Commentary: To ensure a fast & fair transition, human rights must be at the centre of the renewable energy sector

Author: Eniko Horvath & Christen Dobson, Published on: 6 November 2017

"Putting human rights at the centre of the renewable energy sector," 3 November 2017

A fast transition to a low carbon economy is not just about reducing the impacts of climate change—it is also a human rights imperative... At the same time, this transition comes with its own human rights impacts: it is already linked to abuses of the rights of indigenous peoples, access to land and water, and the safety of human rights defenders. Labour rights are also at risk as we move away from traditional fossil fuels... Since 2010, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has approached companies in the renewable energy sector 94 times to request responses to allegations of human rights abuses made by local and international NGOs... As investment in renewable energy increases and the world makes progress toward a low-carbon future, rights advocates have a unique opportunity to put human rights at the centre of an industry in its infancy... Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s outreach to 50 wind and hydropower companies around the world revealed that renewable energy firms do not yet have a strong approach to manage these risks.

Instead of only pressuring companies after human rights abuses take place, the global human rights and environmental communities, along with businesses and governments, have an opportunity to work together proactively to prevent future abuses [by]... call [ing] for affected community members’ and workers’ voices to be at the centre of government and company policies supporting renewable energy,... ensur[ing] that respect for human rights in the renewable energy sector is part of our climate change advocacy,...press[ing] the renewable energy sector to put human rights at the core of its practice,... advocat[ing] for the adoption and implementation of rigorous human rights safeguards for projects financed by international financial institutions and donors. 

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