Over 200 organisations call on UNFCCC & State parties to put human rights at the centre of climate action
October 12th, 2022
With COP27 just around the corner, ECCJ joins a broad coalition ― representing a wide range of movements and organizations, working for climate justice, human rights, labour rights, and corporate accountability ― in calling on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and State parties to put human rights at the centre of the climate response. Scaling up global renewable energy capacity has never been more urgent, but the transition must also be just.

The climate crisis is among the most critical and complex issues our planet and its people face. Human rights and climate action are increasingly indivisible and the need to transition to cleaner energies has never been more urgent. Yet this transition will be set up to fail if it focuses solely on being fast, and not on also being just.

The profit driven extractive model which has underpinned the global energy model has not provided the economic benefits or development promised to many countries, and has entrenched existing inequalities, including around access to and ownership of energy, and gender inequality. It must be transformed.

COP27 offers a defining moment to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and set the compass resolutely towards the energy transition. Meeting this immense challenge requires swift and coordinated global action, as well as redirection of private and public investments to renewable energy projects.

However, disregarding the rights of local communities and Indigenous populations in the race to a decarbonized economy by 2050, in particular those impacted by the boom in the extraction of the minerals needed for the transition, and by land-intensive renewable energy projects, is short-sighted.

It will result in numerous human rights violations and a failure of the responsibility of governments to protect human rights as established by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

It is already causing widespread abuse of land, water, and Indigenous Peoples’ rights: 495 allegations of human rights abuses were tracked so far in relation to transition minerals mining since 2010. But it will also continue to fuel opposition, conflict, and result in delays to both projects and achieving our global climate and Sustainable Development Goals targets. Such conflict has already resulted in at least 369 attacks on human rights, labour and environmental defenders around the world since 2015, including 98 killings, related to renewable energy projects, and 148 attacks, among them 13 killings, related to transition minerals mining.

The limits of non-legislative, market-based approaches to improve corporate respect for human rights are also clear: 78% of 1000 most influential companies, across 68 countries and 26 industries, scored zero on all indicators measuring their voluntary steps towards human rights due diligence. Mandatory human rights due diligence is necessary to close the accountability gap.

For real progress to be made at COP27, world leaders need to actively promote responsible renewable energy by:

  • Recognizing that human rights are central to the climate response
  • Adopting new ambitious green policy and regulatory frameworks that protect workers, local communities and Indigenous Peoples
  • Legislating to put an end to the most egregious corporate abuses
  • Supporting an equitable energy transition
  • Increasing energy efficiency, responsible product design and the recycling of minerals
  • Moving away from the extraction-to-exhaustion model of production.

It is time to rethink how the energy transition can be used to advance our human rights agenda and move away from seeing nature merely as an object to be exploited as an economic resource, while communities that contributed the least to the climate crisis to bear the brunt of the transition, without benefiting from it and without being able to shape it.