The Climate Emergency and Human Rights

Responding to an official request from Chile and Colombia, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is preparing an Advisory Opinion on the Climate Emergency and Human Rights. The Court is being asked to provide guidance on the human rights impact of anthropogenic climate change and clarify individual and collective state obligations with respect to those harms, with special attention to differential impacts on and responsibilities with respect to vulnerable groups. The Court is expected to build on its prior ground-breaking Advisory Opinion OC 23/17, which recognized the human right to a healthy environment, and within that, protection of the environment and rights to nature.

The Court asked the Promise Institute’s E. Tendayi Achiume, Alicia Miñana Professor of Law, MacArthur Fellow, and former UN Special Rapporteur on Racism (2017-2022) to provide an expert opinion on the matter. Working with students from the International Human Rights Clinic under Clinic Director S. Priya Morley, Human Rights in the Americas Director Joseph Berra, and Executive Director of The Promise Institute Europe Kate Mackintosh, Professor Achiume and the Promise team have prepared a submission to be filed with the Court.

The submission uses a racial justice lens to understand the differential impact and responsibilities of the climate emergency, particularly on Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, as well as the framework for climate reparations for racially discriminatory human rights violations arising from the global ecological crisis. The submission further analyzes the right of Indigenous peoples to free, prior, and informed consent regarding extraction of clean energy resources in their territories, and the international crime of ecocide as a tool for addressing harm to vulnerable communities. IHRC students and the Promise team will present their submission to the law school community.