Achieving Justice and Human Rights in an Era of Climate Disruption

 

Global climate change is a defining challenge of our time. Dramatic alterations to the planet’s climate system are already affecting the world’s inhabitants and its natural environment.

This wide-ranging and comprehensive report from the IBA Presidential Task Force on Climate Change Justice and Human Rights identifies problems and gaps in existing legal, human rights, trade and other institutional arrangements. It contains a series of new ideas and recommendations to governments and world institutions, such as the World Trade Organization, human rights bodies, international development financing agencies, as well as specific law and corporate governance reforms to aid in the prevention and mitigation of climate change impacts and protect the human rights of vulnerable communities.

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‘On the basis of a comprehensive review of the relevant domestic and international law, this report suggests concrete steps towards achieving climate justice that are both far-reaching and eminently sensible. Its analysis and recommendations should be read by everyone involved in climate policy’

Professor John H Knox
UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment; Henry C Lauerman Professor of International Law, Wake Forest University School of Law

 

Contents

Click on a chapter title for more information, film clips and quotes.

‘In October 2012 when the International Bar Association (IBA) held its annual meeting in Dublin, I was honoured to be invited to give the George Seward Memorial lecture. In that lecture, entitled ‘A New Justice Challenge for the IBA’, I discussed the human rights dimensions of climate change and introduced the concept of climate justice. I also made a bold proposal and challenged the IBA to develop a working group on climate justice to provide leadership in shaping the global response to climate change.

I was thrilled when the incoming IBA President Michael Reynolds responded positively to my challenge and the Taskforce on Climate Change Justice and Human Rights was born. With the publication of this report I have to say that the IBA has surpassed my expectations and delivered an excellent contribution to the understanding of climate justice and the role of human rights law in addressing the climate challenge.’

Mary Robinson
United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Climate Change; President, Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice

Download the Foreword by Mary Robinson


 


‘Climate change will be one of the defining attributes of the next century. [And] our ability to deal with this challenge while shaping a world of opportunity for all of human kind is a daunting task’


 

Mary Robinson delivers the George Seward Memorial Lecture at the IBA Annual Conference, Dublin 2012 (47:24)  

 

‘With this Report, the Task Force has endeavoured to present a critical comprehensive survey of existing international, regional and domestic legal frameworks relevant to climate change, and identify, using a justice-centred perspective, opportunities for legal, regulatory and institutional reforms at multilateral, state, corporate and individual levels to enhance mitigation and adaptation to climate change. By adopting a justice and human rights centred approach, the IBA intends to shift the focus of much-needed reform from purely economic and scientific considerations to the human rights and equity consequences of climate change. In doing so, the IBA hopes to advance equity and justice by listening to the human rights concerns of the communities most vulnerable to climate change.

The Report reminds its audience that failure to address the challenges posed by climate change will have devastating consequences for hundreds of millions around the globe, in both the industrialised and developing world, and that, in the drive to confront this potentially existential threat to our civilisation, not a moment should be lost.

A summary of actionable Task Force recommendations for states, international organisations, domestic legislative, executive and judicial bodies, corporations, communities and individuals is provided in the Action Matrix. The recommendations are designed to be practical, manageable and politically feasible.’

Download the Executive Summary and Recommendations



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‘Based on its findings and recommendations, the IBA Task Force calls on world leaders, policy-makers, lawyers, legislators, advocates and scientists to take joint, bold action aimed at achieving climate change justice.

The Task Force recommendations are identified across short-, medium- and long-term timeframes for states, international organisations, domestic legislative, executive and judicial bodies, corporations, communities and individuals, and include legal measures; capacity building and transparency; and institutional measures.

Recommendation highlights:

  • clarifying and vindicating rights connected with climate change justice under international and regional human rights law by leveraging and, where necessary, ‘greening’ existing rights, outlining a minimum core of rights and duties relevant to climate justice, and recognising free-standing environmental rights;
  • creating an IBA working group to develop a Model Statute on Legal Remedies for Climate Change, drawing on the success of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration;
  • increasing international recognition of corporate responsibility for human rights harms stemming from climate change;
  • seizing opportunities to accommodate states’ ‘pro-climate’ policies within WTO law, and actively recognising and promoting climate change and environmental objectives within the WTO;
  • enhancing the UNFCCC process to develop dispute resolution mechanisms for human rights protections;
  • using the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process to highlight climate justice concerns for developing countries before a broad audience; and
  • creating an IBA Working Group on the Legal Aspects of Adaptation to develop effective and practical solutions for global climate change adaptation problems, including migration, food security and technology transfer.’

