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Human rights must be addressed at COP26: UK Human Rights bodies

01 Nov 2021

The UK’s National Human Rights Institutions are warning that the human rights implications of the climate crisis must be tackled during the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26) in Glasgow.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Scottish Human Rights Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission highlight that climate change threatens the effective enjoyment of a wide range of human rights including the right to life, water and sanitation, food, health, housing, self-determination, culture, and development.

As National Human Rights Institutions, the Commissions have a mandate to promote and raise public awareness of the relationship between human rights and the climate crisis.

COP26 is an important event to make progress in the fight against climate change, and to drive the global response needed to tackle the human rights issues associated with it.

The three bodies are using this opportunity to remind the UK Government of its human rights obligations to prevent the foreseeable adverse effects of climate change and ensure that those affected by it, particularly young people and those in vulnerable situations, have access to effective remedies and means of adaptation to enjoy lives of human dignity.

Progress has been made and the Commissions welcome the recent passing of a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council recognising access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal right. We are hopeful this will be a catalyst for change in addressing issues around climate change that have affected the human rights of many.

The Commissions join in calling on the UK Government to show leadership at COP26 by making specific commitments to better protect human rights in the context of climate change.


Notes to editor

The UK is hosting the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties in Glasgow from the 1 to the 12 November 2021.

COP26 will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on climate change. The theme of this year’s summit is ‘together for our planet’.

On Friday 8 October 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution recognising access to a healthy and sustainable environment as a universal right. The text also calls on countries to work together, and with other partners, to implement this breakthrough. This was passed 43 votes in favour (including the UK) and 4 abstentions. For more information please see here.

National Human Rights Institutions have an obligation to promote and protect human rights, as contained in the Paris Principles, which set out the international minimum standards for national human rights institutions.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission is hosting a side-event at COP26 for National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), in collaboration with the Global Alliance for NHRIs, and the University of Stirling. The 3 day Symposium (3-5 November) will hear from international experts in human rights and climate change, the Scottish Government and will support NHRIs to advocate for rights-based solutions to the climate emergency.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will be highlighting two animations on youth, climate change and human rights that it produced as part of a project with Queen’s University Belfast. Read more and view the animations here.

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