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.   

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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


         Recordings: Morning session - Afternoon session

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.



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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