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Article 1 of the UNFCCC states that the adverse effect of climate change will not only be felt in natural and managed ecosystems, but also have "significant deleterious effects" on the "operation of socio‐economic systems or on human health and welfare". The threats of climate change also constitute an opportunity to leverage positive social transformations with a particular focus on the needs of the most vulnerable within a comprehensive sustainable development framework.

The UN system highlights the key social impacts related to climate change in close collaboration with governments, civil society and the private sector, and in accordance with article 4.f. of the UNFCCC, which calls for assessing social benefits or negative impacts together with environmental and economic considerations, before proposing new adaptation or mitigation initiatives.

At the sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Parties included specific references to the social dimension of climate change such as the need to assure gender equity in all aspects of climate change, assure a just transition of the workforce that creates decent work for all, considering impacts on health; agriculture and food security and socioeconomic activities while developing adaptation programmes and the need for climate‐related actions to fully respect human rights.