The Environmental Rights Revolution
468 pages, 6 x 9
3 maps, 10 charts, 22 tables
Release Date:06 Dec 2011
Release Date:06 Dec 2011

The Environmental Rights Revolution

A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment

SERIES: Law and Society
UBC Press

The right to a healthy environment has been the subject of extensive philosophical debates that revolve around a key question: Should rights to clean air, water, and soil be entrenched in law, in the constitutions of democratic states?

In The Environmental Rights Revolution, David Boyd, one of Canada’s leading environmental lawyers, answers this question by moving beyond theoretical debate to measure the practical effects of enshrining the right to a healthy environment in constitutions. His analysis of 193 constitutions and the laws and court decisions of more than 100 nations shows how the constitutional right to a healthy environment has been incorporated in legislation and is being judicially enforced in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Nations with constitutional protections have stronger environmental laws, enhanced enforcement, greater government accountability, and better access to justice, information, and public participation in decision making than nations without such provisions. As a result, they also have smaller ecological footprints, rank higher on comprehensive indices of environmental performance, and have reduced pollution faster.

This important and timely book not only demonstrates that enshrining environmental protection into national constitutions has the power to make sustainability a priority, it tells inspiring stories about the difference the right to a healthy environment is making in people’s lives.

This book will appeal not only to lawyers, academics, activists, politicians, and judges but also to anyone concerned about environmental sustainability.

What sets this book evidently apart from all the existing publications in the field is its empirical approach…in an earlier endorsement for this book’s marketing, I declared that it ‘breaks new ground in terms of approach, content, scope, and methodology and is well worth a place on the bookshelves of anyone who takes environmental rights and governance seriously’. After this recent reassessment of the book, I can only reiterate these sentiments. Louis J Kotzé, Professor, North-West University, South Africa, Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, Vol. 4 No. 1
Boyd’s book forms an indispensable and influential addition to this literature not only due to the strength and comprehensiveness of its comparative legal analysis, but also because of the important empirical questions it seeks to answer as well as raises for future research. Indeed, by conducting the first serious and systematic empirical study of the environmental implications of the right to a healthy environment, Boyd has moved this field beyond the speculative and abstract arguments typical of earlier scholarship...Boyd’s meticulous examination of the legal status of the right to a healthy environment in close to a hundred countries provides powerful evidence of its salience to legal systemsaround the world...The Environmental Rights Revolution forms an important, pioneering effort for understanding the legal influence and broader significance of the right to a healthy environment. As a result, the variety of empirical puzzles and questions that it leaves in its wake should continue to influence research in this field for many years to come. Sebastien Jodoin, McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy, Volume 8: Issue 1
This book is a must read for scholars, jurists, and advocates of environmental law. Professor Boyd has single-handedly brought the field of environmental human rights into the twenty-first century. Lynda M. Collins, Centre for Environmental Law & Global Sustainability, University of Ottawa
While the environmental rights theme is well-trodden scholarly ground, David Boyd eloquently frees this enquiry from the restrictive theoretical confines of the ivory tower by investigating the actual impact that rights have on environmental governance. This has not been done before in such a comprehensive, critical, and thorough manner. This work breaks new ground in terms of approach, content, scope, and methodology and is well worth a place on the bookshelves of anyone who takes environmental rights and governance seriously. Louis J. Kotzé, Professor of Law, North West University, South Africa
A valuable study on the environmental rights revolution. The evidence presented in this book helps understand the powerful influence of the right to a healthy environment in promoting strong environmental legislation, public policies, and court decisions across the world. This is the most complete research available for professors, judges, practitioners, and students interested in the origins, consequences, and future of the most important legal revolution for the survival of humanity. Dr. Rafael González Ballar, Faculty of Law, University of Costa Rica
Boyd’s book is ambitious in scope, innovative in approach, persuasive in its arguments, and inspiring in its conclusions. The Environmental Rights Revolution is an impressive piece of comparative legal scholarship with practical implications for society’s ongoing quest for a sustainable future. Professor Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, Director of the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law and Affiliated Fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, Cambridge University
Boyd’s is a book we wish we had written. We will turn to it again and again in our own scholarship, teaching, and advice to litigating colleagues. No other study has pulled together so much information on constitutional environmental rights. It will be immensely useful to scholars searching for new material to explore and fruitful directions for future research. Legislators seeking to implement environmental rights can turn to it for guidance. Lawyers searching for court precedents will find a treasure trove of them here. The book moves beyond the tired debates about whether environmental rights should exist by focusing our attention instead on how the diverse legal systems of the world are actually putting these rights into effect. Bravissimo! Professors Svitlana Kravchenko and John E. Bonine, University of Oregon, co-authors of Human Rights and the Environment: Cases, Law, and Policy
David R. Boyd’s thorough and carefully presented research provides a clear and detailed account of how environmental rights are being implemented throughout the world. After an initial orientation to the philosophical debates about human rights and the environment, Boyd moves on deftly to investigate which arguments are vindicated in practice. Identifying the evidence available about the practical effectiveness of environmental rights, he provides an invaluable assessment of developments to date as well as a guide to promising future directions of research. This extremely well written book is an essential guide to environmental rights in theory and in practice. Professor Tim Hayward, University of Edinburgh, author of Constitutional Environmental Rights
This book is indispensable for anyone interested in environmental rights. Boyd’s astounding in-depth research spans more than 100 countries, and shows what a powerful tool constitutional rights can be for advancing sustainability -- in courtrooms, legislatures, and broader society. Dr. Stewart Elgie, Professor, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, and Chair, Sustainable Prosperity

