The Council of Europe has called on its 46 member states to recognise the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right.
In a recommendation on human rights and the protection of the environment adopted today, the human rights organisation says that measures to address the triple crisis of climate change, loss of biodiversity, and pollution are essential to the better enjoyment of human rights.
The statement reads: “In the implementation of this recommendation, member states should ensure respect for a number of principles, according to the committee: general principles of international environmental law, such as the no harm principle, the principle of prevention, the principle of precaution and the polluter pays principle; the need for intergenerational equity; the no discrimination principle; access without discrimination to information and justice in environmental matters, participation in environmental decision-making and environmental education.”
It adds: “The committee also expresses concern about the disproportionate effect environmental degradation may have and calls on member states to take adequate measures to protect the rights of those who are most vulnerable to, or at particular risk from, environmental harm.”
Member states are also being encouraged to require business enterprises to act in compliance with their human rights responsibilities related to the environment.
In August, the United Nations Human Rights Council recognised the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right.
The move was welcomed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who released a statement saying the “landmark development demonstrates that member states can come together in our collective fight”.
He added: “The international community has given universal recognition to this right and brought us closer to making it a reality for all.
“The resolution will help reduce environmental injustices, close protection gaps and empower people, especially those that are in vulnerable situations, including environmental human rights defenders, children, youth, women and indigenous peoples.
“The resolution will also help states accelerate the implementation of their environmental and human rights obligations and commitments.”