Download the Action Matrix

Chicago from Diversey Harbor during 2014 Polar Vortex Chiberia
flickr/Edward Stojakovic

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‘Global climate change is a defining challenge of our time. Dramatic alterations to the planet’s climate system are already affecting the world’s inhabitants and its natural environment. In recent years, a number of countries have experienced the hottest temperatures since records began. In summer 2014, record or near-record temperatures were recorded throughout Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, and South and East Asia. An unprecedented heat wave struck Russia and parts of Europe in May. Japan and Hong Kong each witnessed their hottest ever summers, while Canada and New York suffered exceptionally freezing winters. The US, Canada and Mexico are currently undergoing the worst droughts on record. The single largest storm ever to make landfall in recorded history, Typhoon Haiyan, devastated the Philippines in late 2013. These events, their causes and consequences, raise questions of justice and human rights. Climate change affects everyone, but it disproportionately strikes those who have contributed least to it and who are also, for a variety of reasons, least well-placed to respond.

By adopting a justice- and human rights-centred approach, the IBA intends to shift the focus of much-needed reform from purely economic and scientific considerations to the human rights and equity consequences of climate change. In doing so, the IBA hopes to advance equity and justice, listening to the human rights concerns of the communities most vulnerable to climate change.’

Download the Introduction

‘The justice issues arising from climate change can only be understood against the background of three decades of accumulated climate science, which extends to the physical origins of climate change and its impact on the natural world, individuals, communities and states. This Chapter explains the current and potential wide-ranging physical effects of climate change and the resulting impact on human rights. It then explains the structure of the international climate change regime under the UNFCCC, including how this framework incorporates the scientific findings of the IPCC. It is only at this point that we can then understand the particular justice issues resulting from climate change, and particularly the important justice implications for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.’

Failed maize crops in Ghana's Upper West Region. CIAT flickr/Neil Palmer

 

Download Chapter 1

 

‘Many areas of international law are relevant to the problems raised by climate justice but the law as it stands was not created with the challenge of climate change in mind and is not always well suited to address it’


‘The climate change justice landscape is fragmented and decentralised, due partly to the difficulty of achieving international agreement on addressing climate change itself, and partly to the many areas of relevant international legal activity, but also due to the breadth and complexity of international development and economic activity. Many areas of international law are relevant to the problems raised by climate justice but the law as it stands was not created with the challenge of climate change in mind and is not always well suited to address it. The Report examines relevant international legal regimes dealing with the environment, human rights and trade and investment law, as well as those touching on dispute resolution, state responsibility and certain adaptation measures, including migration, food security and technology transfer. Chapter 2 focuses in particular on the difficulties in relying on any or all of these regimes in their current form to mitigate sources of climate change, provide for adaptation or ensure climate change justice.’

Download Chapter 2


‘Existing legal mechanisms addressing mitigation, adaptation and remediation of climate change are failing to cope with the scale of the global issue and its wide-ranging impact on individuals, leaving many climate change justice issues unaddressed’


‘Existing legal mechanisms addressing mitigation, adaptation and remediation of climate change are failing to cope with the scale of the global issue and its wide-ranging impact on individuals, leaving many climate change justice issues unaddressed. International and domestic laws must be used to strengthen, not stifle, climate change justice. It is too easy to list the reasons why current legal systems cannot cope with emerging climate issues or why existing laws were not designed to solve global climate change. Drawing on the challenges identified, we consider the need for greater legal responsibilities that not only states but also multinational corporations and organisations must adopt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote climate change justice. In Chapter 3, the Task Force explores the most promising opportunities for legal reforms, including using international and regional human rights bodies and instruments to clarify rights, creating a Model Statute on Legal Remedies for Climate Change and greater use of the existing PCA Optional Rules specific to environmental disputes.’

