Creating Jobs To Combat Climate Change And Maintain Ecological Human Rights


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has unequivocally affirmed in its reports that environmental change is genuine.[2] The primary cause of this change is greenhouse gases emitted from human exercises.[3] The increasing recurrence of extraordinary weather events and cataclysmic events, rising ocean levels, floods, heatwaves, dry spells, desertification, water deficiencies, and the spread of tropical and vector-borne maladies are some of the adversaries of this climate change. These adversaries directly or indirectly jeopardise the effective and efficient enjoyment of Ecological Human Rights by individuals. These rights include the right to life, sanitation and safe drinking water, clean air, food, housing and work. Amidst this, the states should endeavour to prevent probable adverse effects of climate change and ensure to safeguard the Ecological Human Rights of people affected by these climate changes.[4] They should make sure that people, especially those in more vulnerable situations, have the means to adapt to these changes and, have proper access to operative remedies.[5]

This article is an attempt to delve into the idea of how the creation of jobs will help towards the adaptability of climate change while maintaining ecological human rights. The states can create these jobs while adapting and transforming the infrastructures to lesser carbon emission form. The states have to frame policies which not only addresses the challenges put forth by climate change but also create jobs. Human Rights-based policies will be the best way to contain the negative impact (of climate change) on the employment of people and other economic activities of the society.


There is an underlying linkage between climate change and ‘work’ world.[6]This linkage negatively impacts the latter. To better the understanding between this link and the impact, three elementary aspects play a crucial role.[7]

  1. Jobs that directly or indirectly rely on ecosystem services. Climatic changes all directly or indirectly threaten forestry, tourism, agriculture, fisheries and many other activities. Reduced biodiversity can hinder forest economic activities. Non-availability of clean water for agriculture may lead to less or unproductivity season.
  2. Lesser environmental hazard, better working conditions. Some climatic changes like less rainfall and unavailability of freshwater can affect economic productivity of sectors like agriculture. Higher temperatures can make the workplace very hot. This change can render labour unproductive due to exhaustion. It may also lead to migration and can increase unemployment.
  3. Vulnerable class tend to get affected more due to environmental changes. Migrant workers, women, tribal and indigenous people, people in poverty, a person with a disability and other vulnerable people will be affected more, thereby perpetuating and generating inequality.

As seen above, natural ecosystems and economic human activities have a nexus between them. This nexus leads to a principle that human industrial activities must operate within confided boundaries of ecological processes. If human activities break this boundary, then it gives way to environmental anomalies which can have a negative impact. Such impacts are in the form of a heatwave, untimely rainfall, natural disasters and many more. In a nutshell, if humans consume more of the Earth’s resources and outpace the regeneration speed of the Earth, then the resulting climate change will have a negative impact on jobs/ employment.

Rising temperatures mean that the labour or the working people would need more time to maintain their mean body temperature to avoid the possibility of heat strokes. Further, it is a natural body defence mechanism against heat exposure to slow down and keep healthy body heat. These risks get more intensified in countries which are more exposed to heat. Similar climatic threats are present all over the globe.


Right to life, right to health, right to housing, right to water and sanitation are all considered Human Rights.[8] The rights entitled an individual to have a dignified life, be treated equally, have a safe experience with freedoms, and to be protected by their elected government.[9] Climate change is affecting many of these rights negatively.

As seen recently, wildfires have caused massive damage to the Amazon Forests. This forest is rich in biodiversity. These wildfires can be the result of rising global temperatures. Similarly, reports claim that the glaciers of Arctic and Antarctica are melting at an increasing rate. This increased rate of melting is increasing global sea-level, which is further causing floods.

Climate change also causing cardio-respiratory problems due to rising global pollution levels, which is a threat to the health of all the living beings on this planet. Reports suggest that there is an uptick in Global Hunger levels due to less production of food resulting out of varying climatic conditions. [10]All these phenomena are a result of climate change caused due to exploitation of natural resources. All these events pose more threat to the life of an individual and hence, violates Human Rights.

