Australian National University (ANU) lecturer Dr Ian Fry has been appointed the world’s first special rapporteur on promoting and protecting human rights in climate change for the United Nations (UN).
Dr Fry will hold the position, created by the UN Human Rights Council in October 2021, for the next three years.
He was Tuvalu’s ambassador for climate change and the environment between 2015 and 2019 and has worked for the Polynesian island country’s government for more than 20 years.
Further qualifications include his role as lead negotiator for the UN’s Least Developed Countries list on the Paris Agreement and his current position as lecturer at the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society.
As special rapporteur on human rights and climate change Dr Fry will make two country visits per year and report his findings during UN human rights council meetings in Geneva.
Dr Fry said he was keen to get to work in the new position.
“I am excited and kind of daunted by the task because there’s a lot to do,” he said.
Special rapporteur is an unpaid role and comes with several responsibilities. According to Dr Fry these will include studying and identifying the adverse effects of climate change and human rights and blending indigenous and traditional knowledge concerning climate change.
“You can imagine there’s quite a lot to look at in connecting climate change with human rights issues,” he said.
“For instance mining for minerals for electric vehicles has human rights impacts. Building hydro dams can have human rights impacts. So there’s quite a spectrum of issues that I’ve got to consider.
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been reporting on similar sorts of issues, but I think this is a unique position.
“With this position I can also look at specific issues around Indigenous peoples, or gender issues because often women are at the forefront of impacts of climate change.”
Though it’s a new position Dr Fry thinks his experience as a country delegate and climate change negotiator will be useful.
“I was working with less developed countries as well – Tuvalu is a least developed country and I was leading negotiations on the carbon market issue. That will have to change now. I’ll have to look across the broader spectrum of work in that context, so I won’t be directly involved in specific negotiations anymore,” he said.
Dr Fry is expected to start his time as special rapporteur on 1 May 2022.