An Interconnected Path: Uniting Business, Human Rights and Climate Action through Just Transitions
The impacts of climate change ripple far beyond mere environmental concerns; they have far-reaching implications for human rights. Vulnerable communities often bear the brunt of climate-induced disasters, facing displacement, the loss of livelihoods, and threats to health and well-being. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is projected to lead to approximately 250,000 additional deaths annually, primarily due to undernutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. Addressing climate change is, therefore, intrinsically linked to the safeguarding of human rights.
Just transition, defined by the International Labour Organization, means greening the economy in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind.
While rooted in the labour movement, the concept of just transitions has expanded its scope to encompass the broader spectrum of human rights, particularly in the face of climate-induced displacements and the imperative to achieve sustainable development. This echoes the fundamental principle that addressing the climate crisis cannot come at the expense of human rights, nor should human rights be compromised for climate action.
Ensuring Equity in the Transitions
Businesses play a pivotal role in this narrative, serving as agents of change in the creation of alternative, green jobs, investing in clean technologies, and fostering economic diversification, steering away from fossil fuel-based sources of energy and reliant sectors. By aligning economic transitions with human rights principles, business can contribute to a fair and inclusive pathway toward a greener future.
The success in doing so hinges on robust social dialogue. Businesses must ensure the agency and inclusion of workers and communities to ensure the transition process considers their diverse perspectives. This collaborative approach cultivates trust and resilience, mitigating the potential negative impacts on human rights and helping secure support for climate action.
However, agency and inclusion alone are not enough. In conjunction with encouragement and incentives, we must establish strong accountability mechanisms to ensure action and progress.
EU Directives and Accountability
EU Directives applicable to business such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the upcoming Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), alongside other sector-specific directives such as on deforestation, batteries and waste, provide an important backdrop. First, these directives underscore the importance of meaningful stakeholder engagement and respect for labour rights and require companies to implement standards for the promotion and protection of rights, including labour rights. Second, just transitions demand a commitment to environmental sustainability, a principle also embedded in the CSRD and CSDDD. The directives necessitate the disclosure of human rights and environmental impacts and the implementation of due diligence across business relationships. Finally, the CSRD and CSDDD call for transparent reporting, seeking to build accountability for responsible business practices. This transparency is essential for just transitions, where clear communication and accountability are crucial to building trust among stakeholders and ensuring that the transition is truly fair and inclusive.
At COP28 in Dubai, it’s critical that we seize the opportunity to knit the advancements and frameworks of the business and human rights community and the climate community towards a shared, common agenda. Our collective future demands that we navigate this crossroads with a clear understanding: climate action is intrinsically linked with the protection and promotion of human rights, and only through commitment and implementation of just transitions can we pave the way forward.