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Law Environmental

The Environmental Rights Revolution

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

by (author) David R. Boyd

UBC Press
Initial publish date
Dec 2011
Environmental, Constitutional, Environmental Policy, Civil Rights
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2011
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Dec 2011
    List Price

Classroom Resources

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


This pioneering book answers this by moving beyond theoretical debate to measure the practical effects of enshrining the right in constitutions. David Boyd analyzes 193 constitutions and the laws and court decisions of more than 100 nations in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. He reveals that 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 demonstrate superior environmental performance and have smaller ecological footprints.


Boyd not only demonstrates that constitutionalizing environmental protection has the power to make sustainability a priority, he tells inspiring stories about the difference the right to a healthy environment is making in people’s lives.

About the author

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 and The Right to a Healthy Environment: Revitalizing Canada's Constitution. His current research focuses on the effects of enshrining environmental rights and responsibilities in national constitutions.

David R. Boyd's profile page

Editorial Reviews

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.

McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy, Volume 8: Issue 1

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.

Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, Vol. 4 No. 1