By Claire Bright and Karin Buhmann
Climate change has been described as one of the greatest threats to people and the planet. Its impacts affect virtually the entire spectrum of internationally recognised human rights as well as the environment in and of itself. In relation to human rights, there is a growing consensus that companies should exercise human rights due diligence in order to identify and prevent their actual and potential adverse impacts. However, the relevance and implications of the concept of due diligence have not yet fully been analysed in relation to climate change. In this paper, we explore the concept of risk-based due diligence, which builds on the concept of human rights due diligence but extends it to other areas such as the environment. Through a review of recent regulatory developments as well as case-law and other grievances, we analyse the three facets of risk-based due diligence for climate change—prevention, mitigation and remediation. We consider both the short term as well as the longer-term human rights and environmental implications of companies’ climate-related impacts, as well as those resulting from the company’s contributions to the green transition. We argue that risk-based due diligence offers an under-explored but important dual function: providing the operational means through which companies can identify and address the climate-related human rights and environmental impacts with which they may be involved, whilst also taking into consideration the human rights implications of their climate mitigation strategies and contributions to the just transition.