coal power station in Gelsenkirchen, Germany
© AP Photo / Martin Meissner

Climate change, justice and human rights

This collection of ten essays explores the opportunities, threats and difficulties at the nexus of human rights and climate change, examining specific policy areas as well as concepts of justice.

The impacts of climate change

The enjoyment of human rights will be both directly and indirectly affected by climate change. Common examples are sea level rise, temperature increases, and extreme weather events affecting the rights to health, food, water and life amongst others. These effects will not be felt equally: the more vulnerable segments of the global population will be hit hardest. UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, in a report on climate change and poverty, highlighted an “increasing risk of climate apartheid”. Alston linked the growing threat of climate change to risks to civil and political rights, and even to democracy and the rule of law. As the effects of climate change worsen, community discontent, inequality, and deprivation increase.

Climate activism and human rights

As the worlds of climate crisis activism and human rights protection become increasingly intertwined, their value for and impact upon one another deserve closer inspection. The language, policies and (campaigning) strategies around climate change and human rights are still in development, leading to new insights, (re)definitions, and new challenges for human rights and environmental activists. The essays in this volume discuss the opportunities and problems of taking a human rights lens to climate change. Examining human rights approaches to climate change in specific policies areas, such as human movement, the role of subnational authorities and businesses as well as strategic climate litigation, and analysing concepts such as climate justice and intergenerational justice and their relation to human rights.

Contributors to this Changing Perspective on Human Rights volume

With contributions from Ashfaq Khalfan & Chiara Liguori, Eric Posner, Jane McAdam & Sanjula Weerasinghe, Barbara Oomen, Sara Seck, Annalisa Savaresi, Stephen Humphreys, Elizabeth Dirth, Anna Schoemakers and Bridget Lewis.