A Draft Declaration on Human Rights and Climate Change for Paris COP21

Published on: November 17, 2015

Filed Under: Commentary

The Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE) proclaims climate change a human rights issue and releases a Draft Declaration on Human Rights and Climate Change for Paris COP21

A major network of international human rights scholars has issued a call-to-action for governments around the world in a Draft Declaration on Human Rights and Climate Change (The Declaration) ahead of the Paris Climate Summit beginning on 30 November. The Declaration outlines a crucial shift in the way that states should respond to climate change. The Declaration is a response to the unsustainable status quo. It was drafted by the GNHRE, the largest network of human and environmental rights scholars in the world. Combining new thinking and existing international human rights law, the Declaration presents an alternative formulation of rights that foregrounds human rights while simultaneously protecting the rights of non-human persons and living systems from climate harms.

The GNHRE is a network of multidisciplinary scholars from around the world, dedicated to tackling human and environmental challenges, including climate change. The group includes numerous world-renowned environmental-human rights scholars and drafted the Declaration as a clarion call to governments to address the human rights implications of climate change.

Anna Grear, Professor of Law and Theory at Cardiff Law School UK, and the founder and director of GNHRE, said: “The talks in Paris represent the final chance for humanity as a species to avoid the most destructive consequences of climate change. The Declaration is statement by scholars across the world that our current approach to climate change is utterly inadequate in the face of this existential threat. Climate change is arguably the greatest human rights issue of all, and we call on every government at Paris to stand up as leaders in order to avert disaster—and to do so by questioning the ’taken-for-granted of the current framework of priorities.”

The Declaration is a practical, thought-provoking and nuanced challenge designed to transform the climate debate. The Declaration addresses the structural unfairness in current patterns of vulnerability to climate change and the need to address the limitations of market-based approaches to the climate challenge.

GNHRE Co-Director Louis Kotze, a Research Professor at North-West University, South Africa commented: “The market isn’t going to solve climate change for us. Everyone who is standing around waiting for the environmental version of Steve Jobs is deluded. Tackling climate change will require cohesive, targeted and planned action from all governments and unless we evolve our approach, there is no chance of success.”

The GNHRE has delivered The Declaration ahead of Paris COP21 in the hope that this timely and necessary intervention gains the full and serious consideration it deserves. The GNHRE will remain active in campaigning for climate justice and encourages new members to get involved at http://gnhre.org/

Read the GNHRE Draft Declaration

Draft Declaration on Human Rights and Climate Change


Guided by the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action of the World Conference of Human Rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, The Nagoya Protocol and other relevant international instruments incorporating human rights,

Guided by the Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention, Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Charter for Nature, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and other relevant instruments of international environmental law,

Reaffirming the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights,

Recognizing the radical dependency of all life on earth on a healthy Earth system,

Recognizing that climate impacts caused by the human industrial and consumer activities on the planetary lifecycle, disproportionally affect the poor, women and children, the vulnerable, small island communities, developing countries and least developed countries, future generations and innumerable non-human natural persons and living systems,

Recognizing that courts and jurists of international standing link the fulfillment of human rights to a secure, healthy and ecologically sound environment, and that this necessarily includes human rights related to climate harms,

Recognizing that human and non-human natural persons and living systems are affected by climate harm and that it is the stewardship responsibility of human beings to respect and protect the rights of non-human natural persons and living systems,

Recognizing that science confirms the threat of climate change on the livelihoods and well-being of present and future generations,

Deeply concerned by the severe human rights consequences of the continuing political failure to reach firm commitments on climate mitigation and adaptation; by the dominance of the market as the supreme value coordinating international responses to the climate crisis; and by the lack of direct responsibility in international human rights law for corporate actors violating human and environmental human rights,

Convinced that the potential irreversibility of climate change effects gives rise to an urgent need for new forms of state and non-state accountability and liability,



  1. Human rights and a profound commitment to climate justice are interdependent and indivisible.
  2. All human beings have the right to a secure, healthy and ecologically sound Earth system and to fairness, equity and justice in the provision of climate resilience, adaptation and mitigation.
  3. All human beings have the right to a planetary climate suitable to meet equitably the needs of present generations without impairing the rights of future generations to meet equitably their needs.
  4. All human beings have the right to information about and participation in decision-making related to alterations to the physical environments they rely upon for their health and survival.
  5. All human beings have the right to the highest attainable standard of health free from environmental pollution, degradation and the emissions of environmental toxins and to be free from dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system such that rising global temperatures are kept well below the tipping point of two degrees centigrade above preindustrial levels.


