Environmental Rights Of Individuals


Environmental rights are an extension of the basic human rights that mankind requires and deserves. In addition to having the right to food, clean water, suitable shelter, and education, having a safe and sustainable environment is paramount as all other rights are dependent upon it. The desire to ensure access for all of Earth’s inhabitants to this essential standard of living is the primary concern of Environmental rights.

Beyond equal distribution and access to clean and sustainable resources, Environmental Rights also include an additional obligation from those in the industrialized nations. It requires us to act responsibly in our own use of natural resources, and to regulate our levels of consumption in a more equitable manner.


Throughout the late-1950s and early-1960s serious environmental disasters occurred in various regions of the world: oil spills at sea, the release of toxic substances from chemical industries, and nuclear disasters. Such accidents, repeated over the years, demonstrated the dangers of incorporating technology into human activity without including some regulation. People also became increasingly aware of risks to human health and the environment due to high-tech industrial and agricultural activities. Emblematic of this concern was Rachel Carson‘s Silent Spring (1962), which argued the presence and persistence of toxic substances in living organisms as a consequence of the massive use of pesticides.

Many in the ecological and human rights movements argued that these legal measures were insufficient to guarantee a healthy environment for present and future generations. Some proposed the proclaiming a new human right: the right to a healthy environment. This right does not fit within the category of civil and political or first generation rights, nor of economic, social, and cultural or second generation rights. For this reason environmental rights (along with others, such as rights to development) are sometimes described as third generation rights. Just as the first generation aspired to guarantee individual liberties, and the second equality, the third aims to guarantee solidarity across national boundaries and between present and future generations. Third generation human rights are conceived as collective rather than individual, and they tend to challenge the sovereignty of the modern nation-state.

Environmental Rights

Everyone has the following environmental rights:


  • To a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
  • To protection against discrimination and have equal protection of the law, in relation to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
  • To freedom from threats, harassment, intimidation and violence whilst working on human rights and the environment.
  • To freedom of expression and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
  • To freedom of association and peaceful assembly in relation to environmental matters.
  • To self-determination; to freely determine your political status and freely pursue your economic, social and cultural development.
  • To, for your own ends, freely dispose of your natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.
  • To not be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
  • To not be subjected to arbitrary interference with your privacy, family or home.

Procedural Rights

  • To seek, receive, and impart environmental information.
  • To participate in public decision-making about environmental matters.
  • To equal access to public service in his country
  • To effective legal remedies for violations of these rights.
  • To be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against one.
  • To be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power, after arrest, and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgement.
  • To compensation after unlawful arrest or detention

State Obligations

States have an obligation to protect environmental rights. This involves ensuring the provision of the above rights as well as the obligations:

  • To require the prior assessment of the possible environmental and human rights impacts of policies and projects.
  • To ensure that they comply with their obligations to indigenous peoples and members of traditional communities.
  • To ensure the effective enforcement of their environmental standards against public and private actors.

Private Sector Obligations

Business have a responsibility to respect environmental rights. This means that they should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved. This includes the obligations:

  • To develop policies that respect environmental rights
  • To undertake due dilligence processes to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their impacts on human rights
  • To create processes to enable the remediation of any adverse human rights impacts that they cause or to which they contribute