Person sitting on floor showing his hands

Climate and environment

Climate change is one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time. The increasing frequency of extreme weather conditions, as well as droughts, water shortages and vector-borne diseases disproportionately affects people living in poverty.

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Climate and environment are closely linked to human rights. When natural resources such as land and water get scarce, the people that are worst affected are often those living in poverty or marginalisation. Companies have a responsibility to know how they affect the climate and the environment, and to ensure they do not contribute to environmental degradation or climate change.

Vulnerable groups suffer the most

Climate change is already a major obstacle in efforts to tackle poverty. In rural areas and cities, vulnerable groups such as indigenous peoples and people living in slums are the ones who suffer the most as a result of environmental pollution and climate change. Women and children are also disproportionately affected when access to natural resources is restricted. Still, the most affected rights holders are often side-lined from discussions and efforts to address these challenges. Many live in danger for defending the environment and their access to land.

Climate change also acts as a threat-multiplier to structural violence and conflict. For instance, increased scarcity of natural resources can lead to tensions due to heightened competition, especially in regions with weak governance and accountability.

Sustainable business models

Companies have a considerable responsibility both to reduce their impact and to demonstrate new alternatives. In order to turn things around, companies need to develop business models, products and supply chains that respect the limits for what the world’s ecosystems can endure. At the same time, companies should respect human rights in all their activities.

Private sector engagement is central to tackling climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, not least by rapidly transitioning to renewable energy sources. However, the renewable energy sector must also act responsibly in contributing to sustainable development that takes human rights impacts of the industry fully into account.

Financial sector fuels economy

The financial sector offers investments, loans and services to projects and companies. A large proportion of the world’s stock markets are currently invested in fossil-based industries and companies that cause, for example, deforestation and loss of biological diversity. Investors therefore have the potential to use their influence to put pressure on companies to protect ecosystems, but also to reallocate resources in favour of green and climate-friendly projects and companies.

They came in without consulting us – the landowners. They brought heavy machines operated by Indonesian workers to clear our gardens and trees. I was scared and cried.

Female elder, Sarawak, Borneo

Report: Silent Approval