Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Human Rights and Climate Change: Call for Abstracts

On 27-28 January 2022, Leiden University’s interdisciplinary seed grant programme ‘Beyond Anthropocentric Interests and Values? Human Rights and Climate Change’ will host a conference on human rights and climate change. Researchers are welcome to join and contribute their view. The deadline for the submissions of abstracts is 26 November 2021.

Re-examining the role of human rights in the context of climate change

The impact of climate change on the human condition has only recently been framed in terms of its effects on the enjoyment of human rights including the right to life, health, housing, water, food, and development of both present and future generations. The negative impacts of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights are hard to deny. Yet, framing these impacts as human rights violations triggers a myriad of philosophical, legal and practical questions.

In some views, for example, the dominant concept of human rights presupposes individualistic harm and responsibility that cannot be easily applied to aggregate problems such as climate change. Others go a step further and question the human rights approach to climate change as such on the grounds that it cannot provide sufficient protection to non-human parts of nature due to its anthropocentric foundations. Legal scholars and practitioners also point at a range of legal and evidentiary questions, such as questions relating to the territorial scope of human rights obligations and the attribution of harm.

While criticisms such as these do not necessarily defeat the role of human rights in the context of climate change, they do make a strong case for re-examining their role in theory and practice.

Topics and questions to consider (not exhaustive):

  • What role, if any, can human rights play in the Anthropocene?
  • How can injuries resulting from climate change be framed as human rights violations, and how is this issue handled in climate litigation?
  • What ethical and legal principles could govern the distribution of responsibility for causing aggregated environmental harm?
  • How are human rights affected by mitigation and adaptation policies (e. g. geoengineering)?
  • What moral and legal principles could guide us when dealing with actual or potential conflicts between the rights of present and future generations?
  • How ought we to characterize the relationship between humans and the environment?
  • What are the normative foundations of the right to a safe environment?
  • How, if at all, can a human rights approach to climate change account for ecocentric values?
  • Does nature as a whole or do at least some of its parts have legal and/or moral rights?
  • What are the normative and practical tensions between an approach that is based on inalienable rights and the consensus-building approach of climate negotiations?
  • What are the consequences of climate change reaching the stage of emergency for the application of human rights law?


Submission of abstracts

We invite proposals for papers addressing these and related topics. Please send an abstract of not more than 500 words, prepared for blind review to Jelena Belic (j.belic@fsw.leidenuniv.nl). The deadline for submissions is: 26 November 2021. Decisions will be communicated by 10 December 2021. The aim is to prepare a special issue of a journal based on the conference papers.


Support for travel and accommodation is available for contributors without institutional funding. Participants are encouraged to travel by train if possible.

The conference is part of the project Beyond Anthropocentric Interests and Values? Human Rights and Climate Change funded by the Global Transformations and Governance Challenges Leiden University Initiative.

Contact: j.belic@fsw.leidenuniv.nl

This website uses cookies.  More information.