The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) published this week its recommendations (officially called “concluding observations”) to Norway which it reviewed during its 68th session. These include recommendations with regards to Norway’s ETOs in the context of its climate and energy policies.
The Committee expressed concern at the State’s policy on oil and gas extraction in the Artic. Under the heading “Extraterritorial State Obligations” in para. 14, CEDAW recalled Norway that: “continuing and expanding extraction of oil and gas in the Arctic by the State party and its inevitable greenhouse gas emissions undermines its obligations to ensure women’s substantive equality with men, as climate change disproportionately impacts women, especially in situations of poverty, since they are more reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods than men and have lesser capacity to deal with natural hazards”.
This is an important recognition by the Committee that States have human rights obligations to avoid further destruction of the climate, which as the Committee pointed out, does not stop at the State’s border. The Committee therefore recommends under para. 15 that Norway reviews its energy policy, in particular its policy with regard to the extraction of oil and gas in order to avoid contributing to gas emissions which disproportionately impact women’s rights around the world.
Whilst the greenhouse gas emission requirements under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the recent Paris Agreement are of a territorial nature, CEDAW and other UN Treaty Bodies have called upon States to take measures to reduce emissions which can result from a State’s fossil fuel extractive policy and subsequent exports. In June 2017, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had recommended Australia “to review its position in support of coal mines and coal exports”. These recommendations confirm that States hold human rights obligations with regards to the climate impacts from fossil fuel exports, affecting around the world the rights of women as well as people’s economic, social and cultural rights.