The Paris Agreement provides that States ‘should respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights’ in ‘taking action to address climate change’. Should therefore States be held responsible for anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in breach of fundamental obligations, that is, the duties to respect, protect and fulfil first, second and third generation human rights? The key cases of the Inuit Petitions to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Kivalina demonstrate that there are serious objective and subjective impediments to holding a State responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, the decision of the Hague District Court in Urgenda has the potential to prompt a paradigm shift, whereby the evolution from first to second and third generation human rights allows streamlining fundamental issues of causation, extraterritoriality, attribution of responsibility and policy discretion. It is therefore arguable that the international recognition of a human right to a sustainable environment would require the plaintiff to only demonstrate direct causation, instead of indirect causation, thus fundamentally shifting the burden of proof to the defendant. Furthermore, such a right would allow attributing responsibility pro rata, based on minimum reduction targets outlined in the UNFCCC regime, overcoming issues of extraterritoriality and policy discretion. The human right to a sustainable environment entails asserting the fundamental nature of the no-harm rule.
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UNFCCC (2015), Annex, preamble.
Atapattu (2016), pp. 50–51.
Inuit, Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, seeking relief from violations resulting from global warming caused by acts and omissions of the United States, 7 December 2005 (hereinafter: First Inuit Petition); Arctic Athabaskan Council, Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, seeking relief from violations of the rights of Arctic Athabaskan peoples resulting from rapid Arctic warming and melting caused by emissions of black carbon by Canada, 23 April 2013 (hereinafter: Second Inuit Petition).
Native Village of Kivalina and City of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil corporation and others, US District Court, Northern District of California, Oakland Division, Order granting defendants’ motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, 663 F.Supp.2d 863, 30 September 2009 (hereinafter: Kivalina); Kivalina 696 F.3d 849, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 21 September 2012.
OHCHR (2009), para. 96.
Knox (2016), para. 35.
Adopted 4 November 1950, in force 3 September 1953, 213 UNTS 221. See Urgenda Foundation v. The State of The Netherlands, Hague District Court, Case C/09/456689/HA ZA 13-1396, Summons, 28 November 2013, paras. 72–80, 88–89.
Urgenda Foundation v. The State of The Netherlands, Hague District Court, Case C/09/456689/HA ZA 13-1396, Judgment, 24 June 2015, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2015:7145 (in Dutch), ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2015:7196 (English translation) (hereinafter: Urgenda).
IPCC (2001), Annex B, Glossary of Terms.
Knox (2016), para. 86.
World Conference on Human Rights (1993), para. 5.
Adopted 16 December 1966, in force 23 March 1976, 999 UNTS 171.
Adopted 16 December 1966, in force 23 March 1976, 993 UNTS 3.
Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (2015).
First Inuit Petition, above n. 5, p. 103.
Ibid., pp. 70–72.
Ibid., p. 118.
Second Inuit Petition, above n. 5, p. 59.
Ibid., pp. 21, 49 et seq.
First Inuit Petition, above n. 5, p. 103; Second Inuit Petition, above n. 5, p. 54.
This approach is underpinned by the jurisprudence of international human rights bodies. See, in particular, CESCR (1999a), para. 32: ‘All victims of such violations [of the right to food] are entitled to adequate reparation, which may take the form of restitution, compensation, satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition’. See also Voigt (2008), pp. 18–19; Knox (2016), para. 63.
Blau (2017), p. 14.
See, for instance, Budayeva and others v. Russia, ECtHR, Appl. Nos. 15339/02, 21166/02, 20058/02, 11673/02 and 15343/02, 30 November 2004, para. 12 and Aalbersberg and 2084 other Dutch citizens v. The Netherlands, ECtHR, Comm. No. 1440/2005, 14 August 2005, para. 6.3. See also Metropolitan nature reserve (Panama), IAComHR, Case No. 11.533, 22 October 2003, para. 34.
IPCC (2014a), pp. 42–44.
Elver (2015), para. 66.
Gromilova (2014), pp. 80–94.
Knox (2017), para. 26.
HRC (2018), para 1.
OHCHR (2016a), paras. 4 et seq.
CEDAW (2017b), para. 14.
Knox (2016), paras. 62–64.
Ibid., para. 35.
Asselbourg and 78 others and Greenpeace Luxemburg v. Luxemburg, ECtHR, Appl. No. 29121/95, 29 June 1999, para. 1; Tătar v. Romania, ECtHR, Appl. No. 67021/01, 27 January 2009, paras. 25 et seq.
Adopted 9 May 1992, in force 21 March 1994, 1771 UNTS 107.
See also Voigt (2008), p. 16.
