The implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change should follow a rights-centred approach, not only because negative climate change impacts can directly affect several human rights, but also because actions to address climate change may also provoke unintended human rights consequences. During the negotiations that led up to the signing of the Paris Agreement in December 2015, states included an explicit reference to human rights only in the preamble of the legal norm, negotiating other direct references to human rights out of operative provisions. The outcome of negotiations raised the question of whether states have missed an opportunity to positively and unquestionably secure a rights approach to climate action post-2020. Using a contextual analysis of other international law developments that occurred alongside the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, especially the international agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this paper argues that states have properly integrated a human rights dimension into key operative provisions of the Paris Agreement, albeit indirectly.
The first part of this paper describes how negotiations led human rights to feature only in the preamble of the Paris Agreement. The second part describes how states have integrated a human rights dimension into the concept of sustainable development under the SDGs. The third section describes how states have woven sustainable development references into several of the operative provisions of the Paris Agreement. The fourth part argues that an integrated interpretation of international law leads to the conclusion that human rights have been indirectly incorporated into key operative provisions of the Paris Agreement that reference sustainable development and discusses some of the implications for climate action.