Under human rights law, States have obligations to protect those whose rights are affected by climate change, with priority given to groups that are particularly vulnerable. By extension, the UNFCCC, the Council and others have recognized that States must ensure that their responses to climate change do not themselves violate human rights.

In 2011, the UNFCCC took a critical step when it adopted the Cancun Agreements, which explicitly call on Parties to respect human rights when taking actions to address climate change.

The Paris Agreement in 2015 marked a watershed moment. The preamble called on countries to respect and promote human rights in all actions taken to address climate change. This was a landmark achievement: it marked the first reference to human rights in any multilateral environmental agreement. While the Paris Agreement is far from perfect, in this respect, it represents an important step.

The challenge now is to ensure that climate policies are designed, implemented and monitored in a manner that protects the full and effective enjoyment of human rights. For example, States must develop national climate policies – such as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) – through transparent processes that promote the effective participation of all affected communities, including indigenous peoples and other vulnerable populations. It is also important to note that developed countries have responsibilities to assist poorer developing countries in their efforts to respect human rights, which complement developed country obligations under the UNFCCC.

Briefing Notes
Our Briefing Notes identify entry points for the promotion of human rights during sessions of the bodies established under the UNFCCC.

Briefing Note: Human RIghts in the May 2017 Climate Negotiations (2 pages). Also available in French and Spanish

Briefing Note: COP-22 Marrakesh Climate Conference (10 pages)

Executive Summary: COP-22 Marrakesh Climate Conference (2 pages)

Negotiation Updates
Our Negotiation Updates review from a human rights perspectives the decisions and conclusions adopted during a UNFCCC session.

Negotiations Update COP-23 Week 1 (November 2017): Integrating Human Rights in Climate Action

Negotiations Update COP-23 Week 2 (November 2017): Integrating Human Rights in Climate Action

Negotiations Update 2016-1: Integrating Human Rights during the May 2016 negotiating session


Submission to the UNFCCC Ad hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) re: Promoting a holistic implementation of the Paris Agreement – NDCs, Adaptation Communications, Transparency Framework and Global Stocktake (CARE International, CIEL, Franciscans International, ATD Fourth World, the International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs, the Rainforest Foundation Norway, WEDO: 2 Nov 2016)

Submission to the UNFCCC on the Roadmap for Global Climate Action (Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, CIEL: 10 Aug 2016)

Submission to the UNFCCC re: Urgent Need to Address Short-Term Mitigation Under Workstream 2 of the Durban Platform (CIEL, 1 Sep 2013)

Submission to the UNFCCC re: Human Rights in the Durban Platform (1 Mar 2013)

Submission to the UNFCCC re: Human Rights in the Bali Action Plan (CIEL, 6 Feb 2009)

Other Analyses

Summary of Rights-Related Developments at COP19 (23 Dec 2013)

Human Rights Analysis of the Doha Gateway (CIEL, 10 Apr 2013)

Human Rights Analysis of the Cancun Agreements (CIEL, 14 Mar 2011)

COP16 Advocacy Document (5 Dec 2010)

COP 15 Advocacy Document (11 Dec 2009)


Human Rights into Climate Actions After Paris: Opportunities for the UNFCCC, the Human Rights Institutions and the G-20“, Sébastien Duyck and Yves Lador (Nov. 2016)

“Climate Change: Tackling the Greatest Human Rights Challenge of Our Time,” CARE International and the Center for International Environmental Law (Feb 2015)

Orellana and Johl, “Climate Change & Human Rights: A Primer,” Center for International Environmental Law (revised May 2013)

Johl and Duyck, “Promoting Human Rights in the Future Climate Regime,” Ethics, Policy & Environment (Oct 2012)

Johl and Wagner, “Human Rights and Climate Change after Copenhagen,” Stakeholder Forum, Outreach Publication (Jan 2010)

Johl and Wagner, “Recognizing and Protecting Human Rights in the Copenhagen Agreement,” Stakeholder Forum, Outreach Publication (14 Dec 2009)