Community v. Peru, IAComHR, Report 69/04, 15 October 2004, para. 42; Centre for Minority Rights Development (Kenya) and Minority Rights Group (on behalf of Endorois Welfare Council) v. Kenya, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AComHPR), Comm. No. 276/03, 4 February 2010, para. 246; AComHPR v. Kenya, African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR), Appl. No. 006/2012, 26 May 2017, para. 216. See also Metropolitan nature reserve, above n. 37, para. 32.
Kivalina (2009), above n. 6, pp. 16, 20–21, emphasis added.
Ibid., p. 17.
Ibid., p. 21. For a critical approach, see Lawson (2011), pp. 480–481.
Available at http://www.ipcc.ch (accessed 3 July 2018).
Urgenda, above n. 10, para. 4.79.
Ibid., para. 4.19.
Ibid., para. 4.90.
Ibid., para. 4.45.
Ibid., para. 4.46.
See also Stein and Castermans (2017), p. 306.
First Inuit Petition, above n. 5, pp. 10–12; Second Inuit Petition, above n. 5, pp. 8–10.
Legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the occupied Palestinian territory (Advisory Opinion), 9 July 2004, ICJ Report 2004, p. 136, paras. 108–111, emphasis added. See also McInerney-Lankford, Darrow and Rajamani (2011), pp. 40–41.
Burgos v. Uruguay, HRCte, Comm. No. 52/1979, 29 July 1981, para. 12.3.
CESCR (2003), paras. 31, 33.
Ibid., para. 34.
CESCR (1999a), para. 36.
CESCR (2000), para. 39.
OHCHR (2009), paras. 86–88.
OHCHR (2011), para. 72.
Adopted 28 June 1998, in force 30 October 2001, 2161 UNTS 447.
Arts. 2(5) and 3(9). See also Boyle (2012), p. 638.
Knox (2016), para. 41.
Harrington (2007), p. 524.
Banković and Others v. Belgium and 16 other contracting States, ECtHR, Appl. No. 52207/99, 12 December 2001, para. 61.
Issa and others v. Turkey, ECtHR, Appl. No. 31821/96, 16 November 2004, para. 71; HRCte (2010), para. 5.
Armando Alejandre Jr, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Pena, y Pablo Morales v. Cuba, IAComHR, Report No. 86/99, 29 September 1999, para. 23; HRCte (2004), para. 10; HRCte (2008), para. 14; Inter-State petition Ip-02, admissibility, Franklin Guillermo Aisalla Molina, Ecuador—Colombia, Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), Report No. 112/10, 21 October 2010, paras. 89–100; Al-Skeini v. UK, ECtHR, Appl. No. 55721/07, 7 July 2011, para. 136.
Knox (2009), p. 203.
Boyle (2015), pp. 233–234.
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (1996), para. 4. It is thus surprising that, unlike the first Inuit Petition, the Athabaskan Petition does not focus on the claim to self-determination as a basis for action against Canada’s black carbon emissions.
Adopted 24 October 1945, in force 24 September 1973, 1 UNTS XVI.
HRCte (2004), para. 2.
Shelton (2009), pp. 236 et seq.
Hall and Weiss (2012), p. 343.
Urgenda, above n. 10, para. 4.64. See also Knox (2016), para. 68.
Harrington (2007), p. 524.
CESCR (2016a), para. 45.
OHCHR (2016a), paras. 12–22.
Text accompanying n. 48.
Knox (2016), para. 34.
Kivalina (2009), above n. 6, p. 20. See also Peloffy (2013), p. 143.
Kivalina (2009), above n. 6, p. 20, emphasis added.
Ibid., emphasis added.
73 F.3d 546, 558 (5th Cir. 1996).
Kivalina (2009), above n. 6, p. 19.
Text accompanying n. 33.
Text accompanying n. 32.
Massachussets v. EPA, 127 SCt 1438, Case No. 05-1120 (2007), Robert CJ and Scalia J dissenting.
Ibid., p. 32.
Ibid., p. 31.
Ibid., p. 26.
Posner (2007), pp. 1938–1939.
Urgenda, above n. 10, para. 4.54.
Ibid., para. 4.63.
Text accompanying n. 61.
Urgenda, above n. 10, para. 4.46.
Velásquez Rodríguez v. Honduras, IACtHR, Ser. C No. 4, 29 July 1988, para. 172; The Social and Economic Rights Action Centre and the Centre for Economic and Social Rights v. Nigeria, AComHPR, Comm. No. 155/96, 27 October 2001, para. 52; Tătar v. Romania, above n. 49, para. 107. See also Varhuas (2016), pp. 39–40.
Voigt (2008), pp. 19–20.
Deakin, Johnston and Marchesinis (2013), p. 880.
Urgenda, above n. 10, para. 4.79.
Ibid., para. 4.89.
Urgenda, above n. 10, paras. 2.36, 2.38.
