Human Rights in the Paris Agreement

Since 2009, the Human Rights & Climate Change Working Group has advocated to integrate human rights in the UNFCCC. The 2015 Paris Agreement, adopted by 195 nations, marks a watershed moment in our advocacy efforts. The preamble to the Agreement references human rights, marking the first such reference in a multilateral environmental agreement. But much work remains to turn this commitment into protections on the ground.

Road to Paris: Protecting human rights in climate action

In the lead-up to the climate talks in Copenhagen (COP15), the Working Group called on countries to recognize the human rights dimensions of climate change. Although countries failed to reach an agreement in Copenhagen, the UNFCCC took a critical first step the following year, when it adopted the Cancun Agreements, which explicitly call on Parties to respect human rights when taking actions to address climate change.

In February 2015, we secured the first reference to human rights in the draft negotiating text for the Paris Agreement, when Mexico, Chile, Tuvalu, Uganda, and others championed our human rights language.

Over the course of the year, we worked along with our allies to build a coalition representing women and gender, indigenous peoples, labor and trade unions, youth, faith-based, human rights, environmental, and climate justice groups. This unprecedented coalition proved to be immensely successful. Despite all odds, we secured strong language calling on countries to respect and promote human rights in all actions taken to address climate change.

During COP21, we put the issue of human rights on the political agenda, making it clear that the Paris Agreement marks the beginning of the road. Looking ahead, we have much work to do to build the capacity of countries to protect human rights when taking climate action and to hold them accountable when they fail to do so.