Right to a Healthy Environment
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- Canberra could become the first place in Australia to give people a legal right to a healthy environment.
- The Human Rights (Healthy Environment) Amendment Bill 2023 was introduced in the ACT Legislative Assembly.
- It seeks to address the impacts of climate change and shore up the environment for future generations.
- It said a healthy environment included "clean air, a safe climate, access to safe water and to healthy and sustainably produced food …. [with] healthy biodiversity and ecosystems".
- The Australian government said the law would require ACT authorities to consider the environment when making decisions or carrying out functions.
- But any breaches of the yet-to-be-passed law will not attract penalties for some time.
- The United Nations (UN) General Assembly last year agreed that access to a clean and healthy environment was a universal human right.
- The bill was in step with overseas efforts to preserve healthy environments.
- The legislation reflects growing international consensus and practice around the role and importance of environmental protections.
- The resolution was in part designed to help member states be able to advance climate policies domestically.
Right to a Healthy Environment
- The right to a healthy environment or the right to a sustainable and healthy environment is a human right advocated by human rights organizations and environmental organizations to protect the ecological systems that provide human health.
- The right was acknowledged by the United Nations Human Rights Council during its 48th session in October 2021 and subsequently by the United Nations General Assembly on July 28, 2022.
- The right is interconnected with other health-focused human rights, such as the right to water and sanitation, right to food and the right to health.
- The right creates an obligation of the state to regulate and enforce environmental laws, control pollution, and otherwise provide justice and protection for communities harmed by environmental problems.
- The right to a healthy environment has been an important right for creating environmental legal precedents for climate change mitigation and other environmental issues.
- The right to a healthy environment has developed gradually since the 1970s when it was first alluded to by the 1972 Stockholm Declaration.
- Its first Principle states: “Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being”.
- The Stockholm Declaration was a catalyst for the recognition of the right to a healthy environment at the national and regional levels.
- At the national level, Portugal was the first country to enshrine this right in its constitution, in 1976.
- Since then, the right to a healthy environment has rapidly spread to other constitutions, in a fashion unseen for any other “new” human right.
- And now, Canberra could become the first place in Australia to give people a legal right to a healthy environment.
Q. “Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality, and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being”. Elucidate.