Climate Governance

Organizations Warn IACHR of the impacts o the Climate Crisis on Human Rights

Fifteen national and regional organizations from over nine countries in the Americas appeared at a hearing on the impacts of climate change and its response measures on the rights of vulnerable groups.

Washington D.C. In its 173rd period of sessions, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights heard presentations from representatives of national and regional civil society organizations on the impacts of climate change on the human rights of groups in situations of vulnerability, including indigenous peoples, women, children, and rural communities. 

Four female commissioners presided over the hearing: President Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, Antonia Urrejola, Margarette May Macaulay, and Soledad García-Muñoz.

The organizations emphasized that human rights impacts occur in several phases of the climate change cycle: in the emission of greenhouse gases, in the negative effects of extreme climate events, and even in response measures taken to mitigate the crisis.

They also argued that structural inequalities in Latin America and the Caribbean can exacerbate the impacts on vulnerable groups that have contributed the least to the climate crisis.

At the hearing, an indigenous leader from the Peruvian Amazon cited cases that exemplify the impacts of climate change in different countries. Impacts from corporate activities, as well as issues relating to deforestation, access to water, pollution, fracking, extractivism, and mining in sensitive ecosystems were also presented.

Both the organizations and the commissioners highlighted the importance of respect for human rights by corporate actors, particularly international corporations, considering their important role in the climate crisis. The crucial role of the Inter-American System in developing its own standards for business and human rights that, among others, guarantee access to environmental information to avoid conflicts of interest in public decision-making processes, was therefore emphasized.

The commissioners accepted the request for a hearing and recognized the need to act on the climate crisis with the urgency required. They expressed their willingness to continue the fight against the climate crisis along with civil society, by engaging more deeply and incorporating climate change considerations into different aspects of their work.

The request for hearing was filed by Fundación Pachamama (Ecuador), Dejusticia (Colombia), EarthRights International (regional), AIDA (regional), FUNDEPS (Argentina), FIMA (Chile), DPLF (regional), IDL (Peru), CELS (Argentina), Engajamundo (Brazil), AHCC (Honduras), Conectas (Brazil), FARN (Argentina), CEMDA (México), and La Ruta del Clima (Costa Rica).

The organizations requested that the Commission urge the States in the region to:

1. Take concrete and effective actions to stop activities that aggravate the climate crisis and threaten the effective enjoyment of human rights, such as fossil fuel exploitation, coal, fossil fuel-based energy production, and the construction of megaprojects like hydropower dams and highways.

2. Promote energy transition models that guarantee economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights, especially of indigenous peoples, children and youth, women, and rural communities, ensuring their effective participation, so that the patterns of violence from the current extractive model are not replicated in the implementation of response measures to mitigate climate change. 

3. Take specific measures to guarantee access to information related to the impacts of climate change and its response measures; ensure public participation in decision-making processes to respond to climate change; and provide accessible and effective mechanisms to achieve climate justice. 

4.     Implement gender equality in the right to information, political participation, access to justice, and decision-making processes in mitigation and adaptation measures. 

The organizations urged the Commission to:

  1. Recognize the climate crisis as a priority issue that threatens all human rights and ecosystems, and incorporate climate considerations in all its work, especially in litigation, the development of thematic reports, the conduct of on-site visits, and other actions to adjudicate, monitor, and promote human rights.  
  2. Advance petitions and precautionary measures related to climate change and its response measures, to ensure the justiciability of economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights of vulnerable groups, considering the standards developed by the Inter-American Court in its Advisory Opinion 23. 
  3. Urge States to protect and guarantee the rights of environmental and land defenders. 
  4. Call on States to design and implement more ambitious climate action through the upcoming 2020 NDCs, in accordance with their human rights obligations. Towards this end, the Commission can monitor the fulfillment of these commitments and determine whether they are in compliance with State obligations with respect to human rights.  
  5. Emphasize the responsibility of businesses and financial institutions to respect human rights in the context of climate change, using the highest standards of business and human rights. 

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