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Wednesday, November 18 • 09:00 - 10:15
Building back better to prevent climate crisis: What states and businesses need to do

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Session organized by the Working Group on Business and Human rights and OHCHR

Interpretation in English, French and Spanish available.

Brief description of the session:
The session will highlight concrete rights-based actions that States and businesses should take to avoid the impending climate crisis. Various panellists will unpack the respective duty and responsibility of States and businesses under key international instruments such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The session will frame this discussion in the context of “building back better” from the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing rights-based climate solutions that give priority to people and planet over profit.

Key objectives of the session:
The session aims to:
  • Support efforts of States and businesses to build back better and more sustainably from the COVID-19 crisis, promoting a human rights-based approach to recovery efforts, including green stimulus packages;
  • Highlight the linkages between States’ duty to protect human rights and rights-based climate action in the context of building back better;
  • Unpack what the business responsibility to respect human rights entails in the context of impending climate crisis; and
  • Articulate access to remedy for individuals and communities affected by climate change.  

Key questions:
  • How can COVID-19 recovery and stimulus packages integrate inclusive, rights-based climate action? What good practices could States draw on?
  • What does the duty of States to protect human rights mean in the context of averting climate crisis and building back better and greener?
  • How should business enterprises integrate climate considerations as part of their human rights responsibility to respect human rights throughout their operations and in turn contribute to building back better and greener?
  • How can access to information, transparency and policy coherence be ensured, and what measures are needed to address corporate lobbying against measures aimed at mitigating climate change?
  • How can access to effective remedy for individuals and communities affected by climate change as well as the protection of environmental human rights defenders be ensured in recovery measures and beyond?

Background to the discussion:
As stated by the UN Secretary General at the launch of the UN Comprehensive Response to COVID-19 in April 2020, “coming out of this crisis will require a whole-of-society, whole-of-government and whole-of-the world approach driven by compassion and solidarity”. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the need for immediate, evidence-based action to protect both people and planet while building back better.

Preventing environmental harm and ensuring the full and effective implementation of basic human rights such as those to health, a healthy environment, and water and sanitation, is critical to prevent and minimize the risk of infectious diseases. Building back better from the COVID-19 crisis requires cohesive and effective laws, policies and measures to incentivize sustainable business practices. The response to the crisis also offers an opportunity to a just transition to an equitable, decarbonized economy that supports sustainable lives and livelihoods, especially for vulnerable or marginalised groups. States and businesses both have critical roles to play in this regard. All States have an obligation to pursue development that benefits both people and the planet and equitably distribute the benefits of economic growth. Businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, including to integrate climate considerations into human rights due diligence processes.

Additional background documents:

The session will help inform the WG’s project ‘Business and human rights: towards a decade of global implementation' (also known as “UNGPs 10+ / Next Decade BHR”). Centred around the upcoming tenth anniversary of the UNGPs in 2021, the project is taking stock of practice to date, identifying gaps and challenges, and developing a vision and roadmap for scaling up implementation of the UNGPs over the course of the next decade.

avatar for Surya Deva

Surya Deva

Vice-Chair, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

avatar for Cristina Tebar Less

Cristina Tebar Less

Jefa del Centro de la OCDE para la Conducta Empresarial Responsable, OCDE
avatar for Marcos A Orellana

Marcos A Orellana

Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Procedimientos Especiales de las Naciones Unidas
Dr. Marcos A. Orellana is an expert in international law and the law on human rights and the environment. His practice as legal advisor has included work with United Nations agencies, governments and non-governmental organizations, including on wastes and chemicals issues at the Basel... Read More →
avatar for Sharan Burrow

Sharan Burrow

General Secretary,, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
  Sharan Burrow was elected General Secretary of the ITUC at its Second World Congress in Vancouver, June 2010. Prior to this, she held the position of ITUC President since its Founding Congress in Vienna (November 2006) and the position of ICFTU President since its 18th World Congress... Read More →
avatar for José Luis Blasco Vazquez

José Luis Blasco Vazquez

Global Sustainability Director, Acciona
José Luis Blasco joined ACCIONA in 2019 serving as Global Director of Sustainability at ACCIONA.Jose Luis holds a degree in Chemistry from Universidad Complutense of Madrid and an MBA from the IE (Instituto de Empresa) and counts with more than 20 years of experience in the field... Read More →
avatar for Rob Cameron

Rob Cameron

Global Head of Public Affairs and Sustainability, Nestlé
Joined Nestlé in February 2020 after eight years as CEO at think tank and consulting firm SustainAbility. Was previously CEO at Fairtrade International. 

Wednesday November 18, 2020 09:00 - 10:15 CET
Plenary Room