This paper advocates for a rights-based approach to climate change. I argue that the government of a state may, and arguably, has the duty to assert and defend the rights of its inhabitants, rather than remaining passive and ultimately defending itself for alleged rights-violating acts and omissions. The premise underlying this approach is that governments exist for the purpose of protecting the sovereign rights of the state and the human rights of their inhabitants, past and future. First, the paper examines the rights of permanent sovereignty over natural rights. Second, it considers interstate cases on trans-frontier pollution, including the landmark Trail Smelter arbitration decision between the United States and Canada in 1905. Next, it discusses sovereignty as a basis for interstate climate change litigation and the balancing of sovereign rights in relation to equity, human rights, and climate change. Finally, it addresses the role of human rights in equitable allocation.
GW Paper Series
GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-52; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2013-52
Dinah Shelton, Equitable Utilization of the Atmosphere: A Rights-based Approach to Climate Change, in HUMAN RIGHTS AND CLIMATE CHANGE 91 (Stephen Humphreys ed., 2010).