How is the climate crisis a human rights issue?

Most people are familiar with climate change as an environmental issue. Climate change is already causing extreme storms and heat waves, droughts, floods, forest fires, sea level rise and more.

But what does that have to do with human rights?

The climate crisis is the greatest human rights challenge of our time. It affects many human rights, including the right to life, health, food, water, housing, security and the rights of Indigenous peoples. While all of us are affected by climate change, poorer countries and disadvantaged communities that have done the least to cause climate change will be hit the hardest. Climate change compounds and magnifies existing inequalities, and its effects will continue to grow and worsen over time, creating ruin for current and future generations. This is why the failure of governments to act on climate change in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence may well be the biggest intergenerational human rights violation in history.

What should governments be doing?

States have an obligation to protect human rights, including from harms caused by climate change.

A 2018 Special Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that in order to avoid the worst consequences for human rights from climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions must be halved from their 2010 levels by 2030. That’s just 11 years away!

So far, the actions and commitments taken by the Canadian government and other states are inadequate to prevent the climate crisis. Much more ambitious action is necessary. It is imperative that governments take urgent action to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, it is of utmost importance that they do so in a way that avoids harming human rights.

Amnesty Canada urges the Canadian government to rapidly and substantially strengthen its efforts to address the grave and mounting human rights implications of climate change by committing to end the use of all fossil fuels and shift to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible and no later than 2040. At the same time, the Canadian government must ensure that the transition to a zero-carbon economy respects, protects, and fulfills human rights. The Canadian government must also provide substantial financial and technical support to help the hardest hit communities both home and abroad to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

What can I do?

Youth in Canada and around the world are standing up for change as part of a Global Climate Strike. They encourage adults to join them.

1. Join a Climate Strike near you

Find a strike location and time near you >>

2. Follow and share Amnesty’s #ClimateStrike updates on social media

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Where can I learn more about climate change and human rights?

For more information about what causes climate changes, what are the effects of climate change, why climate change is a human rights issue, who will be impacted by climate change, and why governments and corporations must take responsibility to urgently stop climate change click here.  

Latest Updates

For More Information

It’s time to recognize the right to a healthy environment March 10, 2021

No subsidies for enhanced oil production (joint civil society letter) March 10, 2021

Amnesty and others urge Canada to follow Biden’s lead and cancel TMX January 26, 2021

Joint letter urging Canadian Government to order Export Development Canada to immediately stop investing in fossil fuels Dec 21, 2020

Paris je t’aime: the historic climate agreement turns 5 Dec 11, 2020

Climate accountability bill must be revised to protect human rights: Amnesty’s reaction to Bill C-12 Dec 4, 2020

Japan: Commit to phasing out fossil fuels immediately for carbon neutrality target to be human rights-compliant Oct 29, 2020

World leaders responding to pandemic must not forfeit action on climate crisis Sept 24, 2020

Throne speech lacks transformative human rights vision Sept 23, 2020

Amnesty Canada’s letter to Minister Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Sept 21, 2020

COVID-19 response measures: Recommendations to G-20 Environment and Energy Ministers Sept 2020

10 Essays on climate change, justice and human rights Aug 3, 2020

Rich, powerful states must ensure COVID-19 recovery measures tackle global poverty, inequality, and the climate crisis: A message to G20 Finance Ministers July 16, 2020

Just transition toward greener economies: Amnesty’s submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights June 10, 2020

Responses to Covid-19 pandemic must not ignore the climate crisis: Public statement May 14, 2020

USA: Immediately revoke COVID-19 suspension of environmental protections March 27, 2020

Open letter urges Canadian leaders to support human rights defenders following explicit Greta Thunberg sticker Mar 11, 2020

Enjeu legal brief Feb 26, 2020

Factum of the Intervener (carbon pricing) Jan 27, 2020

Davos: Climate emergency must come top of the agenda Jan 21, 2020

UN landmark case for people displaced by climate change Jan 20, 2020

Legal brief: Greenhouse gas pollution pricing act challenge Jan 10, 2020

Madrid climate talks failed: What now? Dec 17, 2019

COP25: Industrialized countries making world’s poorest pay biggest price for climate change Dec 13, 2019

COP 25:States poised to set the stage for decades of human rights abuses Dec 12, 2019

Climate change ranks highest as vital issue of our time – Generation Z survey Dec 9, 2019

Amnesty International to intervene in historic Supreme Court carbon pricing challenge Dec 9, 2019

Landmark decision by Human Rights Commission paves way for climate litigation Dec 9, 2019

New federal cabinet ministers must uphold and protect human rights Nov 18, 2019

Trump’s monstrous move to exit Paris climate pact shows contempt for the lives of millions Nov 5, 2019

Five reasons to join the global climate strikes Sept 19, 2019

200 environmental and human rights leaders pledge to tackle climate emergency together Sept 18, 2019

Greta Thunberg and Fridays for Future receive Amnesty International’s top honour Sept 16, 2019

Amnesty chief urges schools to let students take part in climate strikes  Sept 11, 2019

Amnesty International urges Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to abandon ‘Fight Back Strategy’ in Open Letter  Sept 10, 2019

Letter to Canadian Government in advance of the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Sept 9, 2019

Recommendations to UN states ahead of Climate Action Summit 2019 August 2019