The Janus-Head of Human Rights and Climate Change: Adaptation and Mitigation

In: Nordic Journal of International Law


This article examines the role human rights instruments play when states seek to adopt regulatory initiatives in the name of addressing climate change. The article argues that a series of important restrictions exist. Governments responding to climate change need to take into account existing human rights. This observation is particularly relevant for countries implementing Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) projects and for countries taking part in Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects under the Kyoto Protocol. The article likewise argues that special human rights obligations arise in relation to the risks associated with climate change. These place on states a responsibility to secure risk assessment and risk communication while taking steps to mitigate climate change-associated risks. While the article considers these requirements to constitute an absolute minimum, it is argued that they can offer a way of securing that national governments are accountable when it comes to climate change responses. On the other hand, it will be shown that these human rights restrictions will sometimes have the potential to run counter to the adoption of effective climate change responses.

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