Time to recognize that a safe environment is a human right

On 28 July, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) will consider a resolution on universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment. The resolution was introduced by a diverse coalition of UN member states, in recognition of the human and financial cost of accelerating climate change, biodiversity loss, and toxic pollution. 

There will be no human rights when the world we live in is scorched, sunken and toxic.

Chiara Liguori, Researcher and Advisor on Climate Justice

“The world will be watching closely on Thursday as UN member states publicly assert their positions on the future of the planet. A healthy environment is clearly a prerequisite for the enjoyment of all other human rights – there will be no freedom or equality when the world we live in is scorched, sunken and toxic,” said Chiara Liguori, Amnesty International’s Researcher and Advisor on Climate Justice. 

“The wildfires, droughts and floods that are currently causing upheaval and suffering around the world are just a taster of the dystopia we can expect if we don’t change course. Amnesty International is calling on all states to prove their commitment to protecting the environment, and to upholding the whole spectrum of human rights, by supporting this resolution at the General Assembly. 

“States who plan to oppose it should be aware that they are about to permanently forfeit their credibility and authority on climate-related issues. Those states who have been engaged in attempts to water down the resolution text also risk finding themselves firmly on the wrong side of history.” 

“States who plan to oppose this resolution will  be permanently forfeiting their credibility on climate-related issues.

Chiara Liguori

The resolution has been endorsed by numerous UN agencies, civil society organizations, and organizations representing Indigenous peoples. Encouragingly, dozens of states have already indicated their support by formally cosponsoring the resolution. 

Last year, the 47-member UN Human Rights Council adopted a similar resolution recognizing a clean, safe, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right. 

This was a milestone moment which provided a huge morale boost to climate activists worldwide. Affirming this right at the General Assembly – a body which represents all 193 UN member states – would demonstrate that there is unequivocal and widespread political will to protect human rights from environmental catastrophe.   

“A General Assembly resolution would put pressure on those states who have not yet recognized the right to a healthy environment in their national legislation to do so,” said Chiara Liguori.   

“It would also provide a new tool for environmental human rights defenders who work tirelessly to protect their fellow human beings from the impact of environmental destruction.”