Urgent need for policy coherence to achieve rights-respecting climate action

Urgent need for policy coherence to achieve rights-respecting climate action

photo from photography Vitor Bettencourt Silva by Pixabay


Climate change is the defining crisis of our time and one of the greatest human rights challenges. To address this, immediate action is needed from everyone, especially from the major drivers of climate change. Practitioners and human rights advocates have begun to turn their attention to the corporate system and human rights to enforce necessary climate action by corporations undoubtedly responsible for a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

The basic tool of the business and human rights system –United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) – do not address climate change explicitly. Although the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner He explained that the UN guidelines are relevant to climate action, and no further guidance has been provided.

Now, with a new decade approaching, the UNGP’s10 + A project aimed at promoting broad implementation of the UN Guiding Principles could provide an opportunity to bridge this gap. Among other things, the project aims to focus on how to apply the UN Guidelines in the context of efforts to reduce the effects of climate change and in the transition to a greener economy. This is a timely attempt.

The current lack of attention to the impacts of climate change on human rights by businesses has fragmented efforts to achieve rights-respecting climate action. Therefore, there is an urgent need to increase policy coherence between climate action, human rights, and the overall sustainability goals of states and businesses, including United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Sustainable Development Goals).

current routing

The lack of focus on climate change in the UN guidelines means that other international expert groups have taken on the task of clarifying the responsibilities of the private sector in climate action, particularly in relation to climate change mitigation. These tools include: The Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Commitments employment Principles of Corporate Climate Commitments. While it is commendable that more responsibilities have been clarified for the private sector, these two sets of principles do not take a rights holders’ centric view.

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The two principles relate to climate change as a company Financial Risk Management Edition (pdf) and do not form a basis for human rights responsibilities. The lack of rights holders’ perspective threatens to undermine the overall sustainability efforts needed protection of human rights and many of the Sustainable Development Goals, for example poverty reduction (Goal 1), decent work and economic growth (Goal 8) and clean and affordable energy (Goal 7).

Climate disputes against the big carbon companies

Civil society actors are now setting standards for accountability for climate change and human rights due to the lack of an agenda set by states. National NGOs have adopted a special tool for advocacy and organizing for human rights-based climate conflicts. As with the “crossroads of rights” in climate disputes against states (eg, Urgenda vs Netherlandsemployment Neubauer et al. in Germany), civil society organizations have taken legal action against major sources of greenhouse gas emissions (“Carbon Majors”).

There is an urgent need to promote policy coherence between climate action, human rights and the overall sustainability goals of countries and businesses.

eg file Key Carbon Research: Greenpeace has asked the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines to investigate whether Carbon Majors has violated its human rights responsibilities. As recently as May 2021, . chest The Hague Tribunal It agreed with the plaintiffs led by Dutch NGO Friends of the Earth (Milieudefensie) that Royal Dutch Shell must cut its emissions by 45% by 2030. The court relied on national bail obligations, including responsibilities contained in UN guidelines. There is a similar case going on against Large French total carbon. Tessa Khan and Ben Patrus previously wrote that the number of such cases “is likely to increase as the gap widens between the urgent need to mitigate climate change and confidence in corporate policies and decision-making”.

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While cases like this are undoubtedly a huge victory for climate action, legal action must not replace a comprehensive approach to a green transition. Khan and Patrus emphasize that litigation must be an integral part of a broader theory of change. So far UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty He stated clearly that “business actors will not and will not be able on their own to provide a comprehensive approach that delivers the kind of economic and social transformation needed to combat climate change.” Countries must take a more ambitious leadership role in regulating the green transition in a way that ensures policy coherence and does not neglect aspects of social sustainability. The UNGPs10+ project can make a valuable contribution to these efforts.

Rights-respecting climate action

Nicola Hunter He writes that “the rush toward a carbon-neutral future will come at the expense of the vulnerable”. in light of The Sixth Strict Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change In the report, which concluded that warming of the atmosphere, oceans and land is an unambiguous consequence of human influence, there is an additional urgent need to ensure that climate action respects rights. Previous climate action measures, such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), established under the Kyoto Protocol, do not include human rights safeguards. The lack of guarantees allowed projects to be approved without consultation with local communities, which led to this outcome. Violation of human rights Rather, it has exacerbated the effects of climate change. Past experience shows that it is essential to include human rights safeguards in the design of climate change mitigation measures.

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The need for policy coherence is not only relevant to the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to a green economy, but is also relevant to the renewable energy sector. The urgency of climate action has led to a boom in the renewable energy sector. However, there have been numerous reports of human rights violations in Renewable energy supply chains.

The European Union now has an example of this policy coherence that combines climate action with the protection of human rights. The EU regulation establishing a classification for sustainable business activities It plans to focus investments on projects and business activities that fall within one of the six environmental goals, including climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. These companies must also meet minimum social guarantees. The latter means that the company must comply with the guidelines of the United Nations and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Corporations. Currently, the mandatory reporting requirements do not specify concrete KPIs or a standardized methodology that would ensure companies perform minimal due diligence. It will be necessary to consider whether compliance at the operational level is sufficient to ensure the necessary policy coherence and focus investments on business activities that ensure a fair transition and overall sustainability.

This regulation can be a valuable case study for the UNGPs10+ project to assess the level of guidance and requirements needed to ensure that climate action rights are respected. The only way to bring the silos of climate action closer to protecting human rights Don’t leave anyone behind.

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