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Request for an advisory opinion on the scope of the state obligations for responding to the climate emergency

Jurisdiction: Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Side A: Colombia and Chile (Government)

Core objectives: Whether states have specific obligations to confront climate emergencies within the context of the Inter-American System of Human Rights.

On January 9, 2023, Chile and Colombia signed a joint advisory opinion request to be presented before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), aiming to clarify the scope of the state obligations for responding to the climate emergency under the frame of international human rights law. The request acknowledged the human rights effects of the climate emergency, especially highlighting the vulnerability of communities and ecosystems in Latin America. In this line, Colombia and Chile emphasized the need for regional standards to accelerate action to confront climate change. The applicants mentioned the Advisory Opinion OC-23/17 requested by Colombia, where the IACtHR recognized the right to a healthy environment and the relation between environment and human rights. The request identifies the IACtHR as the suitable body to determine guidelines for creating and implementing climate policies based on a human rights approach. 

Colombia and Chile's petition refers to various topics. First, the applicants asked about the state obligations derived from preventing and guaranteeing human rights to confront climate emergencies. In this sense, the applicants enquired the Court about the scope of the prevention duty of states against extreme and slow onset climate effects in the light of the Paris Agreement and the scientific consensus not to trespass the 1.5 degrees of global temperature. Along the same line, the applicants asked about which actions states should take against the damages provoked by climate impacts and which differentiated measures should be taken to protect vulnerable communities. Specifically, Colombia and Chile requested the Court to refer to actions regarding regulation, monitoring, environmental impact assessment, contingency plans and mitigation of activities that can worsen the climate emergency. In this line, the applicants asked the IACtHR about the principles that should 'inspire' these actions, especially regarding adaptation, mitigation, and loss and damage. 

Second, the requesting states focused on the state obligation to preserve the right to life against the climate emergency in the light of human rights and science standards. Here, the applicants requested an opinion regarding the scope of substantive and procedural obligations on human rights and the environment. The applicants especially asked the Court about the importance of protecting the right to access information to guarantee other human rights, such as the right to life, property, health and participation. 

Third, the applicants requested an opinion from the Court to clarify the differentiated obligations of the states to protect the rights of children and future generations from climate change. Here, Colombia and Chile mentioned articles 1, 4, 5, 11 and 19 of the American Convention and asked about the nature and scope of the right of children to access justice to present judicial actions for preventing potentially damaging effects of climate change. 

Fourth, following the clarification of the scope of procedural obligations, Chile and Colombia asked the IACtHR to clarify the nature of the obligations of the states to provide judicial actions for adequate protection and reparation of the rights affected by the climate emergency. In the same sense, the applicants asked about the necessity to implement the obligation to consult for the climate consequences of certain activities.

Fifth, the applicants focused on environmental defenders' protection, referring to the American Convention and the Escazú Agreement. Here, the applicants focused on the obligations that states should comply with for protecting environmental defenders, especially indigenous people and women, for protecting ecosystems in the context of the climate emergency. 

Finally, Colombia and Chile focused on asking the IACtHR about the cooperation between states to confront climate change in the region, especially to clarify the shared and differentiated obligations amongst the region's nations. Here, the questions highlight the need for guidelines to clarify states' role in guaranteeing reparation measures by considering equity and climate justice principles. In addition, the applicants enquired about their actions to confront the migration triggered and exacerbated by climate effects in the region.
Case documents

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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