Everyone on Earth has the right to live healthy lives in a clean and sustainable environment, the UN says.
Living in a healthy environment isn’t a privilege; it’s a human right. This means that everyone on Earth has the right to live healthy lives in a clean and sustainable environment.
This is according to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, whsoe members have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution that having a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right.
The decision to recognise it as a human right to have access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is “about protecting people and planet – the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. It is also about protecting the natural systems which are basic preconditions to the lives and livelihoods of all people, wherever they live,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Sadly, however, billions of people worldwide, especially those living in teeming cities in developing nations, inhabit environments that are far from being clean and healthy. Air pollution alone kills an estimated 7 million people globally, according to the World Health Organization.
“[A]lmost all of the global population (99%) breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits containing high levels of pollutants, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures,” the WHO explains.
That is why ensuring that people’s newly declared right to a healthy environment doesn’t just remain words on paper will require concerted action. We must stop polluting the environment and cleaning up pollution as best as we can.
“Bold action is now required to ensure this resolution on the right to a healthy environment serves as a springboard to push for transformative economic, social and environmental policies that will protect people and nature,” Bachelet said.
Often environmental causes take a backseat to economic considerations, however. Worse: environmental activists highlighting crimes against the environment are increasingly at the receiving end of retaliation.
Last year 227 environmental activists were reportedly killed worldwide, according to Global Witness, a rights group. Nearly a third of the murders were linked to resource exploitation such as logging, mining, large-scale agribusiness, hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure projects.
“This [shocking figure] is another stark reminder that fighting the climate crisis carries an unbearably heavy burden for some, who risk their lives to save the forests, rivers and biospheres that are essential to counteract unsustainable global warming. This must stop,” said Chris Madden, a campaigner for Global Witness.