David Boyd is an Associate Professor of Law, Policy and Sustainability, as well as a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment for the United Nations. His first report to the UN Human Rights Council is now public and available in the six official UN languages here.
In the present report, the Special Rapporteur recalls that the right to a healthy environment has been recognized by a majority of States in their constitutions, legislation, and various regional treaties to which they are parties. However, in spite of the wide recognition of its crucial importance, the right to a healthy environment has not yet been recognized as such at the global level. The Special Rapporteur focuses on the right to breathe clean air as one of its component and describes the negative impact of air pollution on the enjoyment of many human rights, in particular the right to life and the right to health, in particular by vulnerable groups. He highlights the different State obligations in relation to the right to breathe clean air, which are both procedural and substantive, as well as the specific obligation to protect people and groups in vulnerable situations. He identifies several good practices implemented worldwide that have helped to improve air quality. Finally, the Special Rapporteur offers a number of recommendations to States for actions they should consider as part of a national air quality action plan and urges businesses, in order to fulfil their responsibility in this regard, to contribute to and support efforts to reduce air pollution.