Without a healthy environment, humanity cannot survive or thrive.
The Scottish Government published its consultation on a new Scottish Human Rights Bill in June 2023. The Bill aims to protect a range of rights, including the human right to a healthy environment ‘with substantive and procedural elements’.
ERCS is a member of the Advisory Board and the wider implementation group to the Human Rights Bill and you can read our presentation to the Board in May 2022 on the human right to a healthy environment: What it is and why it matters.
The right will enshrine and protect our right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. The substantive and procedural elements of the right to a healthy environment are equally important.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment has defined the substantive part as including the features of clean air, a safe climate, access to safe water and adequate sanitation, healthy and sustainably produced food, non-toxic environments in which to live, work, study and play, and healthy biodiversity and ecosystems.
Read our report on the Substantive Right to a Healthy Environment which sets out the definitions, standards and enforcement mechanism to make this right a reality.
The procedural part specifies the processes and mechanisms for people to exercise their environmental rights and ensure environmental laws are enforced. These rights include access to information, public participation in decision-making, access to justice and effective remedies and are enshrined by the UNECE Aarhus Convention.
The task now is to ensure that both the substantive and procedural parts of the right to a healthy environment are delivered with ‘teeth’. That is, our right needs to be enforceable to make a real difference to the environment and to the lives of people most affected by environmental problems in Scotland.
We worked with environmental and human rights organisations from across Scotland to mobilise a strong response to the Human Rights Bill consultation, and we are now waiting for the Scottish Government to publish its analysis of consultation responses before engaging with the next stage of the Bill as it reaches Parliament.
We support Human Rights Consortium Scotland’s 13 Calls to Action to make human rights justice a reality for all as vital steps forward to increase access to justice, including on the right to a healthy environment.
Our right to a healthy environment and other rights
Read our three briefings commissioned by the Human Rights Consortium Scotland on the relationship between our right to a healthy environment and three other human rights:
- How the human right to a healthy environment advances the rights of disabled people – joint briefing with Inclusion Scotland
- How the human right to a healthy environment advances our right to health
- The relationship between the human right to a healthy environment and the right to food