Access to a clean and a healthy environment is a fundamental human right, the United Nations Human Rights Council has declared.
A new resolution passed with overwhelming support from 43 member countries, despite criticism from countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, while countries such as India, Japan, Russia, and China abstained from the vote.
The resolution, although not legally, has been under discussion since the early 1990s, and will put even more pressure on countries across the world in the fight against climate change. In 2015, the Lance Commission declared pollution as the “largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world.”
In a statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said 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.”
The resolution acknowledges the damage inflicted on the planet by global warming and environmental destruction, while also highlighting the most vulnerable populations across the world most affected by climate change.
“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,” Bachelet added.
She also urged the U.N. member states to take firm actions to protect and empower environmental human rights defenders, noting that an unprecedented number of whom were killed in 2020.
The new resolution comes just weeks before COP26, the UN climate change summit, touted to be the most important event to initiate drastic action against climate change. The summit will kick off in the early next month in Glasgow.
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