Climate change is a transdisciplinary wicked problem whose effects are causing widespread economic setbacks, jeopardising fundamental human rights, and threatening people’s lives and livelihoods. In addition to mitigation and adaptation, countries must frequently deal with another important aspect of climate change: loss and damage. Although losses and damages resulting from climate change have been increasing in the past years, countries continue to refrain from encompassing human rights in climate discussions and negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). By neglecting a broader framework, nation-states weaken the response to loss and damage through the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM), in turn creating a gridlock in its finance scheme. Building on scholarly literature that sheds light on the necessity to encompass human rights as a response to loss and damage, this article explains how existing treaties and State obligations under international human rights law provide a base argument to overcome this gridlock and enhance the effectiveness of the WIM, without creating new obligations. Additionally, this article shows that a change in discourse may open an avenue to get funds to support the WIM. Rather than framing liability and compensation exclusively within climate law, States should bring a human rights rationale into climate talks, using existing obligations to comply with human rights treaties and to effectively respond to loss and damage.
Key policy insights:
• The WIM finance scheme is not fully operational because developed States avoid liability discussions, causing the current gridlock in climate talks.
• Many activities contribute to climate change and generate transboundary environmental impacts that limit the human rights of people outside of the territory where the impact originated.
• Developed countries are historically responsible for the majority of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions and have extraterritorial jurisdiction regarding human rights obligations. Consequently, they bear responsibility for losses and damages derived from climate change, which is caused by their emissions.
• An interdisciplinary approach in climate talks, which incorporates existing human rights obligations, has the potential to overcome the gridlock, enabling an operational finance channel within the WIM