Different hands placed into soil, each forming a diamond shape around young plants in a protective gesture
19 Mar 2024

ENNHRI urges Council of Europe Member States to adopt a binding instrument on the right to a healthy environment

In its new statement, ENNHRI urges Council of Europe Member States to adopt a binding instrument on the right to a healthy environment. This should be coupled with an effective oversight mechanism and ensure adequate access to justice for affected individuals and communities. By presenting domestic experiences on the right to a healthy environment, the statement shows how judicial enforcement neither creates unmanageable tasks for courts, nor unduly restricts the policy discretion of States. Explicitly recognising the right to a healthy environment at the European level will bring substantive benefits for societies.

Ahead of the 10th meeting of the Council of Europe Drafting Group on Human Rights and Environment (CDDH-ENV), ENNHRI’s statement outlines to Council of Europe Member States why they should adopt a binding instrument recognising the right to a healthy environment in Europe.

What national experiences and practices reveal

By providing information on the practical implications of recognising and enforcing the right to a healthy environment at the national level, ENNHRI submits that there is a substantial need to adopt a binding instrument that explicitly recognises a standalone right to a healthy environment in Europe. This would ensure the harmonisation of the minimum standards of protection for the right across the Council of Europe region and enforce better protection for human rights and the environment.

Through concrete examples from national practice, ENNHRI’s statement illustrates that recognition of the right brings substantial benefits for individuals and societies. Furthermore, the statement shows how the application and judicial enforcement of the right neither cause any unmanageable tasks for the judiciary, nor jeopardise the policy discretion of States in setting their environmental and other policies.

Ensuring the strongest form of protection for the right

Based on national experiences, ENNHRI calls on Council of Europe Member States to adopt a binding instrument recognising a standalone right to a healthy environment in Europe. ENNHRI submits that an Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights would ensure the strongest form of protection for the right. This form of protection could be complemented by adopting an Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter, while a standalone Convention on Human Rights and the Environment is also an alternative avenue for recognising the right with a binding force.

Read the full statement here.

Previous ENNHRI engagement on climate and human rights at the Council of Europe

In its role as an observer, ENNHRI has participated in and contributed to the work of CDDH-ENV. For instance, ENNHRI provided input to its draft report on the need for a further instrument on human rights and the environment. ENNHRI has also repeatedly underlined the necessity of a binding instrument on the right to a healthy environment, as this right is a prerequisite for the full enjoyment of all human rights. See ENNHRI’s written contributions to the second and seventh meetings of CDDH-ENV.

Beyond this, ENNHRI has submitted written and held oral interventions before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in three landmark climate cases: Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and OthersVerein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and others v. Switzerland, and Carême v. France.

Learn more on ENNHRI’s work on human rights and climate change.