It's time to recognize the right to a healthy environment
There is no doubt that humanity is facing an environmental crisis of unprecedented proportions. Climate change, biodiversity loss, ecosystems degradation and toxic pollution of air, water and soil are dramatic and interconnected processes that severely impact the enjoyment of human rights for billions of people, and particularly of those marginalized and facing discrimination.
In the light of this emergency, it is imperative that the human right of all to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is globally recognized. The momentum for the global recognition of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is growing.
As pointed out by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, most countries have already incorporated the right to a healthy environment in their constitutions and laws. Numerous UN agencies have also called for the recognition of this right at the global level. Canada however has yet to do so.
Amnesty International urges Canada to join other countries in recognizing the right to a healthy environment. We have also signed this joint letter calling on the UN Human Rights Council to recognize the right to a healthy environment. As the open letter states, the recognition of this right by the Human Rights Council “would play a crucial role for the realization of environmental justice for communities exposed to degraded, hazardous or threatening environments”.
This week the governments of Costa Rica, Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland delivered a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for the recognition of the right to a healthy environment. They are inviting other governments to co-sponsor it by 22 March 2021 with the aim of having 40 governments join in two weeks. If this goal is achieved, there is a good likelihood that the human right to a healthy environment will finally be recognized in September 2021. Amnesty Canada sent a letter to Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs last week urging the Government of Canada to endorse this call.