In recent years, there has been a growing trend in people and organisations also using Europe’s unparalleled system for protecting human rights to help tackle environmental problems.

A number of the international legal standards developed by the Council of Europe – notably including the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the Bern Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats – have successfully been invoked to help make progress on environmental issues.

The European Court of Human Rights has so far ruled on some 300 environment-related cases, applying concepts such as the right to life, free speech and family life to a wide range of issues including pollution, man-made or natural disasters and access to environmental information.

The European Convention on Human Rights has also been used by campaigners at the national level to encourage governments to take further steps to tackle climate change and the degradation of the natural environment.

Successive Council of Europe presidencies, and various other organs of the organisation, have called for existing legal tools to be further strengthened in order to help European states deal with the considerable environmental challenges that we all face.

Prosecutors have a key role in addressing environmental crime, and law enforcement is essential to strengthen the rule of law on which environmental governance is based. An Opinion of the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors considers the guiding principles on environmental protection and sets out guidelines and recommendations for action of prosecutors in criminal, administrative and civil proceedings in environmental cases.

Back Protect wildlife habitats. Get connected!

Protect wildlife habitats. Get connected!

Nature is declining fast: 150 species become extinct every 24 hours according to scientists.

As animals and plants lose their habitats because of human activity, roughly three quarters of Earth’s land surface and 66% of our oceans are affected. 32 million hectares of forest disappeared from 2010 to 2015 alone.

Do you care? Are you committed to protecting biodiversity and wildlife habitats on our planet?

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7 October 2020
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Using human rights to address environmental issues



“Climate litigation – what you need to know”

What is the relationship between the environment and the protection of human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights? How can human rights law contribute to strengthening environmental protection at national level? What is the relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights?
Find out more about the dynamics of environmental litigation in Europe