From “Rhetorical” to “Juridical”: Human Rights Instruments Addressing Climate Change Based on the Development of Environmental Rights

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


With lexical, moral, and pragmatic values, the human rights discourse is often believed to be a powerful response to climate change, the global concern of our humanity, at least at a rhetorical level. However, the enticing arguments on ‘rights as trumps’ may oversimplify the relatively complicated climate issue. Although climate change has implications for the enjoyment of a series of human rights, such as the right to life, food, water, health, housing, and self-determination, not all infringements amount to the breach of legal obligations. In this light, utilising the traditional human rights instruments to address climate change seems to be trapped in dilemma.

By reaffirming the common ground shared by human rights and the environment, and illustrating environment-related rights adopted in national constitutions, regional tribunals, international documents, this research argues that the emerging and evolving environmental rights, including an explicit substantive right to a healthy environment, as well as procedural environmental rights like access to information, participation, and justice, have achieved the status of customary international law, which can contribute to the legal redress of climate challenges. States thus have positive obligations to regulate environmental/climate risks, enforce environmental/climate laws, and disclose environmental/climate information. In this way, with the development of environmental rights, the human rights instruments to address climate change, the biggest environmental challenge in our generation, can be not merely ‘rhetorical’, but more fundamentally, ‘juridical’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2020
EventQueen's University of Belfast Law Student Research Network Symposium - Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Dec 2020 → …


ConferenceQueen's University of Belfast Law Student Research Network Symposium
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period3/12/20 → …

Cite this