Savaresi A, Hartmann J & Cismas I (2018) The Impacts of Climate Change and Human Rights:
Some Early Reflections on the Carbon Majors Inquiry. Social Science Research Network. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3277568
The suitability of human rights law to address harm caused by climate change depends upon whether a victim can substantiate a claim that a duty bearer has contributed to climate change, in such a way as to amount to a human rights violation. Qualifying the effects of climate change as human rights violations, however, poses technical obstacles concerning causality, retrospectivity, apportionment, as well as the provision of an adequate remedy. Yet, these obstacles are not insurmountable. As scientific knowledge improves, tracing causal connections between particular emissions and resultant harms is becoming less difficult. These arguments are being tested in the context of the so-called ‘Carbon Majors’ inquiry by the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines. The inquiry concerns the responsibility of a group of global corporations – dubbed the ‘Carbon Majors’ and including the likes of BP, Chevron, Exxon and Shell – for human rights violations or threats thereof resulting from the impacts of climate change. This chapter looks at the Carbon Majors inquiry to critically appraise the role of human rights law in solving complex questions associated with responsibility for the impacts of climate change. The paper builds on the authors’ experience of providing expert advice in the context of the Carbon Majors inquiry. The inquiry will therefore be used as a point of departure to unpack the questions concerning jurisdiction, causality, retrospectivity, and the provision of an adequate remedy. The conclusion provides some reflections on the role of human rights law in addressing the harm associated with the impacts of climate change.
human rights; climate change; litigation; loss and damage; liability;