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Thursday, September 21, 2023

IUCN supports global treaty to recognise fundamental environmental rights

A preliminary draft of a “Global Pact for the Environment” – which aims to serve as a basis for a new UN treaty to define fundamental environmental rights – was recently launched at a high-level event in Paris, with the backing of French President Emmanuel Macron, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and IUCN President, Zhang Xinsheng.

L-R: Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French President Emmanuel Macron, President of the Constitutional Council of France Laurent Fabius, and IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng. Photo credit: Michel Richard

The Pact synthesises fundamental and common principles of environmental law, including the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, the 1982 World Charter for Nature, and the 1992 Rio Declaration. It sets out principles which compel States and other legal persons to protect the environment, promote sustainable development and intergenerational equity, and ensure the right of access to information and environmental justice, among others. The draft will be presented to the UN General Assembly by President Macron this September. Should the treaty be adopted at the United Nations, it will be the first time environmental rights will have legal and binding power at national and international levels, and will be able to be used in courts.

“There are over 500 international treaties dealing with the environment, with varying degrees of enforcement. This proposal to the UN will bring greater coherence to international environment laws, and set out clear obligations for States and individuals to protect the environment,” says Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin, Justice of the National High Court of Brazil (STJ) and Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Environmental Law.

“The IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law is pleased with the reception the Pact has received from leaders in various sectors. We will continue to develop the environmental rule of law ensuring that healthy ecosystems and biodiversity are regarded as a human right,” he added.

The launch of the preliminary draft was held at the Sorbonne in Paris recently, with politicians, international jurists and scholars in attendance. They included Antonio Herman Benjamin, Chair of the R20 – Regions of Climate Action Arnold Schwarzennegger and Former UN Special Envoy on Climate Change Mary Robinson.

The initiative is led by Laurent Fabius, President of the Constitutional Council of France and former President of the Paris Climate Conference, with the support of the Environmental Commission of Le Club des Juristes (CDJ). Members of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law and the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law were involved in producing the draft. Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin and Nicholas A. Robinson, Chair Emeritus of the Commission served as Vice-Chairs of the negotiating and drafting committee.

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