The Increasing Currency and Relevance of Rights-Based Perspectives in the International Negotiations on Climate Change
It is axiomatic that the climate impacts documented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are likely to undermine the realisation of a range of protected human rights. Yet it is only in the recent past that an explicit human rights approach has been brought to bear on the climate change problem. Scholars and human rights bodies have begun to advocate a human rights-centred approach to climate change—an approach which would place the individual at the centre of inquiry, and draw attention to the impact that climate change could have on human rights protection. This article focuses on the human rights claims raised in the climate negotiations, the implications these claims may have and the interests they may serve. The article argues that human rights approaches, taken in their entirety, have the potential to bring much needed attention to individual welfare as well as to provide ethical moorings in inter-governmental climate negotiations currently characterised by self-interested deal-seeking. Human rights approaches provide benchmarks against which states’ actions can be evaluated and they offer the possibility of holding authorities to account. Human rights approaches may also offer additional criteria for the interpretation of applicable principles and obligations that states have to each other, to their own citizens, and to the citizens of other states in relation to climate change. This article seeks to provide initial insights into the ways in which human-rights-based interpretations of applicable principles and obligations may serve to influence some of the current debates in the climate negotiations.