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Canberra Moves To Pioneer Legal Right To A Healthy Environment In Australia

Canberra could become the first place in Australia to legally entrench a right to a healthy environment as the ACT government introduced the Human Rights (Healthy Environment) Amendment Bill 2023. 

This legislation, tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly today, aims to provide citizens with a platform to report breaches related to a healthy environment.

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The Human Rights (Healthy Environment) Amendment Bill 2023 aims to introduce the ACT Legislative Assembly. 

It empowers individuals to report breachers concerning a healthy environment to the ACT Human Rights Commission.

There are no immediate penalties for violations, allowing time for international legal precedents to develop and ensuring public understanding.

Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne said: “This is an important step having regard to the triple planetary threat of climate change, environmental pollution, and biodiversity loss.”

Ms Cheyne said introducing the right was consistent with growing international consensus and practice around the importance of environmental protection for future generations.

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“The right to a healthy environment has been recognised to include a right to clean air, a safe climate, access to safe water and to healthy and sustainably produced food, non-toxic environments in which to live, work, study and play, and healthy biodiversity and ecosystems.”

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly, in a landmark decision last year, recognized access to a clean and healthy environment as a universal human right. 

This resolution serves a dual purpose, promoting domestic climate policies among member states while acknowledging the imperative to safeguard global wellbeing.

Environmental lawyers, including the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), also support the ACT government’s bill but advocate for its extension to private entities.

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