Access to a Healthy Environment Declared a Human Right by UN Rights Council

Originally published by UN News.

In Resolution 48/13, the Council called on states around the world to work with other partners on this newly recognized right.

The text, proposed by Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland, was adopted by 43 votes to 4 with no abstentions from Russia, India, China and Japan.

At the same time, through another decision (48/14), the Council also increased its focus on the effects of climate change on human rights by setting up a special rapporteur dedicated specifically to this issue.

“Bold action”

In a statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called on the Member States to take bold action to achieve the impact of the right to a healthy environment quickly and effectively.

Ms Bachelet said she had long called for such a move, was “pleased” that the decision “clearly recognizes environmental degradation and climate change as interconnected human rights crises.”

“Bold action is now needed to ensure that this decision on the right to a healthy environment acts as a springboard to push for transformative economic, social and environmental policies that will protect people and nature,” she added.

At the beginning of the current session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner described the triple planetary threats of climate change, pollution and loss of nature as the single greatest human rights challenge of our era.

The new resolution recognizes the damage that climate change and environmental damage are inflicting on millions of people around the world. It also emphasizes that the most vulnerable segments of the population are more acutely affected.

The issue will now go to the UN General Assembly in New York, for further consideration.

Decades of effort

Following the adoption of the resolution, Michelle Bachelet praised the efforts of a wide range of civil society organizations, including youth groups, national human rights institutions, indigenous peoples’ organizations, companies and many others.

The High Commissioner also noted that an unprecedented number of human rights defenders in the environmental field were reported killed last year, and called on Member States to take firm action to protect and strengthen them.

“We must build on this momentum to go beyond the false separation of environmental acts and the protection of human rights. It is far too clear that none of the goals can be achieved without the other, ”she said.

Costa Rican Ambassador Catalina Devanda Aguilar, one of the co-sponsors of the decision, said the decision “will send a strong message to communities around the world struggling with climate change that they are not alone”.

The decision comes weeks before the crucial UN climate summit, COP26, which takes place in early November in Glasgow.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 24% of all global deaths, approximately 13.7 million deaths per year, are related to the environment due to risks such as air pollution and chemical exposure.

Featured photo of Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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