AGE responds to UN consultation on the effects of climate change on the human rights of older persons


The United Nations is currently studying the impact of Climate Change on the Rights of Older Persons. We have taken part in a consultation and explained how climate change may disproportionately affect our rights as we age.

The adverse effects of climate change have a broad range of human rights implications. These impacts may be experienced more sharply by people in vulnerable situations. As part of an analytical study to better understand the human rights situation of older persons in the context of climate change, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) has launched a consultation.

As this is a new area of work for AGE, our response was drafted based on consultations of an ad hoc group comprising self-appointed experts from our Task Forces on human rights and healthy ageing, who have an interest and/or experience in this topic.

Older people and climate change

In our response we highlight the heterogeneity of older persons and the particularly adverse effects for people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, older people may be disproportionately affected by climate change due to chronic health conditions, digital exclusion and ageism, which drives the marginalisation and exclusion of older people in many spheres of life.

Older people, especially those with support needs, may be neglected during emergency situations caused by climate change. Systems of information, alerts, warnings and prevention that are only available on Apps or via digital means exclude older people who don’t have access to them. Lack of access to information and support also impacts older people’s ability to take advantage of energy efficient and green solutions. For example, information on funds available to make adaptations (i.e. insulation/windows/heat pumps etc.) or changes (i.e. phasing out petrol cars), are complex and frequently require a high level of online access or literacy and are difficult to navigate. Climate change also affects the everyday life of many older persons and may accentuate the risk of loneliness in old age. Due to hot summers, older people – especially those living alone and those without social networks – are less likely to leave their homes and may thus have fewer opportunities to socialise and interact with others.

The involvement of older people is crucial

To address these challenges local planning is crucial. The involvement of older persons in local decision-making is central to address their particular needs and lifestyle. Inclusion in decision-making is also necessary in disaster and emergency prevention and planning to mitigate some of the risks raised in our paper. Older people must also be empowered at individual level – for example through information about changes they can make in their personal lifestyles, why these are important and how they can get help, if needed – but also as leaders in their communities, who can mobilise action and participate in discussions to counter the negative effects of climate change.

Way forward

AGE will continue looking into the effects of climate change on older people and how older people can become drivers to fight these negative effects. In our contribution we also highlight that it would be important to link UN action on climate change with the WHO programme on age-friendly cities and communities. Moreover, challenges to the rights of older persons are not merely the result of climate change, but are due to persistent prejudice and discrimination in society that drives the marginalisation and exclusion of older persons from policy planning and interventions. This is why we believe that a new international convention focusing on human rights in old age is necessary.

After the report of the OHCHR is published, the Human Rights Council will also lead a discussion on the adverse impact of climate change on the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by older persons. It will also support the exchange of best practices and lessons learned in the promotion and protection of the rights of older persons (47th Session) .

For more information you may contact Nena Georgantzi:

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