Law Professor appointed as UN independent expert on climate change and human rights

UN Palace of Nations, Geneva

A Professor of Global Environmental Law at the University of Strathclyde has been appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights.

Professor Elisa Morgera, Director of the Strathclyde-led, international research programme for sustainable development, the One Ocean Hub, was confirmed in the post by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, from a pool of more than 50 candidates.

She has become the first Scotland-based UN Special Rapporteur in any thematic area and the second on Climate Change since the post was established in 2021.

Professor Elisa Morgera

 Tasks in the Special Rapporteur’s mandate include:

• studying and identifying how the adverse effects of climate change, including sudden and slow onset disasters, affect the full and effective enjoyment of human rights
• identifying existing challenges, including financial challenges, in Member States’ efforts to promote and protect human rights while addressing the adverse effects of climate change
• raising awareness of the human rights affected by climate change, especially of people living in developing countries particularly vulnerable to it
• working closely with Member States and relevant stakeholders, including business enterprises, to adopt a human rights perspective to mitigate potential adverse effects of their activities on human rights in the context of climate change.

Professor Morgera said:

It is a critical time to illuminate the full potential of human rights to respond to diverse demands for climate justice and clarify how public authorities, business, and civil society must leave no-one behind in urgently charting a transformative path towards a safe climate for present and future generations.

“I look forward to working with the United Nations and its Member States, human rights holders and experts to enhance our opportunities to learn from one another in co-developing effective, fair and inclusive solutions to the greatest challenge of our times.”

Human rights

Professor Morgera became Director of One Ocean Hub on its establishment in 2019, to bring together researchers, coastal people, decision-makers, civil society, and international organisations and support learning from different knowledge systems on the inter-dependence of human rights and a healthy ocean, including at the ocean-climate nexus.

The professor specialises in international, European and comparative environmental law, with a particular focus on the interactions across international biodiversity law, international climate change law, the law of the sea and international human rights law. She has published extensively on the human rights to a healthy environment, human health and science, as well as the human rights of children, Indigenous peoples, small-scale fishers and other local communities that are dependent on a healthy environment, and business responsibility to respect these human rights.

Professor Morgera holds a PhD in international law from the European University Institute and an LLM in Environmental Law from University College London. She speaks five languages and has conducted field work, for the UN or on academic research projects, in more than 30 nations. She is also a member of the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and Environment and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Healthy ocean

The One Ocean Hub is a Strathclyde-led international programme of research for sustainable development, working to promote fair and inclusive decision-making for a healthy ocean. The Hub has 18 partner organisations, including various UN agencies, and 21 research partners in Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.

As part of the global coalition supporting the international recognition of the human right to a healthy environment, the One Ocean Hub won the UN Human Rights Award in 2023.