Washington Law Review


This edition of the Washington Law Review features scholarship emanating from the 2009 Three Degrees Conference, and is a testament to the University of Washington School of Law’s continuing exploration of the connection between climate change and human rights through its larger Three Degrees project. Three Degrees is building on an agenda that began to take shape in late 2007 with the Malé Declaration on the Human Dimension of Global Climate Change, an initiative of the Association of Small Island States. It was the Malé Declaration that led to a call for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of the United Nations to undertake an analytical study of the relationship between human rights protections and climate change. The resulting report, promulgated in January 2009, affirmed the impact of climate change on a wide array of recognized human rights, articulated the foundations of arguments for legal duties to threatened and injured people, and advocated international cooperation among states to address human rights impacts of climate change. And yet, reasonable commentators argue that the linkage between the existing structure of international human rights obligations and the ability to use that structure to address climate injuries seems insecure as a formal legal matter, and the framing of climate injuries as human rights harms strikes others as impolitic. Thus, while the OHCHR Report has sharpened awareness that discussion of climate change cannot be complete without consideration of issues of justice to the vulnerable peoples of the world, the work of making that justice a necessary element of our global climate response remains incomplete.

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