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Right to healthy environment helps achieve ecological civilization – David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur

The right to a healthy environment will help achieve an ecological civilization, which can be a catalyst for more ambitious climate action and also a powerful tool for holding governments accountable for their commitments, a senior UN human rights and environment expert said.

“I am convinced that everyone, everywhere, has the right to live in a healthy environment … one of the things we all share in common is that we depend on this beautiful blue-green planet for our existence, prosperity and survival,” David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment, said in an interview with Xinhua on Thursday, also the Earth Day this year.

He believed that recognition of the right to a healthy environment by all states is one of the most important and systematic contributions to solving the global environmental crisis, as such a recognition has proven to be a catalyst for stronger environmental laws and policies, and to improve the implementation and enforcement of those laws and policies.

“Recognizing the right to a healthy environment and the rights of animals, rivers and ecosystems can help humans understand that we are part of an extraordinary community of life we call Nature,” he stressed.

“Despite our scientific and technological brilliance, Earth is thus far the only planet we know supports the miracle of life. Treating Nature as a community, rather than a commodity, would be a catalyst for achieving the goal of an ecological civilization that China has so eloquently articulated,” he said.

Speaking of China, the UN expert said that China’s per capita emissions are still lower than wealthy states, including the United States, Canada and Australia.

In Boyd’s eyes, China is leading the world in generating solar and wind electricity as well as in sales of electric vehicles, and air quality in China has improved substantially in the past decade because of strong policies.

On the international cooperation in addressing climate change, Boyd believed that the world really needs China and the United States to play leadership roles in tackling the climate emergency, as their leadership will encourage other states to cooperate as well.

“China’s increased commitment, as reflected in the pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060, has already sparked more ambitious commitments from the UK and the U.S.,” he said.

He suggested that China move to depend less on coal-fired electricity generation to tackle climate change better.

Envisaging the upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference to be held in Kunming, China, later this year, Boyd said that the proposed target of protecting 30 percent of the Earth’s lands and waters by 2030 is ambitious, and efforts should be made to achieve that.

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