On The Occasion of the Human Rights Council Adopting the Right to a Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment

Statement by UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner

October 9, 2021

Right to a Healthy Environment is critical for achievement of Agenda 2030

On 8 October 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council recognised, for the first time, that having a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a human right -- a concept rooted in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration. Resolution 48/13 comes at a moment when our planet is facing unprecedented pressures.

Multiple crises relating to climate change, environmental degradation, biodiversity & ecosystem loss and pollution are directly impacting the full enjoyment of human rights, increasing inequality and jeopardizing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example, nearly one-quarter of all global deaths, roughly 13.7 million deaths a year, are linked to the environment, due to risks such as air pollution and chemical exposure. And 2 billion people who depend on farms for their livelihoods are at risk of falling into poverty because of biodiversity loss and soil degradation.

The 2030 Agenda recognizes that environmental degradation undermines the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable, people centered development. In this respect, the resolution reaffirms the solidarity and multilateral approaches that are needed to address these challenges and achieve the SDGs, the Paris Agreement, the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and other multilateral environmental agreements.

The new resolution also underscores that the achievement of the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment involves the right to participate in relevant decision-making processes; to have access to environmental information; and the ability to seek and secure an effective remedy. Across the world, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) works with civil society, Indigenous peoples and National Human Rights Institutions to support their participation in decision-making processes to positively impact people’s daily lives.

Guided by the Sustainable Development Goals, UNDP and the entire UN family will continue to offer countries and communities the support they need to realise a cleaner, heathier, and more sustainable environment.