Using Human Rights Law to Address the Impacts of Climate Change: 
Early Reflections on the Carbon Majors Inquiry

16 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2018 Last revised: 3 Jun 2019

See all articles by Annalisa Savaresi

Annalisa Savaresi

University Stirling, School of Law

Jacques Hartmann

University of Dundee

Date Written: November 2, 2018

Abstract

The quest for remedies to address harm associated with the impacts of climate change has recently seen a surge in complaints based on human rights arguments. The use of human rights law as a tool to redress harm caused by climate change depends upon whether a victim can substantiate a claim that a duty bearer has contributed to climate change, in such a way as to amount to a human rights violation. Qualifying the effects of climate change as human rights violations, however, poses technical obstacles concerning causality, retrospectivity, attribution, as well as the provision of an adequate remedy. Yet, these obstacles are not insurmountable. As scientific knowledge improves, tracing causal connections between particular emissions and resultant harms is becoming less difficult. These arguments are being tested in the context of the so-called ‘Carbon Majors’ inquiry by the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines. The inquiry concerns the responsibility of a group of global corporations – dubbed the ‘Carbon Majors’ and including the likes of BP, Chevron, Exxon and Shell – for human rights violations or threats thereof resulting from the impacts of climate change. This paper looks at the Carbon Majors inquiry to critically appraise the role of human rights law in solving complex questions associated with responsibility for the impacts of climate change, until other areas of law raise to this challenge. The paper builds on the authors’ experience providing expert advice in the context of the Carbon Majors inquiry. The inquiry will therefore be used as a point of departure to unpack the questions concerning jurisdiction, causality, retrospectivity, and attribution associated with harm for the impacts of climate change.

Keywords: human rights; climate change; litigation; loss and damage; liability

Suggested Citation

Savaresi, Annalisa and Hartmann, Jacques, Using Human Rights Law to Address the Impacts of Climate Change: 
Early Reflections on the Carbon Majors Inquiry (November 2, 2018). Workshop: Climate Change Litigation in the Asia Pacific, University of Singapore, June 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3277568 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3277568

Annalisa Savaresi (Contact Author)

University Stirling, School of Law ( email )

B12A Pathfoot Building
Stirling, Scotland FK9 4LA
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.stir.ac.uk/people/32901

Jacques Hartmann

University of Dundee ( email )

Nethergate
Dundee, Scotland DD1 4HN
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.dundee.ac.uk/law/staff/profile/jacques-hartmann.php

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