UN rights council declares clean environment a human right

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) on Friday recognised access to a clean and healthy environment as a basic human right. The vote passed with overwhelming support, despite opposition from some countries, notably the United States and Britain.

Proposed by Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Swit­zerland, the new resolution passed with 43 votes and 4 abstentions from Russia, India, China and Japan. In a surprise move, Britain ended up voting in favor of the proposal. The United States did not vote since it is not currently a member of the 47-member Council even though it is vying for a seat.

Costa Rica’s ambassador, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, said the decision will “send a powerful message to communities around the world struggling with climate hardship that they are not alone”.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said she was “gratified” that the decision recognises “environmental degradation and climate change as interconnected human rights crises.”

The rights chief said in a statement that, “Recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is about protecting people and planet — the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat.”

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

First brought up during the 1990s, the resolution is not legally binding but has the potential to mould global standards. Lawyers invol­ved in climate litigation say it could help them build arguments in cases involving the environment and human rights.

David Boyd, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, called the decision a “historic breakthrough.” “This has life-changing potential in a world where the global environmental crisis causes more than nine million premature deaths every year,” he said.

The World Health Organization estimates that some 13.7 million deaths a year are due to environmental risks such as air pollution and chemical exposure.

From : pk.mashable.com

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