Chairperson of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Professor Damilola Olawuyi (SAN) has called for increased international cooperation to ensure that ongoing global efforts to transition to low carbon energy sources do not constrain progress on human rights and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially in developing countries.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who is also the global vice chair of the International Law Association, made these remarks while presenting a report to world leaders at the ongoing 78th Session of the United Nations Generally Assembly in New York, United States. Themed “Extractive Sector, Just Transition and Human Rights, the report considers how governments, businesses, investors and other stakeholders in the extractive sector can best design and implement just, inclusive, and human rights-based energy transition programs in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

In response to the climate change emergency, several countries worldwide have announced energy transition and low carbon programs. While elaborating the need to ensure that such programs do not result in adverse human rights impacts in fragile and at-risk economies and societies, Olawuyi called on governments and businesses worldwide to seize the momentum of the ongoing energy transition to accelerate economic diversification and eco-entrepreneurship, especially upskilling and reskilling programs that generate new investments and jobs in clean technologies sector, such as hydrogen, electric vehicles and carbon capture and storage.

According to him: “The energy transition cannot replicate or create new forms of human rights abuses, including unemployment, social exclusions, land grabs, poverty, energy insecurity and conflict risks. The energy transition drive must be just and inclusive and should leave no one behind. A just transition requires systemic changes that promote sustainable consumption patterns, foster equitable access to clean energy, and prioritize the well-being of both people and the planet with full regard to international human rights law and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.” In this regard, the report recommends that “developed countries should mobilize financial and technical resources to assist resource-dependent countries as part of a common global effort and international solidarity to keep the energy transition ambition on track.”

Olawuyi also called on investors and businesses to align their business practices, policies, processes, governance structures and decisions with the goals of the Paris Agreement, most especially the requirement to ‘respect, promote and consider human rights when taking action to address climate change.’ He challenged all stakeholders to avoid greenwashing and misleading claims on energy transition programs through clear, credible, transparent, and accessible reporting. “Civil society and impacted communities, including Indigenous Peoples and human rights defenders, play a critical role in enabling businesses and investors to identify, prevent and address human rights risks.” said Olawuyi.

As part of the visit, Professor Olawuyi also held high-level talks with the UN Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in New York, Ms. Ligia Noronha, and other key stakeholders in government, business, civil society, and academia.

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