Media Alert: International law expert speaks out about the effect of climate change on human rights

Date: 10/12/2009

Human rights and global peace have fallen off the agenda at Copenhagen says an environmental and international law expert at the University of Western Sydney.

In an opinion piece, Professor Steven Freeland, from the School of Law, writes the human cost of climate change directly threatens fundamental human rights which entitle every person to a safe life, secure livelihood and clean environment.

"Even though there are still areas of disagreement among nations, the scientific community and some politicians as to these precise effects, and the extent to which action should be taken to mitigate them, all agree that some form of legal regulation is necessary," says Professor Freeland who is also a visiting Professor at the International Criminal Court, The Hague.

"This is even more important given the impact that climate change has on human security, human habitation and, ultimately, on the fundamental human rights of all individuals."

Professor Freeland says the consequences of not acting in a comprehensive and appropriate way are too dire to contemplate.

"Environmental degradation arising from climate change can be both a cause and a consequence of armed conflict and instability. It has devastating effects on millions of people. It is therefore necessary to incorporate human rights considerations into the negotiations directed towards a ''post-Kyoto'' world."

Professor Freeland teaches Environmental Law, Public International Law, Human Rights Law, International Criminal Law and Commercial Aspects of Space Law, and is also the School's Associate Head (Research).

To read the opinion piece in full, visit



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Kristy Gleeson
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