With 161 votes in favour, and eight abstentions, the UN General Assembly adopted a historic resolution on July 28, declaring access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, a universal human right.The resolution, based on a similar text adopted last year by the Human Rights Council, calls upon States, international organisations, and business enterprises to scale up efforts to ensure a healthy environment for all.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, welcomed the decision and said the landmark development demonstrates that Member States can come together in the collective fight against the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
“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,” he said in a statement released by his spokesperson’s office. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also hailed the Assembly’s decision. “Today is a historic moment, but simply affirming our right to a healthy environment is not enough.
The General Assembly resolution is very clear: States must implement their international commitments and scale up their efforts to realise it. We will all suffer much worse effects from environmental crises, if we do not work together to collectively avert them now,” she said.
The text, originally presented by Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland last June, and now cosponsored by over 100 countries, notes that the right to a healthy environment is related to existing international law and affirms that its promotion requires implementation of multilateral environmental agreements. It also recognises that the impact of climate change, 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.
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