Ahead of fresh environmental discussions in Stockholm, Sweden, this week to discuss further action, experts are warning that much greater efforts are needed which could save millions of lives every year.
However, it has been five decades since Sweden hosted the world’s first conference to make the environment a major issue, in recognition of the “human sacrifice zone” it could become if leaders fail to look after it, according to rights experts.
Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, told Naija News this Tuesday that a United Nations-appointed independent rights expert, David Boyl, is leading the call for countries to implement constitutional change and strong environmental laws to bring about positive change.
According to Bassey, ‘’David Boyl is saying that all such discussions should stem from the recognition of everyone’s right to a healthy environment.’’
Echoing that call, UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights, Marcos Orellana, also said ‘’we should not forget how human rights inspired key elements of the original 1972 Stockholm Declaration.
“This is a key moment for international environmental law to change direction and embrace a human rights-based approach to environmental protection.”
The experts insisted that “putting human rights at the centre of environmental action will have positive implications for air quality, clean water, healthy soil and sustainably produced food”.
A rights-based approach would also help “green energy, climate change, biodiversity and the elimination of toxic substances and (the) protection of indigenous people’s rights”, they added.
Standing in the way of progress on environmental action are multiple challenges, including climate shocks, biodiversity loss and pollution – all of which impact on the enjoyment of human rights, the experts maintained.
In October 2021, in a landmark resolution, the Human Rights Council in Geneva recognised for the first time the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
The resolution marked the culmination of decades of efforts by civil society organisations, including youth groups, national human rights institutions and indigenous peoples.
Kaye and Orellana, together with fellow Special Rapporteurs Francisco Calí Tzay and Ian Fry – encouraged States to encourage the UN General Assembly to consider recognizing the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment at its earliest convenience, just as the UN Human Rights Council had done.
“A General Assembly resolution on the right to a healthy environment would reinforce the urgency of actions to implement the right”, they said in a statement, adding: “We are all extraordinarily fortunate to live on this miraculous planet, and we must use the right to a healthy environment to ensure governments, businesses and people do a better job of taking care of the home that we all share.”
Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country’s situation. They are independent of any government and are not paid for their work.