Human rights and the environment, a priority for the Council of Europe
Biodiversity loss, species extinction, climate change and the general degradation of the world's ecosystems have a profound global impact on the enjoyment of human rights. Addressing the challenges they pose to the protection of human rights has become a priority for the Council of Europe, especially as their impact will continue to grow in the years to come.
The jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the conclusions of the European Committee of the European Social Charter affirm the undeniable inter-connections between environmental protection and human rights.
Successive presidencies of the Council of Europe and the Organisation's bodies have called for the strengthening of existing legal tools in order to help European states meet the considerable challenges posed by environmental degradation and to enhance the protection of human rights on the continent.
The Council of Europe's role
Our webpage provides an overview of standard-setting work in the fields of human rights and the rule of law, developments within the advisory bodies, relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Social Charter, and offers key resources on human rights education for legal professionals.
In the headlines
Environment and human rights
Although there is no specific right to a healthy environment in either the European Convention on Human Rights or the European Social Charter, both instruments offer important protections with regard to environmental matters. The Council of Europe’s role in mainstreaming the environmental dimension into human rights is timelier than ever. The Steering Committee for Human Rights has already developed new tools and co-organised high-level events with the Committees of Ministers’ presidencies by bringing key issues to the forefront of discussions.
- Report on the need for and feasibility of a further Council of Europe instrument or instruments on human rights and the environment
- High-level conference on the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment in practice, 3 May 2023
Environmental protection through criminal law
Environmental crime negatively impacts economies, health and safety and undermines efforts undertaken by States to protect the environment and promote the rule of law. Environmental crime has evolved taking on a global and systemic dimension, inciting action by the Council of Europe.
The new Committee of Experts on the Protection of the Environment though Criminal Law (PC-ENV) was entrusted, under the authority of the Committee of Ministers and the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC), to elaborate a new Convention on the Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law which aims at laying down a general basis of pan-European environmental criminal law, providing a common global framework in line with the transnational nature of the environmental challenge that needs to be met.
- Negotiations on a future Council of Europe Convention on the protection of the environment through criminal law
The role of prosecutors in the protection of the environment
Environmental crime and related offences, frequently transborder by their very nature, are increasingly becoming a global concern. The Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE) adopted in 2022 a new Opinion No.17. Echoing the Committee of Ministers Recommendation on human rights and the protection of the environment, the CCPE Opinion highlights, in particular, the role of prosecutors as a key player in any strategy to protect the environment, public health and safety, through criminal, administrative and civil law.
The CCPE Opinion emphasises that increased and sustained attention by prosecutors to environmental crime and law enforcement is essential to strengthen the rule of law underpinning environmental governance, and that the complexity of proceedings requires a holistic approach and the collaboration of various stakeholders.
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2 mai 2023Strasbourg 03/05/2023
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3 avr. 2023
Negotiations start in Strasbourg on a new convention on the protection of the environment through criminal lawStrasbourg 03/04/2023
The Council of Europe's Committee of experts on the protection of the environment through...
25 janv. 2023Strasbourg 25/01/2023
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13 oct. 2022Strasbourg 14/10/2022
On 4 October 2022, the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE) adopted its Opinion...
29 sept. 2022
The Committee of Ministers calls on member states to recognise the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human rightStrasbourg 29/09/2022
In a Recommendation on human rights and the protection of the environment, the Council of Europe...
- Joint Declaration on human rights and the environment by the outgoing and incoming Presidencies of the Committee of Ministers
- Council of Europe statement ahead of World Environment Day