The Right to Food

COP 26: Climate action holds key to advancing human rights

News - 23.11.2021

23 November 2021, Rome- “The international community must respond with urgent action to prevent, mitigate and remedy the human rights impacts of climate change”, said Michelle Bachelet, UN High-Commissioner for Human Rights, at the COP 26, the UN Climate Change Conference, held from 31 to 12 November in Glasgow.

The message was delivered during a side event organized by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and other UN agencies. Echoing Bachelet, speakers representing youth and indigenous peoples, amongst others, urged to adopt a human rights-based approach to climate action. Inclusion of people in decision-making, transparency and governments´ accountability were highlighted as good practices.

At the end of the COP 26, delegates agreed that parties should consider their obligations on human rights when taking action to address climate change.

Breakthroughs for climate change justice

Shortly before the COP26 happening in Glasgow, the UN Human Rights Council declared that a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right. Its Resolution 48/13 recognized that neither environmental action nor human rights can be achieved without the other. It also highlighted the importance of a clean environment for the enjoyment of other human rights, including the right to adequate food. This landmark declaration came along with the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, according to resolution 48/14.

Putting human rights in the centre of the fight against climate change is an increasing and global demand. Important steps have been made in this direction. As expressed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “climate change is the biggest threat to our survival as a species and is already threatening human rights around the world”. The Special Rapporteur on the right to development, Saad Alfarargi, also focused his latest thematic report on climate change. Likewise, civil society organizations, youth groups, national human rights institutions and many others continue to take measures in this regard.

Building on this momentum is crucial to stress the linkages between environmental action and protection of human rights.

Living climate change every day

Climate change is putting at risk the access to nutritious, sufficient, safe and affordable food. It is estimated that climate change will make an additional 600 million people go hungry by 2080 and push 132 million people into extreme poverty by 2030.

But this is not only a challenge for the future, also a reality at present. From sea level rise, to floods and droughts, and people displaced in the context of extreme weather events, climate change is affecting the realization of human rights of individuals and communities across the world, including the rights to life, water and food, among others.

This is affecting particularly vulnerable populations, such as small-scale fisheries, children, and women, who find even more difficulties to enjoy their human rights. Reducing inequalities and discrimination is key in response to climate change, in line with the 2030 Agenda and its guiding principle to leave no one behind. 


COP26, which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’, is the biggest climate-related conference on the planet.

In 1992, the UN organised a major event in Rio de Janeiro called the Earth Summit, in which the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted.

Since 1994, when the treaty entered into force, every year the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits or “COPs”.

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