 

Download Chapter 3

‘The Task Force acknowledges with deep gratitude the contribution of Dr Stephen J Humphreys, Associate Professor of International Law, London School of Economics who, as Task Force Academic Advisor, provided invaluable advice and input at all stages. His expert knowledge of this fast moving topic and his awareness of specialised research by other experts greatly benefited the Report's currency and completeness.

The Task Force offers its profuse thanks to lawyers Nwamaka Genevieve Ejebe and Nicola Leslie of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, current Secretaries to the Task Force, and Carolina Henriquez-Schmidt, former Secretary, for their dedication in producing this Report.

The Task Force would also like to thank Debevoise & Plimpton LLP for making pro bono arrangements for these lawyers to devote their professional time and talents to this project, as well as the time of Associates who assisted in researching and drafting this Report: James Amler; Morgan Davis; Bernardo Becker Fontana; Christopher Ford; Corina Gugler; Jing Kang; Noelle Lyle; Ciara Murphy; Angus Ni; and Peter Ross. The Task Force also thanks the following for their assistance in reviewing, commenting on, or drafting contributions to sections of the Report: Pablo Alliani (Alliani & Bruzzon, Buenos Aires); Lourdes Breuer (Berkemeyer, Asunción); Lina Pimentel Garcia (Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados, São Paulo); Michael B Gerrard (Director, Centre for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School, New York); Sarah Grimmer (Senior Legal Counsel, Permanent Court of Arbitration. The Hague); Sébastien Jodoin (Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven); Sarah Kieran (Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice); Els Reynaers Kini (MV Kini, Mumbai); John H Knox (United Nations Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment); Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice; Dr Constance McDermott (University of Oxford Environmental Change Institute, Oxford); Professor Emeritus Shinya Murase (Chair, International Law Association Committee on Legal Principles Relating to Climate Change); Angeles Murgier (Brons & Salas Abogados, Buenos Aires); Patricia Nuñez (Nuñez, Muñoz, Verdugo, Santiago); Joost Pauwelyn (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies); Lavanya Rajamani (Rapporteur, International Law Association Committee on Legal Principles Relating to Climate Change); Ian Sampson (Shepstone & Wylie, Durban); Associate Professor Sara Seck (University of Western Ontario, Ontario); Tara Shine (Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice); Henry Shue (University of Oxford, Oxford); Allison Silverman (Centre for International Environmental Law, Washington DC); and José Antonio Urrutia (Urrutia & Cia, Santiago).

The Task Force is grateful to lawyer Yuriko Kanematsu, of the Tokyo law firm Momo-o, Matsuo and Namba, for her valuable contribution in supervising the translation of the Report’s Executive Summary into Japanese.'

Download the Acknowledgements

 

Media Coverage


 
‘This ground-breaking report by a remarkable group of lawyers, judges and scholars from around the world draws on the weaknesses inherent in current domestic and international law to identify opportunities for reform by governments, UN bodies, the WTO, human rights tribunals, courts, corporations and individuals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide justice to those most affected by climate change.’

Michael B Gerrard
Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice; Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School, New York

Five ways to achieve climate justice

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Mary Robinson: International law is coming up short in its response to climate change

9 January 2015

International law stays silent on the responsibility for climate change

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As the climate changes so must the law 

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Report: Climate Change Will Threaten Human Rights of Most Vulnerable 

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Climate Change Tops The Environmental Agenda 

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Editorial: Lawyers filling the void 

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IBA plan to set up international environment court 

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IBA taskforce proposes changes to international law in pursuit of climate justice 

25 September  2014    

International lawyers’ group calls for international court on the environment – ‘Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our times

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International lawyers’ group calls for international court on the environment

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Heat Rising On Climate Change Inaction

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International lawyers’ group calls for international court on the environment

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'International Court on the Environment' needed for climate justice, lawyers say

22 September  2014    

International lawyers' group calls for international court on the environment

22 September 2014    

World needs an 'International Court on the Environment', International Bar Association says

22 September 2014    

IBA urges reform to climate change justice structures to protect human rights

22 September 2014    

Lawyers’ group calls for international court on climate change

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International lawyers’ group calls for international court on the environment

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Climate laws inadequate to protect human rights – new legal frameworks needed, states new IBA report

22 September  2014    

New IBA report seeks preventative, adaptive responses to climate change

22 September 2014