300+ Organizations Call On Europe To Make Clean Climate A Human Right

More than 300 organizations sent a letter to the Council of Europe calling for an additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. The amendment would establish a right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. The call comes as the European Court of Human Rights is set to release an opinion in a groundbreaking case that is attempting to establish an existing obligation of member states to fight climate change.

The undated letter, sent in mid-March, is addressed to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and to the Permanent Representatives of the 46 Member States of the Council of Europe and signed by 322 organizations¹ “working for human rights, environmental protection, gender equality, social inclusion, as well as trade unions and faith-based organizations.”

The letter states: “In forty-two of the forty-six Council of Europe Member States, the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is already protected through national constitutions, legislation, court decisions, or as these States are Parties to the Aarhus Convention. The scale of the harms for people living in Europe, and the importance of coming to a unified approach in interpreting and implementing the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment makes it imperative for the Council of Europe to urgently take decisive steps toward the adoption of a binding legal framework that recognizes and protects the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.”

This letter was sent just week before ECHR announced they will be issuing a ruling on April 9 in the case of Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and 32 Others. The plaintiffs allege that 33 Signatory States to the Paris Agreement failed to comply with their commitments to limit the impacts of climate change.

The Paris Agreement, adopted by 196 parties at the COP21, the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris France, set a goal to limit global warming to 1.5° C by reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 45% by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050. While the Paris Agreement is legally binding, the enforcement of those obligations has yet to be truly tested.

Addressing the litigation, the letter further states: “The triple planetary crisis and the increasing impact of environmental degradation on human rights have led to an increase in related cases at the European Court of Human Rights, a trend that is expected to continue. While the Court has already affirmed States’ obligations to protect existing human rights — such as the right to life (article 2) and to private and family life (article 8) — against environmental hazards, thereby creating a growing body of environmental human rights case law, an additional Protocol would consolidate the Court’s jurisprudence and make it more coherent, contributing to greater legal certainty.”

The timing of the letter, as well as the language, indicates that the signing organizations are not confident in the success of Agostinho v. Portugal. The case attempts enforcement of the Paris Agreement through the European Convention on Human Rights. Specifically, it points to Articles 1 (Obligations to respect Human Rights), 2 (Right to life), 3 (Prohibition of ill-treatment), 8 (Right to respect for private and family life), and 14 (Prohibition of discrimination). The plaintiffs “complain about the present and serious future effects of climate change, which they attribute to the respondent States. They refer in particular to heatwaves, wildfires, and wildfire smoke which they say impact their lives, well-being, mental health and their homes.”

The letter also comes as the International Court of Justice is set to issue an advisory opinion on the Obligations of States in respect of Climate Change. In March 2023, the United Nations General Assembly requested the ICJ to issue an advisory opinion on the legal obligations of countries in preventing climate change. The opinion, while non-binding, will give an indicator of how the Court may interpret future climate related litigation and guide future legislative development. That opinion will most likely not be released until 2025.

Whether the Council of Europe chooses to start the process for an additional Protocol establishing the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, or even acknowledge the letter, is unclear. However, expect to see further efforts internationally and at the state level to increase legal liability for climate change.

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This article was originally published by a www.forbes.com . Read the Original article here. .