What are environmental rights?

Environmental rights means any proclamation of a human right to environmental conditions of a specified quality. 

Human rights and the environment are intertwined. Fundamental rights cannot be enjoyed without a safe, clean and healthy environment whilst sustainable environmental governance cannot exist without the establishment of and respect for human rights. This relationship is increasingly recognised yet paradoxically environmental rights are increasingly violated.

Environmental rights are composed of substantive rights (fundamental rights) and procedural rights (tools used to achieve substantial rights).

Substantive Rights

Substantive rights include those in which the environment has a direct effect on the existence or the enjoyment of the right itself. Substantive rights comprise of: civil and political rights, such as the rights to life and liberty, freedom of expression, freedom of religion; cultural and social rights such as rights to health, water, food, and culture; and collective rights affected by environmental degradation, such as the rights of indigenous peoples (which is recognised in human rights and environment law).

Procedural Rights

Procedural rights are a key point of intersection between environmental and human rights law; they prescribe formal steps to be taken in enforcing legal rights. Procedural rights include rights to free, prior and informed consent, access to information, participation in decision-making, and access to justice. These rights are found in both environmental and human rights instruments and have been interpreted under both regimes to provide broad protections for environmental interests. 

UN Environment seeks to highlight the importance of the human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, sustainable and healthy environment. 

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