For Immediate Distribution
CHICAGO, IL (July 28, 2022) – Today, the Parliament of the World’s Religions celebrates the historic adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution recognizing “The Right to a Healthy, Clean, and Sustainable Environment” as a basic and universal human right. The resolution was adopted on July 28 by a vote of member states with 161 in favor, 8 abstaining, and no opposition, with over 100 states co-sponsoring the resolution. The UN Human Rights Council had previously affirmed “The right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment” in October 2021. A General Assembly resolution is not legally binding but has immense political importance as a statement of principle and values.
This resolution is applauded by both human rights experts and advocates on climate change and sustainability as a monumental step forward in addressing the environmental crisis – affirming the indivisibility of human rights and of the well-being of humans and nature.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions, acting with the leadership of its Climate Action Task Force, seeks to encourage and enable both collective and individual action to reduce the causes and counter the adverse impacts of human-caused climate change. The Parliament’s Climate Action Task Force has championed the resolution on the right to a healthy environment and directly advocated to the member states of the UN to affirm this critical human right, co-sponsor the resolution, and vote in favor of its adoption.
As the implementation of this human right moves forward, the Parliament believes that faith voices will be crucial drivers of change. Climate Action Task Force Co-Chairs, David Hales and Imam Saffet Catovic, have stated, “As diverse as our cultures and spiritual traditions may be, it is certain that we will share the future. Faith communities can help us recognize our interdependence, see beyond our science and knowledge to perceive meaning and wisdom, and encourage mutually reinforcing action.”
The human right to a healthy environment is already globally recognized and is part of the Constitutions of over 100 countries. The General Assembly action will raise ambition for its implementation, increase momentum and build consciousness of environmental justice. It will also help establish a global ethic to ensure a sustainable world for all, with justice and accountability – as the ethics of the world’s religious traditions agree on the basic right to a healthy environment.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions affirmed this right as part of its commitment to sustainability and a global ethic, as noted in the May 13, 2022 statement made by the Board of Trustees. The Parliament’s Climate Action Task Force joins the environmental and interfaith movement in commending the member states that made the adoption of the Right to a Healthy, Clean, and Sustainable Environment possible.
As historically important as this recognition by the UNGA is, the realization of this right now becomes the responsibility of all of us. The Parliament of the World’s Religions calls for strong implementing action by states, subnational regional governments, cities and authorities at all levels of government, with the strong support of civil society and especially faith-based and interfaith organizations.