009), available at http://www.ghf-ge.org/human-impact-report.pdf

Launched by Kofi Annan, this useful report details the myriad ways in which climate change has impacted millions of people. It includes a discussion not only of the impact climate change has had on health, water, human displacement, security poverty and food, but also stresses the fact that it is the most vulnerable people of the world who are being most negatively affected by these climate change impacts.  The report also discusses the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development, and urges international action so as to protect those goals and ideals from being eroded by the detrimental effects of climate change.

The report startlingly concludes that each year climate change results in the deaths of over 300,000 people and 325 million people negatively affected.  By highlighting the extreme human impact of climate change, the report seeks to differentiate itself from those climate change-related reports that focus only on the physical aspects of climate change.

This is a very helpful and poignant account of the human face of the victims of climate change.  While it does not specifically discuss human rights, by painting a picture of the ways in which climate change negatively affects people around the globe, the report certainly begs the question: are these peoples' rights being vioalted by climate change?

Oxfam International Report: "Climate Wrongs and Human Rights"

Bluebook citation: Oxfam International, Climate Wrongs and Human Rights (2008), available at http://www.oxfam.org/en/policy/bp117-climate-wrongs-and-human-rights.

Published by Oxfam International, a well-known international charity with a primary focus on poverty reduction, this excellent and easy-to-read examination of the human rights dimensions of climate change addresses the question of why a human rights approach to climate change is appropriate, as well as suggests that human rights should be addressed not only in general climate change policy discussions, but also with regard to specific adaptation and mitigation techniques. 

Of particular note are the report’s inclusion of a simple table of the relationship between specific human rights norms and climate change impact on those norms, and also a sizable discussion of the way in which private actors such as corporations can act responsibly and help safeguard human rights in the face of climate change.

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC): "Human Rights and Climate Change Background Paper"

Bluebook citation:

Part I of this paper considers the human rights dimensions of climate change. Specifically, it looks at how the rights contained in the key international instruments are threatened by the impacts of climate change. Part II then goes on to consider what obligations are imposed on Australia, in both international and domestic law, to respond to these threats. Part III outlines how Australia may fulfil its human rights obligations, in the context of climate change responses; arguing that a human rights-based approach is the most effective way to respond to climate change.


Center for International Environmental Law Report: "Human Rights and Climate Change: Practical Steps for Implementation"

Bluebook citation: CIEL, Human Rights and Climate Change: Practical Steps for Implementation (2009), available at http://www.ciel.org/Publications/CCandHRE_Feb09.pdf.

Written in 2009, this report offers a unique perspective on the human rights and climate change situation as it focuses not on the ways in which the two issues are related, but rather on what approaches can be taken within currently existing international bodies to protect human rights that are negatively affected by climate change.

While very helpful, this is a resource for someone already quite familiar with the climate change/human rights debate.

European Union Parliment Study: "Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change"

Bluebook citation: Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change, EXPO/B/DROI/2009/03, PE 407.009/rev1, available at http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/european_parliament_study_on_indigenous_peoples_and_climate_change.pdf

This 2009 E.U. report focuses on the ways in which indigenous peoples around the globe are and will continue to be affected by climate change, ultimately concluding that while more attention has been paid to the relationship between the rights of indigenous people and climate change, much more must be done in terms of international policy.  The report looks at how indigenous people are being adversely affected by climate change, the ways in which the international community has responded to the situation, and concludes with an examination of the ways in which the E.U. has tackled the issues of indigenous people, climate change, and climate change and indigenous people.

The report will be of use to any researcher wanting to learn more about the E.U.’s position on indigenous people and climate change, as well as the responses to the issue by a number of international organizations.

EarthJustice Report: "Global Warming and Human Rights"

Bluebook citation: EarthJustice, Global Warming and Human Rights, available at http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/library/reports/global-warming-and-human-rights-report-to-the-IACHR.pdf.

Written by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a Canadian Inuit activist and the International Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, and submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, this report discusses not only the global impact of climate change on the world, but details the ways in which it has and will adversely affect the Americas and the human rights violations that arise from climate change in the Americas. Watt-Cloutier points specifically to the rights to life, physical and integrity, as well as the right to use and enjoy property without undue interference, all of which stem from American human rights instruments including the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights.

This report is helpful to in understanding the relationship between human rights and climate change, but only in the Americas. 

Additionally, it should be noted that this report is not dated.  A look through EarthJustice’s website would lead one to conclude that it was written either during or prior to 2007, but this cannot be confirmed.