NUI Galway Public Lecture on Climate Change and Human Rights

Dec 16 2019 Posted: 09:14 GMT

Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, will deliver a public lecture entitled ‘What does climate change really have to do with human rights?’ at NUI Galway. The event will take place on Thursday, 19 December, from 12.30-2pm in the Distillery Buildings, Law Library, Dublin 7, and is co-hosted by the Irish Centre for Human Rights, the Ryan Institute, NUI Galway and the Human Rights Committee, Bar of Ireland.

This event marks the launch in Dublin of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights, led by Dr Maeve O’Rourke, which includes a focus on climate justice and Ireland’s (non-)performance regarding its climate change mitigation obligations.

The lecture will be chaired by Chief Justice, Hon Mr Justice Frank Clarke, and will draw from Professor Alston’s recent UN report on climate change and human rights, in which he described the extreme inequality and suffering that climate change is causing around the world and the steps that governments - and all members of society - particularly in wealthier countries need to take, urgently, to address the climate crisis.

Commenting on the upcoming event, UN Special Rapporteur, Professor Alston said: “Climate change is going to affect all of us, and dramatically, but you’d never know that from the reaction of the legal and human rights communities.”

UN Special Rapporteur, Professor Alston, will address the threats posed by climate change to the future of human rights, and the risk that progress made on human rights, poverty reduction and democratic governance, will be undone. He will highlight the need for human rights activists, lawyers, scientists and Governments to act now, with greater urgency, mobilising policy measures, law reform initiatives and human rights advocacy to secure policy and legislative changes. Professor Alston will also reflect on recent global developments as people globally, and young people in particular, put increasing pressure on their governments to act.

Professor Siobhán Mullally, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, said: “Climate change threatens human rights, including the most fundamental of rights, the right to life. Globally, rights to livelihoods, health, housing, and decent work, are facing urgent and destructive threats globally and locally. Human rights activists, lawyers, Governments and policy-makers need to mobilise and to take courageous and bold steps now to safeguard the future of our children and the fragile protections of human rights that we have fought to defend.”

Professor Charles Spillane, Director of the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “It has been estimated that the richest 10% of the world’s population are responsible for almost half of total lifestyle consumption emissions. At the other end of the income scale, the poorest 50% of people on the planet are responsible for only 10% of total lifestyle consumption emissions. While contributing the least to causing the climate change problem, it is the poorest and marginalised in our societies that are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts and shocks.”

Professor Spillane stressed: “As the world’s leaders assemble for the COP25 climate negotiations in Madrid, there are major action challenges to be addressed relating to both reducing emissions and distributive justice to strengthen the climate change resilience of the poorest and most marginalised in society. While ‘Leaving No One Behind’ and ‘Reaching the furthest behind first’ has been a clarion call of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, it remains to be seen what scale of climate justice actions will be deployed by our governments and institutions towards such ambitions.” 

This event will appeal to policy-makers, NGOs, Government, lawyers, and all those interested in human rights, law, politics, poverty, climate change and/or environmental issues generally.

The event is free but places must be reserved on Eventbrite

The UN Special Rapporteur Professor Alston's report on Climate Change and Poverty can be accessed at and a summary is available at   .


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