UN declares access to clean environment a fundamental right

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The UN Human Rights Council on Friday recognised access to a clean and healthy environment as a fundamental right, formally adding its weight to the global fight against climate change and its devastating consequences, Reuters reported.

The vote passed with overwhelming support, despite criticism in the lead-up from some countries, notably the United States and Britain.

The resolution, first discussed in the 1990s, is not legally binding but has the potential to shape global standards. Lawyers involved in climate litigation say it could help them build arguments in cases involving the environment and human rights.

“This has life-changing potential in a world where the global environmental crisis causes more than nine million premature deaths every year,” said David Boyd, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, who called the decision a “historic breakthrough”.

The text, proposed by Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland, was passed with 43 votes in favour and four abstentions from Russia, India, China and Japan, prompting a rare burst of applause in the Geneva forum.

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