4th Aug 2022

UN General Assembly declares access to a Clean and Healthy Environment a Universal Human Right...

Started by Martin White

On Thursday 28th July and with 161 votes in favour, and eight abstentions*, the UN General Assembly adopted a historic resolution declaring access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, a universal human right.

The resolution calls upon States, international organisations, and business enterprises to scale up efforts to ensure a healthy environment for all and recognises that the impact of climate change, the unsustainable management and use of natural resources, the pollution of air, land and water, the unsound management of chemicals and waste, and the resulting loss in biodiversity interfere with the enjoyment of this right - and that environmental damage has negative implications, both direct and indirect, for the effective enjoyment of all human rights.

The recognition of the right to a healthy environment by the UN
Human Rights Council & now General Assembly, although not legally binding - meaning countries don’t have a legal obligation to comply - is expected to be a catalyst for action and empower ordinary people to hold their governments accountable for delivering on their environmental and climate change commitments. This right that was not included in the original UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the fact that it will be recognised now is seen as a major change in the very nature of international human rights law.

The newly recognised right is seen as crucial in tackling the triple planetary crisis i.e. the three main interlinked environmental threats that humanity currently faces: climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss - all mentioned in the text of the resolution.

Each of these issues has its own causes and effects and they need to be resolved if we are to have a viable future on Earth.

The consequences of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, through increased intensity and severity of droughts, water scarcity, wildfires, rising sea levels, flooding, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms and declining biodiversity.

Meanwhile, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the largest cause of disease and premature death in the world, with more than seven million people dying prematurely each year due to pollution.

Finally, the decline or disappearance of biological diversity - which includes animals, plants and ecosystems - impacts food supplies, access to clean water and life as we know it.

You can read the full UN press release here;

* States who abstained: China, Russian Federation, Belarus, Cambodia, Iran, Syria, Kyrgyzstan and Ethiopia.


Login or register to add your thoughts.