The climate crisis is impacting people’s most basic rights, threatening lives and livelihoods, and deepening inequalities across Europe. National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) are playing a crucial role in monitoring and calling out its impacts, including in the regional human rights arena. In doing so, they are advocating for an effective and swift response to addressing climate change’s impacts using a human rights-based approach. ENNHRI is bringing NHRIs together to ensure that they are at the forefront of initiatives in this area.

NHRIS’ COMMITMENT TO AND RECOGNITION IN THIS AREA

While climate change represents an emerging topic for NHRIs, they are already mobilising to drive forward action in the area. In 2020, NHRIs worldwide committed to engage in national, regional and international processes to promote and drive a human rights-based approach to tackling the impacts of climate change. This commitment came in the form of a statement adopted at the General Meeting of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI).

This corresponds with the UN Human Rights Council’s most recent resolutions on NHRIs. Adopted in October 2022 and October 2023, these recognise how vital NHRIs and their networks are in safeguarding human rights in the context of climate change. Moreover, in the landmark Reykjavik Declaration of May 2023, Council of Europe Member States committed to make human rights and the environment a visible priority of the Council of Europe, and to strengthen the work of the Council of Europe in this field.

ENNHRI AND NHRIS’ WORK ON CLIMATE AND HUMAN RIGHTS

European NHRIs publish reports on climate change and human rights; intervene in domestic and regional climate cases; and monitor, report and raise awareness in this area from a human rights perspective. Furthermore, they are stepping up their support for environmental defenders in Europe to tackle the human rights challenges and threats they face.

In 2021, ENNHRI published its paper on climate change and human rights in the European Context. This provides a global and European-level analysis of the nexus between climate change and human rights. 12 ENNHRI member institutions provide country-specific information to illustrate national climate policies and practices by reference to human rights standards. The paper also assesses how the harm caused by greenhouse gas emissions may engage a state’s responsibility under several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention).

Climate protest in Frankfurt, Germany, with a large number of people with someone holding up a sign saying "There is no planet B" Read ENNHRI’s paper on climate change and human rights in the European context. This has laid the ground for the network’s later work in this area.

So far, ENNHR has submitted third-party interventions to the European Court of Human Rights in four climate cases. In these submissions, ENNHRI underlines that States have the responsibility to combat climate change effectively to protect the right to life and the right to private and family life enshrined in the Convention. Moreover, in two of these cases (Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and Others, Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and others v. Switzerland), ENNHRI – for the first time ever – delivered oral interventions before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

NHRIs take to the European stage: interventions in landmark climate cases

ENNHRI – including through its members from ENNHRI’s Working Group on the Climate Crisis and Human Rights – takes part in meetings of the Council of Europe’s Drafting Group on Human Rights and the Environment (CDDH-ENV). In its role as an observer, ENNHRI has contributed to the Recommendation to Member States on human rights and the protection of the environment. It also inputted to CDDH-ENV’s draft report on the need for a further instrument on human rights and the environment.

At CDDH-ENV meetings, ENNHRI has underlined the necessity of a binding Council of Europe instrument the right to a healthy environment. By providing examples of national practices, ENNHRI’s statement of March 2024 highlights that such recognition brings substantive benefits; and national experience shows that its judicial enforcement neither creates unmanageable tasks for the courts, nor unduly restricts the policy discretion of States.

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12 April 2024

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights issues groundbreaking judgment on climate change and human rights

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ENNHRI urges Council of Europe Member States to adopt a binding instrument on the right to a healthy environment

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Contact

For more information about our work on climate change and human rights, please contact:

Paula Nowek
Human Rights Officer (Legal)

paula.nowek@ennhri.org

Working Group on the Climate Crisis and Human Rights

ENNHRI’s Working Group on the Climate Crisis and Human Rights strengthens the capacity of NHRIs and carries out advocacy to ensure a human rights-based approach to addressing the effects of climate change. Ultimately, this is to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights and non-discrimination within policies and laws dealing with climate change. To achieve these goals, the Working Group liaises with regional policymakers and cooperates with relevant civil society partners.

Chair

Katalin Sulyok – Hungarian Ombudsman for Future Generations