Accounting for the impacts of loss and damage from the adverse effects of climate change on human rights 

By Senia Febrica, Mia Strand, Alana Malinde S.N. Lancaster and Georgina Yaa Oduro

In January 2024, the Hub submitted written evidence to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on “The impacts of loss and damage from the adverse effects of climate change on human rights.” Hub researchers Senia Febrica (University of Strathclyde, UK), Buhle Francis (Rhodes University, South Africa), Georgina Yaa Oduro (University of Cape Coast, Ghana), Andrea Longo (University of Strathclyde, UK), Mia Strand (Nelson Mandela University, South Africa) and Alana Malinde S.N. Lancaster (University of the West Indies, Barbados, The Caribbean) contributed to the submission, focusing on concrete examples of ocean-related loss and damage; as well as data, mechanisms and tools to measure, monitor, report and evaluate the impacts of ocean-related loss and damage.

The researchers also underscored promising practices and critical challenges related to the issue of loss and  damage; and provided a suite of  recommendations which States can implement to mitigate impacts. This blog post summarises key messages from the written evidence.  

Drawing from the Hub’s research the submission: 

  • Reiterated the key point raised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights, Ian Fry, on the inter-linkages between ecosystems, livelihoods, culture and heritage in relation to the loss of and damage to marine ecosystems in his 2022 report “Promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change” (A/77/226); 
  • Highlighted the impacts of the changing climate, such as severe shortages of water and tidal waves, on women and girls that have to bear the brunt of collecting water, sometimes having to walk for more than 5 kilometres, and are often unable to attend school and are prevented from performing basic domestic chores (e.g cooking) when flooding takes place;. 
  • Stressed that supplementary livelihood such as seaweed mariculture can serve as a low-carbon, high-yield alternative to small-scale fisheries (SSF) impacted by climate change (Lancaster et. al., 2022); 

children’s human rights
small-scale fishers‘ human rights; and 
ocean defenders 

The Hub’s proposal on this coalition  is motivated by the problems faced by REDD+’s inability to establish “an institution in charge to ensure coherence and coordination in the delivery of financial and technical support to  used for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and additional  concerns about privileging carbon dioxide removal technologies over nature-based solutions. 

  • Emphasised the importance of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) framework as an example of promising practices and guidance on the following four aspects
    – The application of the ecosystem approach and precautionary principle to climate change technologies and deep-seabed mining 
    – The development and management of Area-Based Management Tools (ABMTs) 
    – The conduct of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) 
    – Social and ecological resilience to ocean acidification and coral bleaching 
  • Drew attention to the complexity of challenges posed by climate change; the need for inter- and trans-disciplinarity research on climate change, ocean, biodiversity and human rights; and the importance to increase investment and funding to achieve  Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 “Life Under Water” the least funded SDGs

For detailed recommendations on clarifying State obligations to take more effective action for addressing loss and damage, read pp.43-45 of the Hub’s Legal Note to the International Court of Justice. 

Related SDGs:

  • No poverty
  • Good health and well-being
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Reduced inequality
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Climate action
  • Life below water