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United Nations declares access to clean and healthy environment a universal human right

While the natural world continues to rapidly deteriorate, the United Nations General Assembly this week reaffirmed that everyone on the planet has a right to a healthy environment.
The United Nations General Assembly declared climate change and environmental degradation to be among the greatest challenges to humanity's survival in a resolution voted on Thursday, July 28 at UN headquarters in New York City. State governments were urged to do more to provide their citizens with a "clean, healthy, and sustainable environment."
Despite the resolution's lack of binding legal force, proponents of a healthy environment are optimistic that it will have a trickle-down effect, prompting countries to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in national constitutions and regional treaties and encouraging states to implement those laws. Those in favour of this point of view argue that it would offer environmentalists more leverage to oppose environmentally harmful policies and projects.
The resolution is timely since the world is facing what Inger Andersen, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has called a "triple planetary crisis" of climate change, the loss of natural habitats, and the accumulation of trash and pollution. The new resolution warned that if these issues were allowed to persist, they would have devastating effects on people all across the world, especially the poor and women and girls.

There has been a flurry of comparable legislative reforms on the international and state levels, and the General Assembly resolution is the latest in this trend. The United Nations Human Rights Council established the right to a "clean, healthy, and sustainable environment" in April.
At the beginning of the year, many Latin American and Caribbean nations made commitments to increase protections for "environmental defenders," such as indigenous peoples fighting against logging, mining, and oil exploration in protected areas. Over 227 activists who fought for the environment were reportedly murdered in 2021. New York state voters approved a constitutional amendment last year that ensures all state residents have access to a "healthful environment."
These shifts reflect the growing trend of environmental activists using the law to compel governments to address environmental crises like climate change.
In 2019, the highest court in the Netherlands ruled that climate change posed an immediate threat to human rights and ordered the Dutch government to take additional steps to reduce carbon emissions.
Recently, Brazil's highest court ruled that the Paris Climate Accord is a human rights treaty that should be given precedence over domestic legislation. Proponents of the most recent General Assembly resolution believe it will pave the way for similar actions in the future.

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  • Ajema Lydiah

    65 w

    great step

    • Tabitha Kimani

      65 w

      The they should influence actions towards a clean environment.

      • Daniel Waweru

        65 w

        A great point there, Universal human right. So anyone who contaminates the environment should be face the law, violating human rights.

        • rosebellendiritu

          65 w

          We all have a right to a healthy environment.

          • Johannes Luiga

            65 w

            A very important step!

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