COP26: RWI Went to Glasgow

This year, the COP 26 summit is hosted by the United Kingdom, in partnership with Italy. It takes place at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland, between 31 October – 12 November, 2021.

But, what is COP? 

COP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’, and is the supreme decision-making body of the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change  (UNFCCC) adopted in 1992. All states that are Parties to this Convention are represented at the COP. At the summit, they will review the implementation of the Convention and any other legal instruments that the COP adopts, including the Paris Agreement from 2015. They will also take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention, including institutional and administrative arrangements.

‘The Parties’ refers to the 197 states that have signed the UNFCCC adopted in 1992. For almost three decades, world governments have gathered every year at the COP, with the exception of 2020 when COP was postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19, to forge a global response to the climate emergency.

During COP 21 in 2015, the binding international treaty ‘The Paris Agreement’ was adopted by almost all countries in the world. By signing the agreement, states committed to submit their national plans on how to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions – widely known as the ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs).

Meet us at COP26 in Glasgow

We are at COP26 until the end of the week!

Jonah Wigerhäll
Dr. Matthew Scott 
Victor Bernard 

More to read: 
The work we do within Climate Change and Human Rights

Blog post ‘Water as a Human Right’ by Martha E.Davis  
Blog post by Dr. Claudia Ituare-Lima Climate Justice and Human Rights Towards a Grounds-Up International Law?

Our event at COP26 (hosted 4 Nov) 

city people

What does COP 26 aim to achieve, and why is it important?

COP 26 is a critical summit for global climate action, especially against the backdrop of the daunting 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that warns that unprecedented climate action is urgently needed if we are to achieve the 1.5-degree target.

The signatories of the Paris Agreement are expected to submit new and more ambitious NDCs every five years, widely referred to as the ‘ratchet mechanism’. The NDCs submitted in 2015 were collectively not ambitious enough to limit the temperature increase to ‘well below’ 2 degrees, never mind 1.5 degrees.

COP 26 marks the first five years since the Paris Agreement was signed. As such, it is the first litmus test of its ambition-raising function. One of the benchmarks for success is that as many governments as possible submit new NDCs that are ambitious enough to put the world on track for limiting the temperature increase ‘well below’ 2 degrees, preferably 1.5 degrees.

Enhancing countries’ ability to adapt to climate change impacts is another important aspect of COP 26, given that some adverse consequences are now considered by the IPCC report as “irreversible”. Loss and damage will also be high on the climate agenda this year. It is a discussion underpinned by the question on how states will address and remedy the irreparable climate-induced economic and non-economic damage that cannot be avoided. This issue is particularly important for small island states whose very existence is threatened by rising sea levels.

Discussions on climate change adaptation often focus on mobilising finance. Although, it is equally important that the Parties do not lose sight of making progress on other issues, such as operationalising the Paris Agreement’s ‘global goal on adaptation’ which, is vaguely formulated.

Click here to read more.  

Videos: On Human Rights and Environment

Climate Displacement: People on the Move

Environment: Localising the SDGs

Human Rights & Environment: Knowledge and Networking

Publications: Human Rights and Environment

Prosperous and green in the Anthropocene: The human right to a healthy environment in Southeast Asia

Report citation by : C. Dany, C Ituarte-Lima, D.Paramita, D.Paul, MM.Aung, MT.Aung, N.Saenphit, S.San, T.Chavisschinda, V.Bernard. ISBN: 978-91-86910-32-7 . Jan. 5, 2021

For the first time in human history, people are collectively modifying the Earth’s environment and ecosystems on a global scale. Some scholars suggest the world is entering a new geological era, the Anthropocene, in which Earth systems are moving into a risky and unstable state as a result of people’s impacts on the environment.

The social-ecological crises we are experiencing do not affect all people in the same way. People in already vulnerable situations are experiencing the most severe impacts, although they may bear least responsibility for these changes. Humanity must shift towards new ways of living through just and sustainable pathways.

Women’s Human Rights and the Right to a Clean, Safe, Healthy, and Sustainable Environment

Reference Manual for Judges 2019 . Oct. 27, 2020

The manual is the product of a consultancy conducted by Ms Elisse Tillet-Dagousset in 2018, which included a consultation with South Asian judges in the framework of a Judicial Dialogue for South Asia, organized by RWI and ICJ in Kathmandu 29 September-1 October 2018.

The Judicial Dialogues, and the development of this manual, were organized jointly by RWI and ICJ in the framework of RWI’s Regional Asia Programme on Human Rights and Sustainable Development (2017-2021), which is funded by Swedish Development Cooperation.

The manual is designed for judges as the primary beneficiaries. However, it may also be useful as a capacity building tool and reference material for all legal professionals and advocates for the protection of human rights relating to environmental degradation.

The Right to Safe Water in Southeast Asia

Dr Mohamad Mova Al’Afghani, Dr Sam Geall . March 4, 2021

The human right to safe water is fundamental to leading a life with dignity. It is indivisible from, and the foundation for, achieving many other internationally recognised human rights. Yet approximately 844 million people live without access to safe water worldwide. Around 110 million of those people live in Southeast Asia (hereafter ASEAN).

Read our report on the history of the human right to safe water, and its contemporary relevance to Southeast Asian nations – in collaboration with Chinadialogue. Written by Dr Sam Geall and Dr Mohamad Mova Al’Afghani.

Get in touch

If you wish to know more about what we are doing on Human Rights and Environment or want to hear more about our activities at COP, please contact:

Victor Bernard

Victor Bernard

Regional Asia-Pacific Programme


Victor Bernard is a researcher and development professional with a passion for strengthening the interlinkages between human rights and the environment. Having joined the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI) in 2018, he spearheaded the design and implementation of its regional capacity building initiatives, targeting judges, prosecutors and national human rights institutions across Asia and the Pacific. These initiatives aimed to strengthen these stakeholders’ capacity on leveraging human rights and gender equality to fill the legal and enforcement gaps in environmental and climate change law.

Bernard has also published extensively on displacement in climate change and disaster contexts, human rights in national adaptation processes, and the right to a healthy environment. He has presented his research in several international forums, including the Conferences of the Parties under the UNFCCC. Prior to this, Bernard has led projects related to environment and climate change, conflict and development, countering violent extremism, and the development-humanitarian nexus at the British Embassy in Bangkok (Thailand), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sweden), and the Asia Foundation (Thailand).

Bernard holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of York, and a master’s degree in International Law from the University of Edinburgh.

Read more about Victor and how he works with Climate and Human Rights. 

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