Given worsening climate change, environmental challenges are increasingly being viewed from the angle of human rights – the right to life, health or private and family life – and international law. In a report adopted today, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe called for a green reading of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, the benchmark treaty for local democracy, and for consideration to be given to drafting an additional protocol to ensure proper recognition for local and regional authorities’ role in the environmental field.
“This entails empowering local and regional authorities to take a more active role in fighting climate change. For instance, local authorities should have a fair share of the powers for tackling environmental issues at local level, along with the necessary funding and some room for manoeuvre,” said co-rapporteur Belinda Gottardi (Italy, SOC/G/PD).
The Congress also called for increased citizen participation regarding environmental issues, intermunicipal and inter-regional co-operation and environmental protection networks and associations. As youth delegate Zoé Elkær Nicot (Denmark) pointed out, it is essential to guarantee citizens adequate procedural rights.
“As local and regional authorities, we provide many services related to the environment such as regulation of air pollution, noise abatement, waste disposal, transport, drinking water supply and spatial planning. We are willing to take on our share of responsibility. However, we also believe that our crucial role in protecting a safe and healthy environment must be legally recognised,” said co-rapporteur Levan Zhorzholiani (Georgia) in conclusion.
On the same day, the Congress adopted a resolution on the third volume of the Human Rights Handbook for Local and Regional Authorities on environment and sustainable development. Described by Harald Bergmann (Netherlands, ILDG) as “an outstanding example of how we – as local and regional elected representatives – can and must think globally and act locally,” this volume, which presents good practices, addresses the issues of transport, housing, sustainable economies, education, public procurement and local strategies for sustainable development.