Professor Morgera organizes third roundtable on the human right to a healthy environment in Scotland

Feb 2021 — In her capacity as a member of the National Task Force for the development of a legal framework on human rights leadership for Scotland, Professor Elisa Morgera, Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance, organised the third (and final) virtual roundtable on the human right to a healthy environment in Scotland on 25th January 2021.


Photo by v2osk on Unsplash

This built on two previous roundtables (see here) and Prof Morgera’s engagement with the Taskforce’s Public Sector Reference Group, which comprises operational-level duty bearers from across different sectors, on 15th December 2020. 

At the Public Sector Reference Group meeting, participants discussed the transformative value of recognising a right to a healthy environment in Scotland, by assisting public authorities to work together coherently to realise co-benefits across multiple human rights, as well as providing a useful benchmark for monitoring purposes. 

The third roundtable brought together Scottish environmental NGOs and public body representatives such as the Commissioner on Children and Young People’s Rights, the Scottish Land Commissioner, and the Scottish Human Rights Commissioner, as well as Scotland’s Law Society and the newly established Environmental Standards Scotland.

The roundtable featured a keynote presentation by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Prof David Boyd, who expressed support for the recognition of the right to a healthy environment in Scotland both in procedural and substantive terms. He stated: 

Due to the current global environmental emergency (the climate crisis, the collapse of biodiversity, pollution leading to the deaths of over 9 million people each year and the surge of infectious diseases such as Covid-19), it is essential that we listen to the science and make rapid, systemic and transformative changes to address this crisis, with human rights and the right to a safe, clean and healthy environment being a key vehicle to drive this transformative change.

Participants discussed a revised proposal for key features in recognizing the human right to a healthy environment in Scotland, emphasizing the need to: 

  • explicitly link the right to a healthy environment with questions of health and equity in Scotland;
  • protect children and young people as human rights defenders;
  • formalise concrete opportunities for children to participate in decision-making, monitoring and access to justice;
  • ensure respect for procedural rights during the pandemic;
  • address the issue of strategic lawsuits against public participation; and
  • define the main duty bearers under the new human rights framework, taking into account the role of the private sector.

The outputs of the three roundtables, including the recommended key features of a human right to a healthy environment in Scotland, will be included in the report of the National Task Force due to be released in March 2021. 

For more background, see our previous SCELG blogpost on COVID-19, Environmental Protection & Human Rights Leadership