UN Report: Extreme weather violates human rights; “Climate change poses a threat to the right of peoples to self-determination”

Report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the relationship between climate change and human rights: the right to self-determination, A/HRC/10/61, 15 January 2009:

40. Sea level rise and extreme weather events related to climate change are threatening the habitability and, in the longer term, the territorial existence of a number of low-lying island States. Equally, changes in the climate threaten to deprive indigenous peoples of their traditional territories and sources of livelihood. Either of these impacts would have implications for the right to self-determination.

41. The inundation and disappearance of small island States would have implications for the right to self-determination, as well as for the full range of human rights for which individuals depend on the State for their protection. The disappearance of a State for climate change-related reasons would give rise to a range of legal questions, including concerning the status of people inhabiting such disappearing territories and the protection afforded to them under international law (discussed further below). While there is no clear precedence to follow, it is clear that insofar as climate change poses a threat to the right of peoples to self-determination, States have a duty to take positive action, individually and jointly, to address and avert this threat. Equally, States have an obligation to take action to avert climate change impacts which threaten the cultural and social identity of indigenous peoples.

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