A petition launched today by the Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland (ERCS) calls for an enforceable human right to a healthy environment for every person in Scotland.
Emilia Hanna, advocacy officer for the Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland said:
‘Everyone in Scotland deserves to live in a healthy environment, yet it is incredibly difficult to use the law to protect the environment. Faced with the climate and nature emergencies, the time for an enforceable human right to a healthy environment is now.’
The petition follows the Scottish Government’s pledges to include a human right to a healthy environment in Scotland’s forthcoming Human Rights (Scotland) Bill, and to consider setting up an environmental court for Scotland. Earlier this year, a UN body found Scotland’s legal system is breaking international human rights and environmental law because of the high costs of going to court. It called for reform ‘as a matter of urgency.’
‘It is welcome news that the Scottish Government has committed to putting the right to a healthy environment in law, but the task now is to make sure this right brings about the system change needed to deliver for the planet and everyone in Scotland. This is what the petition is about.
‘For the right to deliver, it must be enforceable against public bodies and polluters. It must guarantee that we have the right to a high quality environment, with clean air, a safe climate, healthy biodiversity and more. The Scottish Government must reform our legal system so that it is affordable for people to go to court to challenge breaches of environmental law, and it must set up an accessible specialist environmental court for people to be able to defend the environment in a court of law.’
Earlier this year the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a pioneering resolution recognising that everyone should enjoy the human right to a healthy environment.
Dr David Boyd, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment said:
‘There can be no question that the time has come for the recognition and implementation of the right to a healthy environment. I encourage everyone to sign the petition so that Scotland can become one of the 150-plus countries in the world where the right to a healthy environment is making a difference in people’s lives.’
Notes to editors:
 The petition is available at: https://www.ercs.scot/an-enforceable-human-right-to-a-healthy-environment/
It calls on the Scottish Government to:
> Ensure our right to a healthy environment is enforceable in a court of law against public bodies and polluters, and provides effective remedies
> Ensure our right to a healthy environment guarantees the highest standards for clean air, a safe climate, safe water and adequate sanitation, healthy and sustainably produced food, non-toxic environments to live, work, study and play, and healthy biodiversity and ecosystems
> Reform legal expenses so that it is affordable for all of us to uphold environmental laws in a court or tribunal
> Create a specialist environmental court or tribunal which is affordable and accessible for everyone, fair, timely and effective
 The Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland has published an advocacy manifesto which has more detail on its position on the right to a healthy environment. It is available at https://www.ercs.scot/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Advocacy-Manifesto-Dec-2021.pdf.
 Scotland’s Programme for Government commits as follows
– ‘In the coming year, we will consult on a new Human Rights Bill….The Bill will…include a right to a healthy environment.’
– ‘We will also ensure a review of environmental justice, and the case for an environmental court, is undertaken during this parliamentary session – commencing by spring 2023.’
 The UNECE Aarhus Convention guarantees the right to go to court to challenge decisions, acts and omissions that break environmental law. Article 9 of the Convention requires that access to the courts is fair, equitable, timely and not prohibitively expensive. The United Kingdom ratified the UNECE Aarhus Convention in 2005. Scotland is obliged to ensure that its legal system is compliant with the Convention. In October, the UNECE Aarhus Convention Meeting of the Parties found on-going deficiencies in Scotland’s legal system and called for reform as a matter of urgency: https://www.ercs.scot/news/ercs-friends-of-the-earth-scotland-and-rspb-scotland-pr-un-body-to-declare-scottish-legal-system-breaking-international-environmental-and-human-rights-law/
 On October 8th the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a pioneering resolution (Resolution 48/13) recognising that everyone should enjoy the human right to a healthy environment: https://undocs.org/a/hrc/48/l.23/rev.1
 The Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland (ERCS) exists to assist members of the public and civil society to understand and exercise their rights in environmental law and to protect the environment: www.ercs.scot.