Climate Change, Well-Being and Human Rights

Authors: Policy Horizons Canada
Document Type: Archives
Published Date: Sunday, August 1, 2010 - 4:00am
ISBN number:

As the evidence and knowledge of the physical effects of climate change continue to grow, the world is starting to dissect how those physical changes (e.g. water scarcity, sea-level rise, increased temperatures), both current and predicted, will intersect with society and economies and the potentially significant environmental and human impacts that will result.

The connection between climate change and human rights is increasingly part of the international dialogue, with the understanding that climate change is related "not only to environmental factors but also to poverty, discrimination and inequalities." While the stringency and nature of mitigation efforts will continue to factor into this discussion and have implications for the severity of impacts over time, the global responses and approach to adaptation will become increasingly important as policy challenges relating to humanitarian crises, environmental displacement and security begin to emerge.

In most international and institutional forum, human rights are very much embedded in a legal framework. Some jurisdictions are moving toward a broader "human-based" approach to climate change, to inform discussions on how the global community should respond to the connections between climate change and human rights, addressing issues of participation, well-being, equity and questions of moral obligation.

The increased interaction of climate change and human rights raise a number of policy challenges and perhaps opportunities over the medium to long-term. For example, what are the implications of climate change (as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation measures) for the full enjoyment of human rights, especially among vulnerable population groups? Will a more human-focused terminology emerge in considering human rights and climate change? Will it enable a broader response to the issues? What can Canada learn from experience elsewhere?