Right to a clean environment is a human right

For people for planet


Addressing environmental injustice requires a human-rights based, multi-disciplinary approach that addresses immediate environmental justice needs and tackles the structural inequalities that cause and perpetuate environmental injustice.  

The world is facing a triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem loss, and pollution. These crises undermine the enjoyment and protection of human rights and exacerbate environmental injustices, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable, marginalized and excluded people and communities. Today’s environmental crisis is intertwined with the crisis of inequality and is inextricably linked to the protection and fulfilment of human rights and sustainable development.

The human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment was recently recognized by the UN General Assembly (2022) and the UN Human Rights Council (2021).  This recognition empowers all people with a critical tool to hold their governments, big polluters and all those responsible for environmental harm to account. UNDP is committed to supporting Member States realize the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as well as strengthening protections for environmental human rights defenders that face reprisals for standing up for our rights and our planet.  

UNDP has developed a global strategy for environmental justice that seeks to increase accountability and protection of ‘environmental rights’ for current and future generations; and promote the environmental rule of law. These objectives are pursued through a three-pronged approach:  

i) building, enforcing and implementing enabling legal and policy frameworks;  

ii) supporting people-centred, effective justice and human rights institutions as key agents of enforcement and implementation of these frameworks; and  

iii) legal empowerment and access to justice on environmental matters.  

Environmental justice requires a rights-based, multidisciplinary approach, that combines the collective expertise and perspectives of human rights, rule of law, justice and security, environment, and other development practitioners. Through our support to pilot initiatives, knowledge brokerage and policy influence, and strategic partnerships across UNDP and the broader UN family, the Justice Futures CoLab is committed to advancing the right to a healthy environment and tackling environmental injustices.   

For more contact 

Seán O'connell | Human Rights Specialsit 

email: sean.oconnell@undp.org 

More on our work