Insights from International Law Professor and Expert Advisor John Cerone on landmark UN ruling

Landmark ruling for human rights law in the context of climate change.
Two kids playing with water

For the past three years, Fletcher Visiting Professor of International Law John Cerone served as an expert advisor on international human rights law and UN human rights procedures in a landmark climate change case brought by Greta Thunberg and 15 other children from 12 countries. The complaint, which was submitted to the UN body that oversees compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, claimed that Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey violated this human rights treaty by contributing to, and failing to take the necessary measures to prevent, climate change and its harmful effects on lives, health and culture.

In a ruling described as ‘historic’ by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Committee on the Rights of the Child found that a State party can be held responsible for the negative impact of its carbon emissions on the rights of children both within and outside its territory. 

Professor Cerone said although the case was dismissed, the October 10 ruling sets an important legal precedent, further expanding the protection of human rights law beyond a State’s borders. “The Committee found it had jurisdiction to receive a complaint concerning the human rights impacts of climate change affecting individuals outside of the State responsible for the emissions,” he commented. “In so doing, the Committee accepted that the international legal responsibility of emitting States may be engaged under human rights law for transboundary harms resulting from their contributions to climate change.”    

Cerone’s efforts advance the protection of human rights in the context of climate change – and support the important work of The Fletcher School’s Climate Policy Lab which is focused on applying evidence-based research and analysis to climate policies.

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