Inter-American Court of Human Rights: ESCR-Net Members Present Contributions to Clarify State Obligations in the Face of a Climate Emergency

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, April 24, 2024

On Thursday, April 25, 2024, members of the ESCR-Net will present two oral interventions before the Inter-American Court in Barbados. Members will address issues such as loss and damage and ask the Court to rule on climate reparations and on States' obligations to ensure human rights under the UNFCCC. 

In 2023, Colombia and Chile submitted a request to Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IAtCHR) requesting an advisory opinion “to clarify the scope of State obligations…to respond to the climate emergency within the framework of international human rights law…as well as on nature and on human survival on our planet.”

The Inter-American Court responded by inviting written submissions from relevant stakeholders such as civil society, academia, and institutions. Public hearings were scheduled with the first hearing set for 23-25 April 2024, and subsequent hearings in Brazil from 24-29 May 2024. 

ESCR-Net’s contributions:

On Thursday, April 25, 2024, members of ESCR-Net will present on 2 amicus interventions filed in 2023.

1. First submission

This submission, developed during COP28  by ESCR-Net members La Ruta del Clima, CIEL, AIDA and endorsed by the Network, calls on the court to rule on climate reparations and on states’ obligations to guarantee human rights under the UNFCCC. 

2. Second submission

This submission (available in Spanish) was developed by nine members with the coordination of ESCR-Net Secretariat, and focuses on several key perspectives from which all climate-related human rights obligations can be adequately viewed.

What are our contributions? 

In the first submission, the open statement addresses loss and damage, a concept used in international climate policy that refers to climate impacts that cannot be avoided through adaptation and mitigation measures, leading to devastating human rights harm. The letter uplifts developing states that have emphasized the need to recognize and address loss and damage as a central component of global climate action, while the largest emitters of greenhouse gases have persistently sought to protect themselves against the provision of reparations for the effects of the climate crisis. 

Thus, the open letter calls on the Court to develop an advisory opinion that addresses loss and damage in a manner aligned with States’ obligations under international rights law, recognizes that communities impacted by the climate crisis have a right to reparations, and acknowledges that States have the obligation to redress the damage caused by their historical contributions to climate change.

On the second submission, the 100-page input recognizes that climate change is a phenomenon without borders and affects all human rights, and is thus anchored in principles of indivisibility and interdependence based on the rights to equality, life, personal integrity, health, a healthy environment, self-determination, and associated rights, and access to justice. It focuses on several key perspectives, including:

  1. international equity,
  2. equality along intersectional lines of identity,
  3. intergenerational justice,
  4. just and equitable transitions,
  5. corporate accountability and prevention of corporate capture, and
  6. access to justice.

The submission addresses how the global dimensions, historical inequalities, and current persistent inequities related to climate change require that the human rights response pay special attention to extraterritorial obligations and obligations of international solidarity and cooperation. It discusses how climate change's disproportionate and unequal effects are contrary to human rights, requiring that ensuring equality and non-discrimination along intersectional lines of identity be central to all responses to the crisis. 

In the document, members detail how the disparate impacts on a particularly vulnerable group—young people and future generations—demand the full recognition and application of the principles of intergenerational justice in ​​human rights and climate change issues. Members also analyze how energy, economic, and other transitions that seek to respond to climate change must be just and equitable, respecting human rights—such as the rights to self-determination, territorial autonomy, and self-government of Indigenous Peoples— and they must be real, rejecting false solutions. 

The submission also emphasizes how corporate accountability, including preventing and mitigating corporate capture, is key to responding fairly and effectively to the climate crisis and solidifying legal safeguards to stop current harms and prevent future ones. Lastly, members discuss human rights standards relating to access to justice that are fundamental in relation to the climate emergency.

This submission was filed on behalf of our members: Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA), Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), FIAN International, Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), Legal Defense Institute (IDL), Jacqueline Dugard, Minority Rights Group International (MRG), Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Project (ProDESC).

Demands and Recommendations

1. Incorporating Gender and Intersectional Perspectives

Members highlight the need to center the groups who are particularly vulnerable and historically excluded from decision-making processes by including gender and intersectional perspectives in their preparation, implementation, and monitoring. Building a just and equitable transition requires States to refrain from enacting or supporting adaptation and mitigation measures and programs that are illusory and devoid of scientific verification, also known as false solutions.

2. Addressing Corporate Capture and Accountability

False solutions are often rooted in corporate capture of policies and programs to contain the climate crisis. Members emphasize that States have the obligation to guarantee accountability and prevent corporate capture by ensuring that companies fulfill their responsibilities. 

3. Strengthening Regulatory Frameworks on Environmental Protection

The advisory opinion should require States to take measures to prevent climate change, including the adoption and enforcement of laws, regulations and policies that oblige companies to reduce their emissions and prevent human rights violations resulting from their environmental impact. 

4. Ensuring Access to Redress Mechanisms

Appropriate measures must be taken to ensure access to effective redress mechanisms for human rights harms related to climate change or mitigation responses. States should ensure that companies that have contributed to climate change participate in grievance mechanisms that remedy harm and address concerns raised by affected people. 

5. Ensuring Access to Justice in Climate Litigation

Members recognize the importance of access to justice in the context of climate change. It is important that the Inter-American Court details minimum standards on guarantees and judicial protection in relation to climate litigation. The Advisory Opinion is an opportunity for the Court to collect the rules and principles that have been established in different contexts. 

Download the First submission in Spanish.
Download the Second submission in Spanish.