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Expert workshop report: "Climate Change & International Human Rights Law: The Challenges for Business"

Top Line Summary

Infancy and Rapid Development: Work on climate justice, human rights and business is at an early stage, but has substantial promise in strengthening action on regulation, litigation, and incentives, as well as on company policy, practice and benchmarking.

From Market Failure to the Common Good: Climate change and its human rights impacts are a result of “the biggest-ever market failure”.  Therefore business and governments must work to make markets sustainable and uphold the human rights of this and future generations.

A Smart Mix for Bold and Successful Action: A “Just Transition” to a low carbon economy is urgently needed.  Human rights and sustainability are twin concepts for a just transition that help guarantee public support for bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Equally, we need mutually-reinforcing action by governments to create the legal, regulatory, and incentives environment; by progressive business to drive innovation and implementation; and by civil society and the legal community to monitor, benchmark, rank and litigate as a spur for greater action by government and business.  We need to highlight the climate implications of the UN Guiding Principles and the OECD Guidelines for MNCs, and to break down the siloes created within companies, governments and civil society by the ‘triple bottom line’ and the false divisions between climate justice and human rights.

Litigation against Polluters: There is rising interest in this, based on growing uncertainty around attribution of damage both through advances in climate science, and the identification of the primary polluters.  Experience to date suggests that human rights law is deployed as a secondary strategy to tort law, adding a compelling ethical narrative for public support.

A Durable Coalition to Drive Change: We need advocates for human rights and climate justice across business, government, and civil society to coordinate better their action around key opportunities and threats, to ensure their actions are more mutually reinforcing for the bold measures that are urgently needed.