Environmental Rights: Recognition, Implementation and Outcomes
Cardozo Law Review, Forthcoming
29 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2020
Date Written: September 5, 2020
The field of human rights engages rights that are thought to inhere to humanness, commonly categorized as either civil and political or social, economic and cultural. Civil and political rights include the right to vote, assemble and participate, as well as to free speech, religion and legal processes. Socioeconomic and cultural rights include dignity, education, health, food, water, sick leave, family leave, and employment, to name a few. A healthy environment occupies the liminality between. But until fairly recently, the human rights oeuvre largely avoided the question as to whether humans are entitled to a healthy environment.
‘Global Environmental Constitutionalism’ has changed that. It explores the constitutional engagement, incorporation, adjudication and implementation of environmental rights, duties, responsibilities, procedures, policies and other measures that promote the twin aims of environmental protection and a right to a healthy environment. As of this writing, the constitutions of at least 84 countries now expressly afford a right to a healthy environment of some sort. Courts in several additional countries have inferred a right to a healthy environment from other established rights, largely to life, dignity or health.
Global environmental constitutionalism involves much more than whether to recognize a right to a healthy environment. Scores of countries have also amended or adopted constitutions to grant rights to information, participation, justice, water, sustainable development and a safe climate; to recognize rights of current and future generations, indigenous peoples, and of nature; to impose (sometimes reciprocal) duties to protect the environment and the climate and engage in environmental assessment; and to promote myriad environmental policies, including sustainability. Environmental constitutionalism shows growth in the areas of climate litigation, rights of nature, procedural rights, application of human dignity under law, water law and sustainability.
The task at hand is to explain how a human right to a healthy environment emerged and, ultimately, encouraged and converged with global environmental constitutionalism, and, to explore the extent to which environmental rights are being implemented and are improving environmental and human health outcomes.
Keywords: Human Rights, Global Environmental Constitutionalism, Right to a Healthy Environment, Constitutions, International Law, Regional Conventions, National Constitutions, Implementation, Court Cases
JEL Classification: K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation