Samvel Varvastian, ‘The Advent of International Human Rights Law in Climate Change Litigation’

Samvel Varvastian has published ‘The Advent of International Human Rights Law in Climate Change Litigation’, 38(2) Wisconsin International Law Journal (2021), pp. 369-425. The abstract is below. For a link to the full text, click here.


Despite growing concerns over climate change and the proliferation of national climate laws, global greenhouse gas emissions keep rising, while the impacts of climate change are increasingly becoming an existential threat to many human communities around the globe. In response to failing governmental action, the affected communities and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have turned to national and regional courts, as well as regional and international quasi-judicial human rights treaty bodies (hereinafter treaty bodies), to argue that inadequate responses to climate change violate internationally recognized human rights. Following the first attempts to bring claims based on international or regional human rights law (hereinafter human rights law) in climate change litigation in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the use of human rights law in climate cases has been on the rise over the last several years. This article provides a comprehensive assessment of human rights claims and their viability in climate cases decided by national and regional courts, and international and regional treaty bodies as of January 1, 2021. So far, human rights law has been used with mixed success: while some courts and treaty bodies have explicitly acknowledged that inaction on climate change violates or can potentially violate human rights, others have been much more hesitant to take this approach. However, in the latter case, the courts’ and treaty bodies’ interpretations of the applicability of human rights law in the context of climate change and environmental degradation appear to be flexible and open to further development. Coupled with the growing number of such cases globally and their increasing internationalization, these positive developments are likely to lay the foundation for a greater chance of success in future litigation.

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