Climate Change and Human Rights
“Climate change is the greatest threat to human rights in the 21st century” (Mary Robinson, United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Change 2013-2016)
This statement highlights the understanding that climate change has implications for the enjoyment of established human rights: among others the rights to life, food, water, and health. In turn, any measures to remedy the impacts of climate change (be it by mitigating the scope of global warming or by adapting to its inevitable consequences) can further undermine people’s rights and will be more effective if human rights are considered from the onset. At the same time, activities aiming at the fulfilment of human rights need to take into account climate change as a major factor. Noticeably, the right to a stable climate (or healthy environment) has not yet been recognised as a universal human right by the United Nations. Thus, attempts to integrate human rights and climate action raise several questions: Does a universal human rights approach mean that states have the obligation to prevent damage to the environment inside and outside their territory? How can indigenous peoples demand the fulfilment of their rights? And how does climate change create the need to expand and adapt the concept of human rights, particularly with regard to future generations?
Within this course, we aim to explore these questions and provide an introduction into the ideas, challenges and developments in the field of human rights and climate change. More specifically, we will discuss how a human rights perspective can strengthen climate action as well as highlight the necessity of integrating sustainability and environmental preservation concerns into human rights projects. For this interactive course we will use critical thinking skills when discussing key documents including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
In addition to a crisis simulation which will challenge everyone to adopt a solution-focused approach, every participant will get the opportunity to explore an aspect of the topic more deeply.