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Human rights and climate change

16 Apr 2008

Climate change will have significant impacts in both Australia and across the globe. Australia is one of the most arid continents in the world. It is vulnerable to risks such as disruptions to water supply; increases in the severity of storms, floods and droughts, coastal erosion due to sea level rise; and to negative human health impacts, for example through an increase in the range and spread of disease. The impacts of climate change are also a particular concern in the Asia Pacific region. According to the fifth report from the Working Group on Climate Change and Development, ‘the human drama of climate change will largely be played out in Asia, where over 60 per cent of the world’s population, around 4 billion people, live’.

this paper considers the human rights dimensions of climate change. Specifically, it looks at how the rights contained in the key international instruments are threatened by the impacts of climate change. It then goes on to consider what obligations are imposed on Australia, in both international and domestic law, to respond to these threats. Finally, it outlines how Australia may fulfil its human rights obligations, in the context of climate change responses; arguing that a human rights-based approach is the most effective way to respond to climate change.

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