Dr. David R. Boyd is one of Canada’s leading experts in environmental law and policy and an adjunct professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. He has advised the governments of Canada, Sweden, and Iceland on environmental and constitutional issues and is the co-chair of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Team along with Mayor Gregor Robertson. He is a member of the IUCN’s Commission on Environmental Law, the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment, the Forum for Leadership on Water, and the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW).

David Boyd is the author of several bestselling and award-winning books as well as more than a hundred publications related to environmental law and policy, including Unnatural Law: Rethinking Canadian Environmental Law and Policy. His current research focuses on the effects of enshrining environmental rights and responsibilities in national constitutions.

Part 1: The Emergence and Evolution of a New Human Right

1 Constitutions, Human Rights, and the Environment: The Context

2 The Right to a Healthy Environment: Framing the Issues

3 The Prevalence and Enforceability of Environmental Provisions in National Constitutions

4 The Influence of International Law

Part 2: The Constitutional Right to a Healthy Environment in Practice

5 A Framework for Assessing the Legal Influence of the Right to a Healthy Environment

6 Latin America and the Caribbean

7 Africa

8 Asia

9 Eastern Europe

10 Western Europe

Part 3: Evaluating the Impacts of Environmental Provisions in Constitutions

11 Lessons Learned: Practical Experiences with the Right to a Healthy Environment

12 Do Environmental Provisions in Constitutions Influence Environmental Performance?

13 An Idea Whose Time Has Come


Appendix 1. Research Methods

Appendix 2. Online Database: All Current Environmental Provisions from National Constitutions




Abstract of Book
Appendix 2

Environmental Protection and Enforceability. Excerpts from 147 National Constitutions.

This document provides a comprehensive inventory of constitutional provisions related to environmental protection and the enforceability of those provisions. It is intended to provide a tool for comparative research and a compendium of precedents for constitutional drafting.

For information on the methodology used to identify these provisions, please consult Appendix 1 of The Environmental Rights Revolution, by David R. Boyd (UBC Press, 2012).

Find what you’re looking for...

Free shipping on online orders over $40

Stay Informed

Receive the latest UBC Press news, including events, catalogues, and announcements.

Read past newsletters

Publishers Represented
UBC Press is the Canadian agent for several international publishers. Visit our Publishers Represented page to learn more.