top of page

Right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable ocean

Oceans are vital for human survival. They provide food, regulate the climate by moving heat around the planet, support biodiversity, and offer cultural and recreational benefits. By absorbing about 90% of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions, oceans play a critical role in climate regulation. Protecting the health of our oceans ensures that these essential services continue to support human life.

However, as we burn more fossil fuels for energy every day, we release more carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide acts like a blanket that traps heat. When the ocean absorbs too much of this extra heat, it can’t stabilize the climate. 
Therefore, we must recognize the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable ocean as part of the broader right to a healthy environment. This is particularly important given the strong focus on land regarding the environment.

Additionally, like the right to a healthy environment, the right to a healthy ocean is interconnected with several other human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water, and an adequate standard of living. It also encompasses procedural rights such as access to environmental information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice.

International human rights experts and environmental advocates are increasingly emphasizing the need to protect the human right to a healthy environment within the context of ocean governance.

The recognition of the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable ocean would offer several benefits. It would emphasize the specific importance of ocean governance and protection, ensuring States' obligations to prevent marine degradation, promote biodiversity, manage fisheries sustainably, and mitigate climate change impacts. This recognition would drive inclusive decision-making processes, ensuring that vulnerable and marginalized groups, especially those dependent on the sea or living in coastal areas, can access information, participate meaningfully, and seek justice. It also would hold the private sector accountable for environmental impacts, requiring businesses to conduct due diligence and establish transparent grievance mechanisms. 

Overall, this right supports global efforts to combat climate change, protect biodiversity, and promote sustainable development, contributing to the protection of current and future generations

Sources : 

1. The human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable ocean, Nathan J. Bennett, Elisa Morgera & David Boyd
2. The environmental rights webpage of Ocean Hub : Environmental and Human Rights Law | One Ocean Hub

bottom of page