Climate change as a business and human rights issue
by Stephanie Triefus
source: Markus Spiske via Unsplash
Climate change is increasingly understood as an issue that entails responsibility from all organs of society, including businesses. Law is one of the tools being picked up by activists and affected communities to hold the largest polluters accountable for their contribution to climate change and its devastating impacts.
On 15 October 2020, the NNHRR Business and Human Rights Working Group held an online panel discussion on the intersection between climate change and business and human rights. As climate change has only recently started to be integrated into the business and human rights debate, this event aimed to bring in the voices of scholars and practitioners who are tackling corporate and state accountability for climate change from different perspectives. The panelists included Annalisa Savaresi (University of Stirling), Damilola Olawuyi (Hamad Bin Khalifa University) and David Birchall (University of Nottingham Business School, Ningbo). This blog recaps the ideas put forward by the panellists in their presentations and insightful discussions with the audience through the Q&A session. A recording of the event and the panelists' slides can be found on the NNHRR website.
Photo credits: https://scistarter.org/noisetube
Anna Berti Suman*
Tilburg Institute for Law Technology and Society, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands
*Telephone: +31134668403; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Postal address: Prof. Cobbenhagenlaan 221, 5037 DE Tilburg, The Netherlands.
Excessive noise levels represent a pressing issue seriously affecting people’s health and wellbeing in contemporary cities. High levels of noise can threaten both mental and physical health, causing persistent stress and impinging over environmental rights such as the right to a healthy environment. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has often reflected on the connection between environmental protection and human health. In a number of cases, some expressly dealing with noise-associated nuisances, the ECtHR has been lenient in identifying causal links between environmental harm and resulting health effects. In the Dubetska case, for example, the Court found a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) enshrining the respect for private and family life because of severe water pollution. The Court noted that it is “often impossible to quantify [pollution] effects in each individual case” (para 106) but it suffices that pollution is “in clear excess of applicable safety standards [creating an] elevated risk to health” (para 111) to determine a breach of Article 8 ECHR. Specifically addressing noise-induced pollution, in the Deés case, the Court again affirmed that the mere fact that the noise exceeded substantially statutory norms was sufficient to constitute a violation of Article 8 ECHR. This open interpretation may allow citizens monitoring their environment to stand in court for violation of their right to health or to a healthy environment whenever they can demonstrate a substantial exceeding of (national or international) environmental standards.