Time to celebrate: Human Rights Council establishes Special Rapporteur on Human Rights & Climate Change

October 8th is a day to celebrate. Not only did the Human Rights Council recognise for the first time that having a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a human right, but the Council also adopted a resolution establishing a Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, after about 3 weeks of negotiation on the text.

The long-due establishment of a Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change results from years of advocacy and mobilisation of civil society and indigenous people’s organisations worldwide. The resolution outlines the critical areas of work of the new Special Rapporteur, including studying the interlinkages between climate change and human rights, identifying challenges in States’ implementation of human rights-based climate policies, among others. Considering that the impacts of climate change interfere with the right to live in a safe, clean, sustainable, and healthy environment, the Special Rapporteur is required to have a comprehensive, cross-sectoral, global and intersectional approach to addressing the issues of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, sustainable, and healthy environment. The Council will appoint the expert at its next session, in March 2022. The mandate will last 3 years and can be renewed. The first report of the new Special Rapporteur is expected at the 50th session of the Council in June 2022.

We are happy to share this news with you, as this will give greater weight to the climate crisis’s threat to human rights and the urgent need for ambitious and rights-based action. Hopefully, this signals the beginning of a new era in rights-based climate policy.

The results of the vote were as follows:

In favour (42): Argentina, Austria, Armenia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, France, Gabon, Germany; Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

Against (1): Russian Federation.

Abstentions (4): China, Eritrea, India and Japan.