CLA News / Borneo Rainforest Law Conference session report: The air that I breather – the right to a clean environment


This lively session was chaired by Barima Yaw Kodie Oppong (Ghana). Speakers from across the Commonwealth canvassed air pollution responses through statutory and rights-based approaches.

Karen Cheah Yee Lyn (President of the Malaysian Bar) spoke to the devastating impacts of air pollution, particularly from SE Asia’s regular haze. She questioned whether international initiatives, such as ASEAN’s regional responses to transboundary haze, are being effectively implemented on the ground.

View Karen’s presentation here

Nesha Abiraj (Climate Rights & Justice International, Trinidad & Tobago) considered the issue of air pollution through an international human rights lens and the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution. She highlighted the need for science and data-based solutions.

Nkusuwila Nachalwe-Mbao (Zambia) spoke to the significant impacts in Zambia from the mining industry, particularly sulfur dioxide emissions from copper smelters. She described how environmental rights are recognized in Zambia’s Constitution but they are not justiciable; a 2016 referendum to remedy this situation failed. All speakers urged lawyers to be bold and take action to uphold and enforce environmental rights and hold polluters accountable. As Nesha said, “the world needs what you’ve got”.

View Nkusuwila’s presentation here

Fiona Ey

CLA Council member, Samoa

Co-convener CLA Climate Justice Committee