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The Paris Agreement and human rights: is sustainable development the ‘new human right’?

Sumudu Atapattu

Keywords: Paris Agreement; sustainable development; human rights; vulnerable communities; social justice; climate change; environmental justice

The Paris Agreement will go down in history as the first binding global environmental treaty to include a specific provision on human rights. While the preambular reference could have been better drafted, the explicit textual inclusion of human rights in an environmental treaty is a major step forward. This article discusses the human rights provision in the Paris Agreement in the wider context of sustainable development and reflects upon whether the concept of sustainable development is a useful tool that can be deployed by advocates of human rights. The article discusses sustainable development and its evolution, and examines the meaning of its three pillars as endorsed in the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development – economic development, environmental protection and social development. This article argues that these references to sustainable development might be another avenue by which to bring human rights into the Paris Agreement. Sustainable development includes human rights and, therefore, by implication, the Paris Agreement should be interpreted as including human rights that are encompassed in the social pillar of sustainable development.

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