Conducting legal research about the intersection between human rights and climate change.

International law firm Clifford Chance carried out a major pro bono project in collaboration with the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice in New York on behalf of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Dr. David Boyd. The project involved conducting a global survey to determine which of the 193 UN Member States recognize the human right to a healthy environment in their domestic law.

Beginning in November 2018, the project brought together over 90 Clifford Chance lawyers, trainees, paralegals, and members of the Best Delivery team from 27 offices across five continents, working in collaboration with lawyers from over 100 firms globally. The team surveyed and researched approximately 140 UN Member States, with the remaining jurisdictions being analyzed by the Vance Center, in coordination with other participating law firms, and Dr. Boyd.

The survey findings were used by Dr. Boyd to prepare a report, titled “Right to a healthy environment: good practices”, that was presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 2 March 2020. Recognizing this right (the substantive elements of which include a right to a safe climate) has important implications under both domestic and international law. It may support the use of human rights mechanisms in defense of the environment at local, national, and international levels. In the context of the global environmental crisis, accelerated diffusion and adoption of good practices to protect human rights is imperative.