For People and Planet:
Centering Rights Holders in Climate Action
In 2021, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council recognised for the first time having a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that realising this human right, including in the context of climate change, should not come at the expense of other human rights. Indeed, just as climate impacts can exacerbate various forms of inequalities and prevent the enjoyment of human rights, so too can climate action. The concepts of climate justice and a just transition provide a valuable anchor to illustrate this dynamic.
According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights climate change, environmental degradation and pollution has different implications across factors such as age, descent, ethnicity, race, economic and social class, indigenous background, gender identity, migrant status, and disability. Climate justice acknowledges that certain groups are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change and seeks to address these inequalities within all climate action, including mitigation and adaptation strategies. As noted by Mary Robinson, climate justice insists on a shift from a discourse on greenhouse gases and melting ice caps into a civil rights movement with the people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts at its heart. Similarly, according to the International Labour Organization, a just transition means greening the economy in a way that is fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, leaving no one behind.
While the principles of climate justice and just transition can be applied to various contexts and defined in different ways, at their core, they attempt to ensure that efforts to preserve the environment and mitigate climate change do not come at the expense of people, especially those belonging to the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of society. Ensuring this would, among other steps, require resources to achieve a just transition. Making investments on climate change that have a positive impact on inclusion and social welfare also require addressing gender and equity issues within financial instruments and processes. An understanding of differentiated needs and impacts, and a focus on inclusion, voice and participation are critical to ensuring the responsiveness of climate change and environmental finance to human rights issues and must be central to the efforts of achieving a post-pandemic green recovery.
Considering the devastating impacts which climate change is already causing and bound to cause, it is of utmost importance that States and businesses take meaningful climate action. In this context, the session will deal with the question of how States and businesses can ensure that business-related climate action does not come at the expense of human rights. The session will commence with a discussion on whether business-related climate change action and finance in South Asia sufficiently integrates the concepts of climate justice and a just transition. Building on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), panelists will outline concrete measures to integrate these concepts into South Asian climate action strategies, including those related to climate adaptation and mitigation. Finally, the session will conclude with a discussion of what challenges need to be overcome to integrate business and human rights and climate change agendas meaningfully.
The key objectives of this session are to:
Identify the extent to which the business-related climate change action of South Asian governments and businesses are reflective of climate justice and a just transition;
Outline concrete measures through which governments and businesses can put people at the centre of their climate action strategies;
Discuss how the business and human rights and climate change agendas can be integrated.
Panelists will reflect on the following questions:
Have South Asian governments and businesses taken climate action that integrates climate justice and just transition considerations? What are good examples?
What actions can South Asian governments and businesses take to address the impacts faced by vulnerable and/or marginalized communities?
What is the role of climate financing in ensuring climate justice and just transitions?
Where do gaps remain, and how can these be addressed?
What do you see as key opportunities to integrate business and human rights and climate change agendas?