European Union decisions on the right to a healthy environment


Recent European Union decisions related to the right to a healthy environment:

1. European Parliament resolution of 22 October 2020 on deforestation dedicated on section on human rights (see below).

Deforestation and human rights

  1. Highlights that changing the regulatory framework in order to legalise the use of certain areas and modifying tenure rights does not take away the negative impact on human rights and the environment caused by the implementation of this change; therefore stresses that due diligence criteria must include other elements going beyond the legality of action;
  2. Notes that the production of forest and ecosystem-risk commodities does not negatively impact on local communities only through direct deforestation, ecosystem degradation and land grabbing, but also through water-grabbing that can affect forest and other ecosystems;
  3. Stresses that local communities, indigenous peoples, land and environmental defenders often are on the frontline of the fights to preserve ecosystems; notes that in some regions conflicts over the use of lands and resources are the main cause of violence against indigenous peoples(35), is concerned that the degradation and destruction of forests and other valuable ecosystems frequently goes along with human rights violations or follows from it; condemns any form of penalisation, harassment and persecution for involvement in activities aimed at protecting the environment; urges, therefore, to include the protection of human rights, in particular land tenure, land and labour rights, with a special view to the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, within the future EU legal framework; calls on the Commission to encourage that legal reform processes in producer countries are done with the effective and meaningful participation of all stakeholders, including civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities; calls on the Union and Member States to support, at the next UN General Assembly, the global recognition of the right to a healthy environment;
  4. Calls on the Commission and Member States to set up a rapid response mechanism at Union level to support environmental and forest defenders in the Union and worldwide;
  5. Emphasises that granting effective access to justice and remedies for victims of corporate human rights and environmental harms must be part of such a legal framework;
  6. Stresses that, as well as establishing an EU legal framework on commodities driving deforestation, the Union needs to address more decisively the implementation of human rights, environmental responsibility and the rule of law as horizontal issues with the countries concerned and with other main importing countries.
  7. Stresses that such a legal framework must be designed in compliance with the Union’s international commitments to African, Caribbean and Pacific states and taken into account in the ambitions of the future Post-Cotonou Agreement;
  8. Recalls the importance of respecting the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; supports the ongoing negotiations to create a binding UN instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights and stresses the importance of the Union being proactively involved in this process;


2. On 16 October, the Council of the European Union adopted conclusions on biodiversity which includes its commitment for human rights:

Para. 53. STRESSES that in all of its work, also with regard to the global outreach, the EU should strengthen the links between biodiversity protection and human rights, democracy, gender equality, health, education, conflict sensitivity, the rights-based approach, land tenure and the role of indigenous peoples and local communities;