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With 161 yes UNGA adopts resolution on human right to clean environment

NEW YORK, JULY 29 – With the massive majority of 161 votes in favor and only eight abstentions, the 76th General Assembly adopted today a resolution on the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. Italy joined the European Union welcoming the text according to which climate change and environmental degradation are some of the most pressing threats to humanity’s future.

The resolution calls on states to step up efforts to ensure their people have access to a “clean, healthy and sustainable environment.” The text is not legally binding on the 193 UN Member States, but advocates hope that 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. Supporters say that would give environmental campaigners more ammunition to challenge ecologically destructive policies and projects.

“It is by now an established fact that climate change and biodiversity loss have substantial negative effects on the effective and full enjoyment of human rights,  disproportionally affecting women and girls in diverse situations and conditions, and those that are already in vulnerable situations including indigenous peoples, children, older persons, and persons with disabilities”, the European Union said explaining its vote. “This resolution sends a message that nobody can take nature, clean air and water, or a stable climate away from us – at least, not without a fight,” remarked Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). According to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, it will be an important tool for accountability and climate justice: “The well-being of people around the world and the survival of future generations depends on the health of our planet”. In Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet hailed today’s recognition of the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment by the UN General Assembly and called for urgent action to make it a reality for all. “This decision reflects that all rights are connected to the health of our environment. Every person, everywhere, has a right to eat, breathe and drink without poisoning their bodies in doing so, and to be able to live harmoniously with the natural world, without constantly growing threats of ecosystem collapse and climate catastrophe,” Bachelet said.

The resolution comes as the planet grapples with what Andersen called a triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. Left unchecked, the new resolution said those problems could have disastrous consequences for people around the world, especially the poor, and women and girls.

The General Assembly resolution follows a flurry of similar legal reforms at the international and national levels. In April, the UN Human Rights Council declared access to a “clean, healthy and sustainable environment” a human right.

Earlier this year, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean pledged more protections for so-called environmental defenders, including indigenous peoples campaigning against logging, mining and oil exploration in protected areas. In 2021, 227 environmental defenders were reportedly killed. And last year, the State of New York passed a constitutional amendment guaranteeing citizens a right to a “healthful environment.” (@OnuItalia)


Il giornale Italiano delle Nazioni Unite. Ha due redazioni, una a New York, l’altra a Roma.

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