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The UN CRC makes groundbreaking recognition with focus on climate change

The UN CRC makes groundbreaking recognition with focus on climate change

On 28 August the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released the General Comment on Children’s Rights and the Environment with a special focus on climate change. This landmark legal reference tool further develops new human rights standards relevant for a just energy transition that places the rights of those most marginalised and affected by the climate emergency at the centre of this global transformation, future generations.

In this sense, the General Comment is groundbreaking in recognising the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment and for the first time further unpacks the principle of intergenerational equity making it one of the most relevant tools that bridge current existing legal gaps in human rights law. These two main elements of the new General Comment are critical to guide a just energy transition towards a zero carbon future. On the one hand, the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment centres the imperative to equitably decarbonise energy systems by transitioning to clean energy and, on the other hand, the principle of intergenerational equity underpins the need to act rapidly and effectively to avoid the worst impacts of the climate emergency and protect the rights of future generations.

The new General Comment also integrates the proposals made by the Global Initiative for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) to recognise the importance of sustainable, clean, and renewable energy as an indispensable condition to realise the rights to health, housing, and education that ensure States’ compliance with environmental obligations.

Other rights enshrined in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, such as the rights to housing, food, water, and sanitation are referred in the General Comment underscoring that these should be sustainably realised considering material consumption, resource, and energy use. This new legal standard allows to question the endless demand of global energy which is at the root of structural conditions of unsustainability and inequality.

The General Comment makes positive contributions to protect the rights of the child in the context of the development of infrastructure projects addressing energy and/or climate mitigation and adaptation, which in some instances had led to forced evictions, displacement and other human rights violations.

Concerning the obligations of businesses the General Comment recognises that efforts should be harnessed to incentivise investment in and use of renewable energy, energy storage and energy efficiency, especially by State-owned or control enterprises or those that receive funds or services from the State. This new phrasing considers specific financing must be directed towards key areas related to the energy transition and that publicly owned entities should lead setting the example shifting towards clean, efficient, renewable energy.

GI-ESCR’s contributions was also adopted in a new reference that recognizes the importance of encouraging community control over the generation, management, transmission, and distribution of energy, among other things, to increase access to and the affordability of renewable technology and the provision of sustainable energy products and services at the community level.

Against this background, we want to welcome the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) for the adoption of this new General Comment that will contribute to advance the understanding of the energy transition as critical for the respect, protection and fulfilment of the rights of the child and more generally as human rights question that can lead to a just and sustainable future for current and future generations.

The General Comment, however, missed the opportunity to make a more explicit recognition of the rights of future generations as recently recognised in the Maastricht Principles on the Human Rights of Future Generations, the work of the UN Secretary General on future generations, as well as efforts in relation to the pending UN Declaration for Future Generations

You may consult the text of General Comment on this link

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