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PACE President on World Environment Day: now is the time for a right to a healthy environment

PACE President Rik Daems, marking World Environment Day (5 June 2021), has issued an urgent appeal for parliaments and governments to act with “force and conviction” to create an explicit legal right to a healthy environment in order to help halt the drastic degradation of ecosystems worldwide.

“World Environment Day is a moment to pause and think: environmental degradation is escalating worldwide and the scientific evidence shows that both our health and our ecosystems are suffering. Pollution elsewhere is pollution everywhere – we cannot escape it in the air we breathe, in the water we drink and the food we eat, day after day.

We urgently need a legally binding instrument to protect the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as both a personal and collective right. This is likely to be the key demand in a report by Simon Moutquin (Belgium, SOC) currently under preparation, and I hope that our Assembly will soon give its full backing for this urgent and vital step.

A second report by Edite Estrela (Portugal, SOC) on the climate crisis and the rule of law encourages member States to respond to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s call for ‘net zero emissions’ and outlines ways the rule of law can help institutions and society to develop ‘climate resilience’.

Containing the climate crisis will be a huge challenge for all of us, but parliaments and elected representatives must take the lead, which is why this theme will also be discussed during the forthcoming European Conference of Speakers of Parliament on 21-22 October 2021 in Athens, Greece.

We cannot turn back time, but we owe a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment to our children, the younger generation who will inherit the planet so damaged by us. If our parliaments and governments do not act with force and conviction to protect this right, national courts will push them to do so: this is our shared responsibility.

I call on everyone to join the #GenerationRestoration to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.”