Human rights lawyers call for immediate climate action following IPCC latest report

March 4, 2022

Following release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) the nation’s leading association of human rights lawyers has warned that virtually all of the human rights Australia is obliged to uphold under core international treaties, depend on meaningful action on climate change. Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) is calling on the Morrison Government to publicly endorse the AR6 Report and its recommendations that the Government accelerate our adaptation and mitigation efforts. 

The AR6 Report assessed scientific knowledge on climate change with a focus on impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation. It warns we are nearing reaching a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures which would cause an imminent increase in multiple significant climate hazards. As a result, Australia can expect more extreme hot days, more frequent marine heatwaves resulting in increased cyclones and rain events such as the unfolding flood tragedy in Queensland and New South Wales. This complex and interwoven chain of events will lead to various risks to ecosystems and presents an imminent and serious threat to the human rights of all Australians and indeed all humans.

ALHR Environment and Human Rights Subcommittee Co-Chair Fia Hamid-Walker said, “It is important to read the AR6 Report in tandem with binding international human rights instruments. The climate crisis is a catastrophic human rights crisis because a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a precondition to the realisation of almost all human rights. There is a misconception that the impacts of climate change are reserved for future generations but it is increasingly clear that they are being felt and suffered through now.”

The Australian Government has said much of its unqualified support for the international rules based order over past weeks yet its lack of action to address the imminent threats of climate change risks violations of the rights it has agreed to uphold within the United Nations system, Moreover Australia is out of step with developments at the United Nations Human Rights Council which last year recognised that all people have a stand alone right to live in a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.”

“As a privileged country, we have extraterritorial human rights duties to assist and protect our most vulnerable neighbours from the risks of climate change, including human rights risks to life, to development, and to self-determination that are under real threat from our Government’s inaction.

“ALHR recognises that First Nations people have maintained knowledge regarding previous sea-level rise, climate patterns, and shifts in seasonal change. Their knowledge provides insights that can inform our adaptation strategies on climate change and we urge the Australian Government to involve First Nations in climate change action,” Ms Hamid-Walker said.

“The IPCC 6th Assessment Report is highly confident that if we take action to limit global warming nearing 1.5°C it can substantially reduce projected losses and damages and in turn reduce the human rights impacts of climate change. However, these measures will require ambitious and large-scale adaptation efforts that must commence now.”


For all media inquiries, contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager, on 0431 980 365.