Fast Facts

  • There is no environmental protection or conservation mandate in the U.S. Constitution.


  • Many other states have amended their constitution to incorporate protecting the environment, including Illinois, Pennsylvania, Montana, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.


  • “The United States places heightened importance on legal principles, such as the freedoms of speech and religion, once they have been enshrined as rights. In the legal hierarchy, rights are elevated above statutes and regulations. If statutes do not sufficiently protect against pollution, both current and cumulative, rights can help ensure that governments find a better solution. An environmentally focused, rights-based framework obligates governments to act in a way that takes into account the needs of future as well as present generations.” – From An Environmental Right for Future Generations: Model State Constitutional Provisions & Model Statute, a document produced by the Science and Environmental Health Network and The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.


  • Costa Rica has long been a leader in the environmental movement worldwide. A 1949 amendment to Costa Rica’s Constitution states: “All persons have the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. For that, they are legitimated to denounce the acts that infringe this right and to claim reparation for the damage caused.”


  • In France, the Constitutional Charter on the Environment was adopted in 2005. Article One states, “Everybody has the right to live in a balanced environment which shows due respect for health.” Perhaps more interesting is Article Seven: “Everybody has the right, in the conditions and to the extent provided for by law, to have access to any information pertaining to the environment in the possession of public bodies and to participate in the public decision-making process likely to affect the environment.”