Human Rights Council Adopts Resolution on Climate Change

Human Rights Council30 September 2011: The Human Rights Council closed its 18th regular session, adopting 33 texts on a wide range of issues, including a resolution on human rights and climate change (A/HRC/18/L26/Rev.1), in which the Council reiterates its concern that climate change poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the world, and has adverse implications for the full enjoyment of human rights.

In the resolution, which was adopted without a vote, the Council requests the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene, prior to the 19th session of the Human Rights Council, a seminar on addressing the adverse impacts of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights, and invite States and other relevant stakeholders, including academic experts, civil society organizations and representatives of those segments of the population most vulnerable to climate change, to participate.

The Council further requests the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: to invite the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to help organize the seminar, informed by the best available science, including the assessment reports and special reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); and to submit to the Human Rights Council, at its 20th session, a summary report on the seminar.

The representative of the Philippines introduced the resolution, noting his country's extreme vulnerability to climate change, noting that in a generation, the Philippines could stand to loose 300 of its islands due to climate change. Bangladesh underlined that reports had shown how climate-induced disasters had threatened fundamental rights, including that to life, food, water, health, and adequate housing.

Maldives indicated that his country had initiated the concern about climate change and human rights with the aim of giving climate change a human face. He stated that Maldives looked forward to working with its regional neighbors when the issue came back into consideration by the Council.

Costa Rica called for adopting a more holistic approach and suggested examining the possibility of a Special Procedure on human rights and the environment. While agreeing that discussions on climate change should address human rights, the US expressed her concern about "the resolution's selective quoting from the UNFCCC," underlining that the climate change-related role of the Human Rights Council was limited to ensuring that countries respected their human rights obligations in reacting to climate change. [Office of the High Commissionner for Human Rights Press Release]