Statement by Ambassador Michèle Taylor Before the Adoption of the Resolution on a Clean, Healthy, and Sustainable Environment
Human Rights Council – 52nd Session
Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States has long recognized the important relationship between human rights and environmental protection, including advancing environmental justice and protecting environmental defenders. The United States continues to prioritize globally, regionally, and bilaterally an enhanced focus on national policies and actions by all countries that support global ambitions to address climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss, and protect environmental defenders. A healthy environment supports the well-being and dignity of people around the world and the enjoyment of human rights. We recognize that these issues are existential for us all and that the likely consequences of climate change are devastating.
The United States continues to support development of a right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment in a manner that is consistent with international law. However, we will disassociate from consensus today because we have significant concerns that this resolution, in purporting to characterize aspects of a right or obligations of states, gets ahead of the proper development of such a right. Unless and until there is a transparent process through which governments have consented to be bound by such a right, a right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment has not yet been established as a matter of customary international law; treaty law does not yet provide for such a right; and there is no legal relationship between such a right and existing international law. To that end, the United States would support the creation of an intergovernmental working group to discuss next steps, with the goal of reaching a common understanding of the definition and nature of such a right such that a right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment that could be universally considered a right under international human rights law.
In addition, we read the “right to effective remedy/remedies” as only relevant in the context of or in relation to states’ respective obligations under international law. References to compliance with “obligations and commitments” are read to mean only to refer to compliance with respective binding legal obligations.
The United States refers you to our full statementto be posted on the Mission’s website and to be published in the U.S. Digest of International Law.