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.

Natural disasters and climate hazards: Congress calls on its members to be better prepared

Congress 28 March 2024 Strasbourg

Council of Europe member states are increasingly confronted with natural disasters and climate hazards, and local and regional authorities are in the first line to respond. To do this in the most effective, yet democratic manner, it will be crucial for local and regional authorities to develop a...

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PACE committee backs Council of Europe strategy on the environment and recommends drawing up a binding legal instrument recognising a right to a healthy environment

27 March 2024 strasbourg

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, meeting on 25 March in Paris, deplored the fact that the Council of Europe is now the only regional human rights system which has not yet formally recognised the right to a healthy environment. It welcomed the fact that the 4th...

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PACE committee targets the climate crisis with strategies for healthy seas and oceans

25 March 2024 Strasbourg

“Seas and oceans are at the crossroads of human and environmental vulnerabilities. Preserving their health is in the direct interest of humankind,” today said the PACE Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. Adopting a draft resolution prepared by Yuliia Ovchynnykova...

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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