UN General Assembly declares access to clean and healthy environment a universal human right.
With 161 votes in favour, and eight abstentions*, the UN General Assembly adopted a historic resolution on Thursday, declaring access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, a universal human right.
The resolution, based on a similar text adopted last year by the Human Rights Council, calls upon States, international organisations, and business enterprises to scale up efforts to ensure a healthy environment for all.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, welcomed the 'historic' decision and said the landmark development demonstrates that Member States can come together in the collective fight against the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
'The resolution will help reduce environmental injustices, close protection gaps and empower people, especially those that are in vulnerable situations, including environmental human rights defenders, children, youth, women and indigenous peoples', he said in a statement released by his Spokesperson's Office.
He added that the decision will also help States accelerate the implementation of their environmental and human rights obligations and commitments.
'The international community has given universal recognition to this right and brought us closer to making it a reality for all', he said.
Guterres underscored that however, the adoption of the resolution 'is only the beginning' and urged nations to make this newly recognised right 'a reality for everyone, everywhere'.
Urgent action needed
In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also hailed the Assembly's decision and echoed the Secretary-General's call for urgent action to implement it.
'Today is a historic moment, but simply affirming our right to a healthy environment is not enough. The General Assembly resolution is very clear: States must implement their international commitments and scale up their efforts to realize it. We will all suffer much worse effects from environmental crises, if we do not work together to collectively avert them now,' she said.
Ms. Bachelet explained that environmental action based on human rights obligations provides vital guardrails for economic policies and business models.
'It emphasizes the underpinning of legal obligations to act, rather than simply of discretionary policy. It is also more effective, legitimate and sustainable,' she added.
A resolution for the whole planet
The text, originally presented by Costa Rica, the Maldives...
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