The right to life. The right to a healthy environment, clean air and water, land to live on, and sustainable livelihoods. The survival of one’s community.
This is what is at stake for people living on the frontlines of climate change.
While there is now a broad consensus that climate change is the planet’s greatest existential threat, less well recognized is that it is already a human rights emergency.
Climate change is taking an increasingly devastating toll on individuals and communities around the world, particularly in the Global South. Those least responsible for climate change are bearing the greatest burden, facing devastating violations of their rights. The climate crisis is not only exacerbating already enormous inequalities, it is threatening the very survival of many communities and cultures. Young people all over the world see climate change as a threat to their “right to a future.”
As a reliable partner with activists and affected communities, Climate Rights International (CRI) will challenge powerful interests who are creating these threats. Through careful on-the-ground research, the use of emerging technologies, high-level advocacy, support for strategic litigation, and exposing of violations through key media, we will pressure governments and companies to put people and the planet over profits.
Drawing on our decades of experience as human rights lawyers and researchers, we will work with communities to establish new legal norms that prioritize the rights of those harmed by climate change and ensure justice and accountability for victims of climate-related harms.
Central to the fight against climate change is confronting governments and companies to persuade them to end the clear-cutting of rainforests and the extraction and use of fossil fuels. We will support and amplify the voices of communities fighting to stop new coal, oil, or gas extraction, palm oil plantations, irresponsible dams, and bottom trawling of seabeds. We will “follow the money” by identifying and targeting investments by banks, asset managers, power and insurance companies, and international financial institutions that enable abuses against Indigenous Peoples, land confiscation, and attacks on the media and environmental defenders. We will also spotlight the human rights impact of industries involved in the transition to renewable energy such as for electric vehicles, to ensure they do not replicate the appalling labor and environmental practices that have long characterized mining and other industries.
Climate justice requires that that those who created the problem take responsibility to fix it. Working with environmentalists, lawyers, journalists, youth climate activists, climate scientists, and the tech industry, we will pressure wealthy countries to keep and increase their pledges for climate mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage funds.
Climate Rights International has a small but growing staff, which includes experts with decades of experience in human rights, climate change, and deep knowledge of the regions and communities in which we work. We advocate for the simple proposition that those suffering on the frontlines of climate change and environmental destruction should be at the forefront of discussions and policymaking about solutions.
The simple truth is that the fight against climate change cannot succeed without protecting human rights – and the fight for human rights cannot succeed without protecting the planet against climate change.
If we start from the premise that we must and will succeed in this existential fight, then we can also see the climate crisis as a time for hope. Indeed, the climate crisis presents enormous opportunities to create a greener, fairer economic order based on clean and renewable energy – one that also prioritizes the rights and welfare of all of us who share this fragile planet.
We look forward to working with you as we all take on the most important challenge facing humanity.
PHOTO CREDIT: Firefighters from Stockton, California, put out flames off while fighting a wildfire. Photo by AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Mel Melcon (CC BY 2.0).