The Environmental Rights Recognition Project
The global environmental crises that are currently moving to their crescendo threaten the entire body of human rights as we know them. It is certain that there will be a huge impact in terms of the rights to health, housing, and food, as Sir David Attenborough made clear in a 2021 address to the UN Security Council:
“… today there are threats to security of a new and unprecedented kind… They are: rising global temperatures; the despoiling of the ocean, that vast universal larder on which people everywhere depend for their food; changes in the pattern of weather worldwide that pay no regard to national boundaries, but that can turn forests into deserts, drown great cities and lead to the extermination of huge numbers of the other creatures with which we share this planet.
No matter what we do now, some of these threats will assuredly become reality within a few short years. Others could, in the lifetime of today’s young people, destroy entire cities and societies, even altering the stability of the entire world. The heating of our planet has already reached the point that the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable people are profound. But this is only the beginning of this crisis.”
The Environmental Rights Recognition Project (ERRP), a collaboration between King’s Legal Clinic and postgraduate students at NYU School of Law, was established to promote the recognition of the legal right to a healthy environment in the UK and across Europe. The ERRP briefing paper, which is addressed to the UK and Irish governments, is in response to a resolution which the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) initially presented to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on 29 September 2021. To read more about the project and it's foundation see King's article here.
You can read the ERRP's report here.
The recommendations the ERRP make to the UK Government are:
- The Government should publicly announce their support for PACE's proposal for a new ECHR right to a healthy environment.
- The Government should engage with other Council of Europe's Member State governments and encourgae them to support PACE's proposal.
- The Government is currently considering reforms to the UK's domestic human rights framework and has proposed a Modern Bill of Rights. Independetly of PACE's proposal, this presents an opportunity for the UK to modernise its approach to human rights by including recognition of a statutory right to a healthy environment alongside any other reforms.
- In order to effectively implement the right to a healthy environment in the UK, the Government should consider establishing a national task force which could assess compliance with the right to a healthy environment by reference to the right as established in upcoming human rights legislation
- The UK Government should propose to Parliament either that a new parliamentary committee be established, or that the remit of an existing committee such as the Environmental Audit Committee be expanded, to scrutinise legislation in order to ensure that it is compatible with the right to a healthy environment.