by John Habib

The United Nations Human Rights Council passed Resolution 48/13 in October 2021. The Resolution recognizes as a human right a person’s access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. Non-governmental organizations are now pushing the United Nations General Assembly to formally adopt Resolution 48/13.

The United States did not take part in the October 2021 vote because it was not a member of the UN Human Rights Council at the time. Of course, the United States will be present should Resolution 48/13 come before the UN General Assembly. Just before the October 2021 vote, the United States raised concerns that recognizing a human right to access a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment might dilute traditional civil and political rights.

Formal adoption of Resolution 48/13 by the UN General Assembly, though it lacks legal force, would symbolically bring rights-based approaches to bear on global environmental issues and potentially expand legal conceptions of environmental protection.