UN resolution recognizes the right to a clean and healthy environment

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a resolution recognizing the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, a vote Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called “historic.”

The vote in the 193-member global body was 161 to 0, with eight countries abstaining: China, Russian Federation, Belarus, Cambodia, Iran, Syria, Kyrgyzstan and Ethiopia.

“This historic development demonstrates that member states can come together in our collective fight against the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution,” Guterres’ deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

The resolution, based on a similar text adopted last year by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, calls on all nations, international organizations and businesses to step up their efforts to ensure a healthy environment for all.

António Guterres warned that passing the resolution was just the start.

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He urged all countries to make the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment “a reality for everyone, everywhere”, Haq said.

Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding. Russia and others who abstained said the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment can only become a legally recognized right if it is included in international treaties.

Nonetheless, the General Assembly resolution was hailed as a milestone, including by Inger Andersen, executive director of the Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme.

Echoing Guterres, she said the General Assembly had “made history”, delivering “a victory for people and the planet” that has been in the making for five decades.

“From one foot in the Stockholm Declaration of 1972, the right has been incorporated into constitutions, national laws and regional agreements,” Andersen said. “In October 2021, he was recognized by the UN Human Rights Council. Today’s decision elevates the law to its place: universal recognition.

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