PACE today launches a new Parliamentary Network for a Healthy Environment, bringing together almost 30 parliamentarians from some 20 different parliaments across the Council of Europe area to demand that governments create a legal right to a healthy environment and take other urgent steps to deal with the climate crisis.
The network – which eventually aims to include one MP from each of the Council of Europe’s member states, as well as from parliaments with observer or partner for democracy status – grew out of the Assembly’s recently-launched #EnvironmentRightNow initiative, as well as a series of seven PACE resolutions on the topic adopted during an unprecedented all-day debate in September 2021.
“We want to anchor the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment in law, policy, practice and the public consciousness,“ said former PACE President Rik Daems, chairing a first meeting of the Network in Strasbourg today. “Our ultimate goal is the adoption of a protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights which would make it legally enforceable in national courts across the continent and in the Strasbourg Court.”
David Boyd, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, welcomed the creation of the network in a video message, and expressed the global body’s support for its work, declaring: “We have the wind in our sails!”. Three children from France, Ireland and the United Kingdom also took the floor remotely to express their hopes for the future, make practical suggestions for change, and urge children’s further involvement in the process.
The Network, which is partly funded by the Belgian Parliament, will undertake a wide range of activities to engage government authorities, mobilise parliaments, raise awareness and inspire new national laws to protect the environment, as well as encouraging states to meet their Paris commitments to limit global warming.
The Network of Contact Parliamentarians for a healthy environment was launched in January 2022 after the adoption of Resolution 2399 (2021) entitled "The climate crisis and the rule of law" on 29 September 2021.
It aims to anchor the right to a "safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment" in law, policy, practice and public awareness in Europe and beyond.
The mission of the Network is "to inspire and follow the action taken by the national authorities to honour the strong commitments they have made vis-à-vis the climate crisis while fostering the mutual enrichment of ideas and setting up regular opportunities for parliamentarians in Europe and on other continents to pool their experience."
The Network implements Resolution 2396 (2021) and Recommendation 2211 (2021) which call on member states to enrich the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter in order to strengthen the link between the environment and human rights through the adoption of an additional protocol. It also supports the idea of an ad hoc convention inspired by the “five Ps” approach through the Prevention and Prosecution of violations of the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and to the Protection of victims, the Contracting States would adopt and apply throughout their territory effective “Integrated Policies” and would offer a global response to environmental threats and technological risks, Parliaments being responsible for holding governments accountable for the effective implementation of environment-friendly pro-human rights policies.
It echoes the conclusions of the European Conference of Presidents of Parliaments in 2021 which state that: "The link between human rights and the environment is evident to us all. We therefore welcome the Parliamentary Assembly’s intention to set up a parliamentary network in January 2022 to ensure the necessary political support and parliamentary input by representative democracy. This network [...] will serve as an essential link to national parliaments, and we are looking forward to parliaments and interparliamentary Assemblies appointing contact parliamentarians next year. We also noted with interest the idea put forward by our Georgian colleague to link up environmental committees across our national parliaments. Let's move forward together with young people, from policy to principle, and from responsibility to accountability."
The functioning of the Network was established by its terms of reference, adopted on1 December 2021 by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.