- On October 8, 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council declared access to a clean and healthy environment to be a basic right. The international body’s action has helped to the worldwide struggle against climate change and its catastrophic effects on humanity.
- Despite opposition in the run-up from some countries, notably the United States and Britain, the world’s most affluent countries, the vote was carried with overwhelming support in the UNHRC.
- On October 8, the United Nations Rights Council also accepted a request spearheaded by the Marshall Islands (an autonomous island republic) to establish a new special rapporteur on climate change.
IMPORTANT POINTS –
- Costa Rica, Morocco, the Maldives, Switzerland, and Slovenia submitted the resolution, which was carried with 43 votes in favour and four abstentions from India, Russia, Japan, and China, eliciting rare applause in the Geneva Forum.
- The United Kingdom, which had been one of the proposal’s detractors during recent intensive talks, voted in favour of the last-minute adjustment. Rita Fench, the country’s UN ambassador, stated that the government voted yes because it shared supporters’ desire to combat climate change. She did say, though, that the government would not be bound by the wording of the resolution.
CRITICISM AND IMPACT OF THE CHANGE IN CLIMATE –
- Critics of the resolution proclaiming a clean environment as a human right cited several issues, including the fact that the UNHRC was not the suitable place for it and legal problems.
- Environmentalists said that the UK’s previous position had jeopardised the country’s commitments ahead of the global climate summit it will hold in Glasgow in October 2021.
- According to the World Health Organization, environmental hazards such as chemical exposure or air pollution cause 13.7 million fatalities per year, or about 24.3 per cent of all deaths worldwide.
- David Boyd, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, described the judgement as a “historic milestone” with “life-changing potential” in a world where global environmental issues kill more than nine million people prematurely each year.