A rights-based approach to climate change governance

This paper will consider the potential for the introduction of a rights-based approach to global environmental governance and its specific application to the future development of the climate change regime. It is based on over 10 years of research in the field of environmental rights and its relationship with global environmental governance. In particular it is based on the analysis and conclusions of the recently published book, Stephen J. Turner, ‘A Global Environmental Right’ (Routledge, 2014).
The paper will discuss the potential benefits of applying a rights-based approach to decision-making, founded on the premise that all actors, whether state or non-state, should ultimately bear a human rights based duty to protect the environment. By summarizing the research that has been carried out, it will explain how such a duty could apply directly to key global actors such as corporations, the WTO, banking institutions and of course states themselves.
The paper focuses on the practical application of such an approach by providing an analysis of the type of legal architecture that would be required to achieve such a system. It explains the legal requirements businesses would need to adhere to along with the international institutions that would be necessary to ensure that fairness could be achieved both for states and the commercial world.
The paper inevitably highlights the weaknesses of the traditional ‘Westphalian’ approach to the resolution of international environmental challenges but seeks to have a ‘problem-solving’ approach by putting forward a practical alternative.