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Human Rights and Climate Change

Earlier this year an open letter from over 500 national, regional and international civil society organizations (including WFM – Canada), called for the creation of a UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change.

The creation of such a dedicated Special Rapporteur would enable the HRC to elevate its work on climate change in a systematic way, strengthening international efforts to protect people from runaway climate change and its unavoidable impacts, and promoting respect for human rights in climate responses.

The impacts of climate change on the enjoyment and fulfillment of human rights are described in an annual resolution of the Human Rights Council (see A/HRC/L.19 – this year’s version). At the 47th session of the HRC (21June to 15 July 2021) it was hoped that this resolution would also include language mandating a special rapporteur.

Debate on the resolution was highly charged, and featured strong opposition and pressure from Russia and China, among others. Nonetheless a growing number of states supported the creation of a new mandate on human rights and climate change.

The resolution does not create the new Special Rapporteur, but does include some language encouraging continued discussion towards such a creation. In a letter from the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands thanking CSOs for their support, Casten Némra said, “While it is notably regrettable that we were not able to secure more concrete language calling for the creation of a Special Procedures mandate on Human Rights and Climate Change, we nevertheless fully recognize the collective efforts to retain language encouraging the continued discussions among States and relevant stakeholders on the creation of such mandate.”

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