The United Nations General Assembly has declared that everyone on the planet has a right to a healthy environment.
In a resolution passed at UN headquarters in New York City on 28 July, the General Assembly said climate change and environmental degradation were some of the most pressing threats to humanity’s future. It called on states to step up efforts to ensure their people have access to a “clean, healthy and sustainable environment.”
The resolution is not legally binding on the 193 UN Member States. But advocates hope it will have a trickle-down effect, prompting countries to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in national constitutions and regional treaties, and encouraging states to implement those laws.
At the national level, declaring a healthy environment a human right would allow people to challenge policies that damage the environment and human health under human rights legislation, which is well-defined in many countries.
“These resolutions may seem abstract, but they are a catalyst for action, and they empower ordinary people to hold their governments accountable in a way that is very powerful,” said David Boyd, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the environment, before the vote.
Enshrining the right to breathe clean air as a human right is precisely what Ella’s Law would do. The UK government backed the UN resolution. Now it’s up to UK lawmakers to make sure that our own laws reflect this extremely important development.
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