Skip to main content

Clean Air and Human Rights

In this 2019 report, the Special Rapporteur explores the right to breathe clean and the negative impact of air pollution on the enjoyment of many human rights.

Background of the report

The Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Dr. David R. Boyd 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.

In this context, he prepared a thematic report focusing on human rights obligations concerning air pollution (both outdoor and indoor). 

See Mr. Boyd explain why clean air is a human right in this short video.

Recommendations to States and the private sector

In his report (A/HRC/40/55), the Special Rapporteur highlights the different State obligations—which are both procedural and substantive—in relation to the right to breathe clean air. He also points out 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.

The Special Rapporteur recommends a number of actions States should consider to improve the quality of the air we breathe. Such actions include:

  1. Monitoring air quality and health effects;
  2. Public reporting on air quality;
  3. Establishing air quality legislation, regulations and standards;
  4. Preparing air quality action plans;
  5. Implementing and enforcing air quality rules;
  6. Evaluating and revising air quality standards and plans;
  7. And protecting environmental human rights defenders.

He also urges businesses, in order to fulfil their responsibility in this regard, to contribute to and support efforts to reduce air pollution.

Read the report on the issue of human rights obligations relating to a safe and healthy environment, available in all 6 UN languages.

Preparation of the report

The Special Rapporteur organized a public consultation with States, international organizations and other relevant stakeholders in Geneva on 29 October 2018. He also held a consultation with civil society representatives on 31 October 2018.

He sought inputs from stakeholders on the topic through responses to the brief questionnaire:
English | French | Spanish

Inputs received


National Human Rights Institutions

International Organizations

Civil society and other stakeholders