Climatizing Human Rights: Economic and Social Rights for the Anthropocene
Oxford Handbook of Economic and Social Rights, Forthcoming
NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 21-20
33 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2021 Last revised: 19 Oct 2022
Date Written: October 18, 2022
The climate emergency poses an existential challenge to the human rights project. If human rights are to remain relevant in the Anthropocene, budding theoretical, doctrinal, and advocacy efforts to address the climate emergency need to be deepened and expanded. The task of urgently advancing climate action through rights-based norms, frames and tactics is what I have called “climatizing” human rights. In this paper, I focus on economic and social rights (ESRs) and propose two avenues for the climatization of ESRs. The first route involves applying the existing ESR conceptual and legal tools to the climate emergency. This route entails both addressing the impacts of global warming on the enjoyment of human rights and ensuring that climate policies follow human rights norms regarding substantive and procedural equity. The second, complementary route entails adapting and updating human rights to the Anthropocene’s realities and challenges. In addition to a concern with guaranteeing at least a minimum of individual freedoms, material welfare and equity compatible with human dignity, this goal requires protecting the planetary boundaries that make life on Earth possible – and thus a concern with the limits to human economic activity. Between the minimum and the maximum there is a vast space for human activities that are productive, equitable, regenerative, and respectful of future generations and the planet.
Keywords: climate change, climate emergency, human rights, social rights, Anthropocene
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