  1. All human beings have the right to investments in adaptation and mitigation to prevent the deleterious consequences of anthropogenic climate change, and to timely assistance in the event of climate change driven catastrophes.
  2. All human beings have the right to information concerning the climate. The information shall be timely, clear, understandable and available without undue financial burden to the applicant.
  3. All human beings have the right to hold and express opinions and to disseminate ideas and information regarding the climate.
  4. All human beings have the right to climate and human rights education. This education includes the right to learn from multiple perspectives and to understand non-human natural modes of behavior and the requirements of flourishing planetary ecosystems.
  5. All human beings have the right to active, free, and meaningful participation in planning and decision-making activities and processes that may have an impact on the climate. This includes the right to a prior assessment of the climate and human rights consequences of proposed actions. This includes the right to equality of hearing and the right for processes to be free of domination by powerful economic actors.
  6. All human beings have the right to associate freely and peacefully with others for purposes of protecting the climate or the rights of persons, whether human or non-human natural persons, affected by climate harm.
  7. All human beings have the right to effective remedies and redress in administrative or judicial proceedings for climate harm or the threat or risk of such harm, including modes of compensation, monetary or otherwise.


  1. All persons, individually and in association with others, have a duty to protect the climate from damaging emissions.
  2. All States shall respect and ensure the right to a secure, healthy and ecologically sound environment and to a stable climate, and ensure the rights outlined in Parts I—III of this Declaration. Accordingly, they shall adopt the administrative, legislative and other measures necessary to effectively implement the rights in this Declaration.
  3. All States shall ensure international cooperation with other States and international organizations and agencies for the purpose of respecting the rights outlined in Parts I-III of this Declaration. All States shall observe the rights and duties in this Declaration.
  4. All international organizations and agencies shall observe the rights and duties in this Declaration.


To endorse this Declaration publicly or to suggest amendment, please contact Kirsten Davies, who is collating a list of endorsers and suggested amendments. Her email is: kirsty.davies@mq.edu.au

List of Endorsers


Bianca Jagger, President and Chief Executive, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation; Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador; IUCN Bonn Challenge Ambassador; Senior Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation; Member of the Executive Director’s Leadership Council of Amnesty International USA; Patron of the GNHRE

Anna Grear, Professor of Law and Theory, Director of the GNHRE, Cardiff Law School UK

Louis Kotzé, Research Professor of Law, North-West University South Africa and Co-director of the GNHRE

Dr Tom Kerns, Director, Environment and Human Rights Advisory; Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Seattle Community College

Dr Kirsten Davies, Department of Environmental Sciences & Macquarie Law School, Macquarie University, Australia

Dr Sam Adelman, School of Law, University of Warwick, UK

Deva Prasad M, Assistant Professor of Law, National Law School of India University, Bangalore, India

Dr Surya Deva, Associate Professor, School of Law, City University of Hong Kong

Associate Professor Sara L Seck, Faculty of Law, Western University & Senior Fellow, International Law Research Program, Centre for International Governance Innovation, Canada

Engobo Emeseh, Senior Lecturer in Law, Aberystwyth University, UK

Dr Sumudu Atapattu, Director, Research Centers and Coordinator, UW-Madison Human Rights Program, University of Wisconsin Law School, USA

Joshua C. Gellers, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Administration, University of North Florida, USA

Dr Kerri Woods, Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Leeds, UK.

Prof Diana Jeater, Emeritus Prof of African History,University of the West of England, Bristol, UK

Professor Dr Klaus Bosselmann, Chair, Ethics Specialist Group,  IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law; Director, New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law, Faculty of Law, The University of Auckland, New Zealand

Aled Dilwyn Fisher, Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Oslo, Norway

Dr Laura Westra, Professor Emerita (Philosophy) University of Windsor(Faculty of Law), Universities of Milano (Bicocca) and Trento ( Faculties of Jurisprudence), resident of Canada

Catherine Iorns Magallanes, Senior Lecturer in Law, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Francesca Dominello, Lecturer, Macquarie Law School, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

Professor Lesley Hughes, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Integrity and Development), Distinguished Professor of Biology, Macquarie University, Australia

Dr John Pearson LLB. LLM. LLM. Lecturer in Environmental Law and Human Rights, University of Manchester, UK

Kate Wilson, Director, Equity and Diversity, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia


Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation

For more information, interviews or images of GNHRE contact David Adelman on dadelman@flamepr.com or call 07595 179 514.


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