Constructing the Human Right to a Healthy Environment
Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Forthcoming
27 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2020
Date Written: February 21, 2020
For decades, the right to a healthy environment has been the missing human right, never recognized by the United Nations despite its approval by most countries at the national and regional levels. In the absence of UN recognition, human rights bodies have "greened" other human rights, such as the rights to life and health, by explaining how states have duties to protect them from environmental harm. The importance of this growing body of law was illustrated recently by the decision of the Dutch Supreme Court in the Urgenda case, which held that the Netherlands had to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in order to comply with its obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights.
In recent years, there have been renewed calls for the UN General Assembly to finally recognize the right to a healthy environment. Has the evolution of environmental human rights law obviated the need for UN recognition? If not, what would such recognition add? This review of recent scholarship describes the evolution of environmental human rights law and assesses possible effects of UN recognition of the right to a healthy environment, both on environmental protection and on human rights law itself.
Keywords: human rights, environment, United Nations, climate change
JEL Classification: K32, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation