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The Inter-American Court’s Environment and Human Rights Advisory Opinion: Implications for International Climate Law
The Advisory Opinion of the Inter-American (IA) Court of Human Rights on Environment and Human Rights, released in February 2018, has the potential to usher in a new era for the relationship between climate law and international human rights law. This article begins with the Inuit Petition submitted to the IA Commission on Human Rights in 2005 to identify three legal challenges which it brought to light on the application of the international human rights framework to climate change: enforceability, causality, and extraterritoriality. By relying on examples from the Human Rights Council and the Paris Agreement negotiations, we show that these three issues continue to have an impact on the relationship between climate law and human rights. We then draw attention to the groundbreaking character of the IA Court’s Advisory Opinion, and in particular to the finding that the American Convention on Human Rights gives rise to an autonomous right to a healthy environment and to state duties that are both preventive and extraterritorial in nature. We suggest that the IA Court’s revisiting of the three legal hurdles provides an opportunity to close the gap between the disciplines of international human rights and climate law.