CAN Position: Integrating Human Rights into the Paris Agreement, October 2015

Climate change and the lack of adequate policies to address climate change present global threats to the realisation of human rights, in particular in relation to the rights of people and communities that are already vulnerable or marginalized. For this reason, the transition to a low-carbon economy and resilient communities must fully protect human rights. By integrating human rights into climate policies, countries will strengthen the long-term effectiveness of, and build public support for, climate actions. The Paris Climate Conference thus provides a crucial opportunity to establish a new framework for climate action that strengthens mitigation and adaptation while addressing the needs of vulnerable groups.

This paper sets forth CAN’s position as to why and where human rights language should be included in the Paris Agreement. In particular, in order to establish a framework that effectively addresses climate change and protects those most vulnerable from the adverse impacts of climate change and climate policies, Parties must include the following reference to human rights in the operative section of the core agreement:

All Parties shall, in all climate change related actions, respect, protect, promote, and fulfil human rights for all, including the rights of indigenous peoples; ensuring gender equality and the full and equal participation of women; ensuring intergenerational equity; ensuring a just transition of the workforce that creates decent work and quality jobs; ensuring food security; and ensuring the integrity and resilience of natural ecosystems.

This language calling for rights protections must be included for the following reasons:

1. While the Parties to the UNFCCC have recognized the interplay between human rights and climate change, they have not taken action to operationalize their rights obligations.
2. Human rights are a cross-cutting issue in the implementation of the Convention.
3. Human rights must be integrated into climate actions at all levels.
4. Integrating human rights into climate action will not divert focus from combating the causes and impacts of climate change but will promote more effective climate action.

In order for the Paris Agreement to promote effective climate policies that benefit people and communities affected by climate impacts and climate policies, the Parties to the UNFCCC must include a reference to human rights in the core agreement to be adopted at COP-21 in Paris. This provision must be overarching in order to apply to all areas of implementation of the Convention. It must be included in the operative section of the agreement in order to guarantee its effective and systematic implementation. It must be comprehensive and address all key dimensions of the relation between human rights and climate change.