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Climate Rights and Remedies Project Research

Stream 3: Theoretical Account and Critical Reflection


This stream will inject the project with critical reflection on the ability of human rights law to meaningfully tackle the underlying ideologies, values and systems that have led to the climate crisis. 

This third stream of the CRRP seeks to incorporate a legal-theoretical critique of environmental human rights into the overall project, and to provide a theoretical foundation for the project. This aims to clarify what human rights can and cannot do, and what the implications of using a human rights lens may be. 

Among other things, this third stream should ask a series of questions interrogating what the underlying assumptions and preconditions of tackling climate change through human rights are. For example, it should ask: to what degree are human rights compatible with environmental justice, and where lie the frictions between the two? To what extent do human rights hamper or even prevent the pursuit of other goals? How can the particular vulnerability of (and entrenched disregard for) certain individuals, groups or peoples be factored into the equation? How can rights protect flora, fauna or future generations, and how do they relate to corporations and to capitalism? Does the monetization of human rights through accepted remedial practices take the power out of human rights claims? Conversely, can human rights perhaps provide a framework for filling the regulatory voids that accompany new crises? At the same time, we must ask whether capitalism, and particularly its propensity for innovation, is not in fact a necessary ingredient in tackling systemic problems. Last but not least, this stream will ask how individualistic human rights, seen as a vindication of individual agency and dignity, can in turn be limited by environmental concerns and what follows from that for potential mitigation measures. 

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