Advocacy statements

Environmental Rights

  • Date / 2019
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 8: Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

International Humanist and Ethical Union

41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council (24th June – 12th July 2019)

General Debate Item 8

A safe, clean and sustainable environment is integral to a full enjoyment of all rights mentioned in the Vienna Declaration, including the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation.

Last month, humanists from around the world approved the Reykjavik Declaration on the Climate Change Crisis. Humanists International and its member organizations agreed that:

“Human beings are part of the natural world but have a disproportionate effect on the global environment and biodiversity. Throughout history, our species has used the natural world to increase individual and collective wellbeing, and the impact we have is no longer sustainable. Governments need to respect the overwhelming conclusions reached by the international scientific community, including that the overuse of natural resources and the increase in greenhouse gas emissions is driving catastrophic climate change, threatening the diversity of life on Earth and the sustainability of human societies.”

Notably, climate change adversely affects not only human communities, but non-human animals and natural ecosystems.

We call on the world to act with urgency and in a globally coordinated way to reduce and prevent human contributions to climate change, to mitigate climate impacts and adapt to them.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on the Environment has pointed out, “There can be no doubt that the right to a healthy environment is a moral right […] However, to ensure that this right is respected, protected and fulfilled, it requires legal protection.” Accordingly, we call on this Council to explore the possibility of creating a legal recognition of the right to a healthy environment at the global level. 


Suggested academic reference

'Environmental Rights', Humanists International

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