Article 2 of “Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” confers with the state government the prime responsibility and duty to protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.[11] This resolution also confers the obligation on corporations, associations and individuals to maintain human rights.[12] Hence, it is the duty of the state (though not wholly), and corporations, to frame policies to contain climate change and prevent violation of ecological human rights (as declared by the UN).[13] The failure to take adequate steps will be a violation of these rights.[14]


As seen in the preceding section, the state must safeguard ecological human rights of its people. However, can a state safeguard these rights by creating jobs? How can the country respond to the negative impact of climate change on employment by creating more jobs? How can the state do climate justice? These are some questions answered in this section.

Although it is a general perception that environmental degradation poses a significant threat to many employment sectors, if appropriately managed, climate change can create better and more jobs. It is so because adaptation and transition to a better carbon emission state will require to generate more employment opportunities to cater to eco-friendly production processes. These include but are not limited to the establishment of coastal defences, relocation of exposed settlements, building climate-resistant infrastructures and transfer to greener energy.

The Paris Climate Agreement, 2015 and International Energy Agency (IEA) mandated all the states who ratified to limit global warming and global greenhouse gas emission to below 2 degree Celsius each.[15] To maintain these levels, countries will have to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This change will create changes in all the economic sectors which will turn demands in different areas. Hence, in some industries, there will be an increase in labour demand, and thus, jobs will be created, while in other redistribution of labour takes place.[16]

A study conducted by Ecotech Institute concluded that the United States created 1.2 million ‘clean’ jobs in the year 2014.[17] Similarly, China was able to invest 1.7 million people in renewable energy, and it is presumed that it could further create 7 million jobs if government targets are met.[18] It was also estimated that 5.7 million people were directly or indirectly employed in the year 2012 in this sector worldwide, which could triple by 2030.[19] India’ s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act also provided job opportunities to rural adult volunteers to do manual unskilled-labour. A significant share of this work is building and boosting environmental resilience.

Hence, it is very clear from the preceding paragraphs that to cater to the changing climatic conditions; a state needs to shift to cleaner, greener and more vibrant energy. This shift will create labour demand in different sectors of the economy. To meet these demand jobs will be created. Therefore, to combat climate change creation of employment is one of the necessities.

Further, job creation is only taking place so that we can shift to better energy which could reduce the rate of climate change. This reduced rate will also help the state in maintaining natural assets of the country and develop infrastructures to safeguard further exploitation of these resources. This step, in turn, will help the nation to restore the ecological human rights of the people who are getting negatively affected due to climate change. Therefore, the creation of jobs plays a vital role in combating climate change and maintain ecological Human Rights. It is indispensable on the part of the state for climate justice.


[2] United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, The Impacts of Climate Change on the effective Enjoyment of Human Rights, available at


[4] United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Human Rights and Climate Change, available at,enjoy%20lives%20of%20human%20dignity.


[6]Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), 2014.

[7]International Labour Organisation (ILO), The employment impact of climate change adaptation, 2018 available at:—ed_emp/documents/publication/wcms_645572.pdf.

[8]Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, art 3, 22, 23, 25,

[9]Greenpeace International, What does Climate Change has to do with Human Rights, Dec 10, 2018, available at

[10] FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2018. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018. Building climate resilience for food security and nutrition. Rome, FAO. Available at

[11]General Assembly Resolution 53/144, Declaration of Right and responsibility of individuals, groups and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Dec 9, 1998, art 2.


[13]John H Knox, Human Rights Obligation relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, Human Rights Council Resolution 37/8, July 19, 2018.


[15]Guillermo Montt and Federico Fraga, the future of work in a changing natural environment: Climate change, degradation and sustainability, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Future of Work Research Paper Series 2018 pg 14, available at:—dgreports/—cabinet/documents/publication/wcms_644145.pdf.


[17] Guy Ryder, Cleaner, Greener and Richer, Project Syndicate, Sept 19, 2014, available at:



This article is authored by Kartik Sharma, Third-Year, B.A. LL.B (Hons.) student at The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata.

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