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HRC recognizes the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment

On Friday 8 October 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) recognizes that having a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right.

In resolution 48/13, the HRC calls on “all States to work together, and with the various partners, to implement this newly recognized right”.

It encourages “States to adopt policies for the enjoyment of this right and enable the world's population to benefit from it like other universal human rights”.

The resolution, proposed by Morocco, Costa Rica, the Maldives, Slovenia and Switzerland, was adopted by 43 votes.

At the same time, through a second resolution (48/14), the HRC also increased “its focus on the human rights impacts of climate change by establishing a Special Rapporteur dedicated specifically to that issue”.

In this context, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Michelle Bachelet, called on “States to take bold actions to give prompt and real effect to the right to a healthy environment”.

She considered that the resolution is “a clear recognition that environmental degradation and climate change are interconnected human rights crises”.

Mrs. Bachelet described “the triple planetary threats of climate change, pollution and nature loss as the single greatest human rights challenge of our era”.

The resolution on a healthy environment acknowledges “the damage inflicted by climate change and environmental destruction on millions of people. It also underlines that the most vulnerable segments of the population are more acutely impacted. The issue will now pass on to the UN General Assembly for further consideration”.

Following the issuance of this decision, Bachelet “paid tribute to the efforts of a diverse array of civil society organizations, including youth groups, national human rights institutions, indigenous peoples’ organizations, businesses and many others worldwide who have been advocating for full international recognition of this right”.

Within the same context, Mrs. Amina Bouayach, President of the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) indicated that the CNDH reiterates its observation that some laws related to the environment do not keep pace with developments related to the protection of the environment, particularly, climatic changes that directly and negatively affect the enjoyment of several basic rights, which requires amending or supplementing them.Besides, she added that several areas are still not legally protected, including mountains, soil, noise and climate noting that a proposed framework law related to climate has been submitted to the House of Representatives since 2017.

The World Health Organization (WHO) statistics indicate that 24% of all deaths worldwide, or about 13.7 million deaths annually, are related to air pollution and exposure to chemicals.

At the national level and as part of following up the third generation rights, the CNDH recommended in its annual report 2020:
- Accelerating the adoption of the Bill on reforming and completing Law No. 28-00 on waste management and disposal and a proposed framework law related to climate, taking into account the relevant sustainable development goals;
- Broadening the CNDH mandate related to the environment to follow up developments related to this field and expand its membership to include constitutional institutions working on environmental issues and human rights;
- Referring laws related to the environment to the CDNH to express its opinion from a human rights perspective.