Ibid., para. 4.79.
First Inuit Petition, above n. 5, p. 69.
Second Inuit Petition, above n. 5, p. 3: ‘[…] although relatively smaller than emissions from lower latitudes, emissions from within or near the Arctic have a disproportionate effect because there is a greater likelihood they will deposit on Arctic snow and ice’.
See, for instance, Hämäläinen v. Finland, ECtHR, Appl. No. 37359/09, 16 July 2014, para. 67.
Vihma (2013), pp. 162–163.
De Schutter (2014), pp. 479, 531.
Knox (2016), para. 68.
CESCR (2014), para. 9, emphasis added.
Kivalina (2009), above n. 6, p. 6.
Ibid., p. 8.
Ibid., p. 9.
Ibid., p. 13.
Ibid., pp. 12–13.
Ibid., p. 13.
Ibid., p. 14.
Ibid., p. 14.
Ibid., pp. 14–15. For a critique, see Lawson (2011), pp. 479, 489–490.
Urgenda, above n. 10, para. 5.1.
Ibid., para. 4.101.
Ibid., paras. 4.93–4.102.
McInerney-Lankford, Darrow and Rajamani (2011), pp. 36–39.
Bell (2013), pp. 159, 163–164.
First Inuit Petition, above n. 5, pp. 73–74.
OAS (2008). See the Second Inuit Petition, above n. 5, pp. 54–56.
See, for instance, Weston and Bollier (2013), p. 285, Addendum, The international legal status of the human right to a clean and healthy environment.
Knox (2012), para. 14.
Expert Group on Global Climate Obligations (2015).
Ibid., preamble. See also the Commentary to the Principles on Global Climate Obligations, pp. 16 et seq.
Boyle (2012), p. 627.
Ibid., p. 629.
Ibid., p. 627.
Hayward (2004), pp. 103–106.
Text accompanying nn. 56–62.
High Court of Lahore, Case W.P. No. 25501/2015, Order of 4 September 2015, para. 7.
See, for instance, Boyle (2012), p. 633.
Hohfeld (1913), pp. 30, 33.
CRC (2016), para. 49.
Freedman (2013), p. 954.
Expert Group on Global Climate Obligations (2015), preamble.
Ksentini (1994), Annex.
Art. 1 posits the basic principle that ‘everyone has a fundamental right to the environment and an absolute duty to preserve life on earth for the benefit of present and future generations’ (emphasis added).
Art. 5: ‘Everyone is under a duty to utilise natural resources with equity and care, by ensuring the maximum saving of energy […] [and] minimum consumption of resources’.
Art. 7: ‘States are legally responsible to the entire International Community for acts that cause substantial damage to the environment in their own territory, in that of other States or in areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction’ and ‘shall adopt all measures to prevent such damage’ (emphasis added).
Art. 6: ‘States shall recognise and guarantee the human right to the environment, and foster conditions that make this right effective’.
Art. 8: ‘States, in particular, shall […] prohibit all activities that may cause irreversible damage to the basic natural processes of the biosphere and, as a precautionary measure, suspend those activities whose effects cannot be determined until all such uncertainty has been removed; e) take action to restore degraded ecosystems; f) prevent the transfer of environmental harm and risks to other parts of the world’.
Adopted 27 June 1981, in force 21 October 1986, 1520 UNTS 217.
See The Social and Economic Rights Action Centre, above n. 118, para. 49.
Annex 1 to the Brundtland Report (1987), principle 1.
Shue (2014), p. 58.
Available at https://www.seforall.org (accessed 3 July 2018).
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Nickel (1993), p. 285.
Principles 1 and 6.
Knox (2016), paras. 76–77.
Adopted 23 May 1969, in force 23 May 1969, 1155 UNTS 331. See ILC (2006), paras. 37–43.
Kivalina (2009), above n. 6, p. 19.
Bell (2013), p. 167.
Bodansky (2017), p. 694.
McInerney-Lankford, Darrow and Rajamani (2011), p. 46.
Stein and Castermans (2017), p. 318.
Juliana v. United States, 217 F Supp (3d) 1224, (D Or 2016), para. 82.
Ibid., Order of 1 May 2017, pp. 8–9.
Ibid. p. 8, emphasis added.
Ibid., p. 9.
Ibid., Orders of 25 May 2018 and 29 June 2018.
Ibid., Motion for summary judgment of 22 May 2018, pp. 7–14.
Knox (2018b), para. 14.
Ibid., para. 13.
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Quirico, O. Climate Change and State Responsibility for Human Rights Violations: Causation and Imputation. Neth Int Law Rev 65, 185–215 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40802-018-0110-0
- Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions
- Human rights
- Fundamental right to a sustainable environment
- State responsibility
- Attribution of responsibility