Environmental Racism in Europe

Environmental racism is a contentious issue that must be tackled if our planet's future is to be safeguarded. Depending on the place being described, the word has diverse connotations, but its fundamental tenet is that a territory's ethnic, religious, and racial minorities are not adequately provided with access to fundamental environmental safeguards and rights.

In contrast to environmental justice, environmental racism occurs when environmental hazards are disproportionately distributed along racial lines, sometimes without the input of the impacted communities of color.

The problems surrounding environmental racism demonstrate how difficult it is to clearly distinguish between social and environmental issues. It is important to provide impacted parties with legal and financial resources so they may be heard when they expose this prejudice for what it is. Despite several studies showing the detrimental effects on the ecology, health, and sustainability of afflicted communities, companies and policy makers continue to make active attempts to exploit underprivileged individuals and the settings in which they reside.

What is the Meaning of Environmental Racism in Europe?

Environmental racism is prevalent in Europe, which has a long history of prejudice against minority communities that was exacerbated by colonialism. Europe still has issues with how it treats the Romani and other native tribes on its own land. Due to their confinement to less affluent metropolitan areas with unhealthy living circumstances, the Romani share many similarities with minorities in the United States.

According to the European Roma Rights Centre, "forced evictions of Roma on environmental grounds are on the rise," and ethnic groups in northern Europe are at risk from mining and forestry projects. Native populations of continental Europe such as the Sami, Koni, Yemets, and others are in a similar predicament to those in North America because of tainted food and water sources brought on by business expansion and growth.

These excluded groups face a very significant environmental hazard that is rarely acknowledged on a global scale. It is understandable that the refugee issue in Europe has given rise to unrest and unavoidable environmental racism given the region's disregard for the welfare of the indigenous populations.

Environmental Racism in Europe: What Causes It?

The causes are −

Europe as a Periphery of Environmental Racism

Despite bearing more environmental responsibilities and having less access to environmental decision-making than the EU core, the European periphery has contributed far less to environmental problems in Europe (and throughout the world). It is classified as follows −

Distributive Injustice

The unequal allocation of environmental resources, duties, and costs across EU member countries, as well as unequal political influence in Europe's institutional structure. A fundamental issue of distributive unfairness in Europe is the allocation of political power and institutional resources. Due to an unconventional use of the concept of procedural and remedial environmental justice in the framework of the Aarhus Convention, this may make the assessment of this aspect of distributive environmental injustice in Europe more traditional.

Procedural and Corrective Injustice

In Europe, "environmental justice" is most commonly understood to refer to the procedural and remedial aspects of environmental justice. The Aarhus Convention is particularly crucial in this situation. The "three pillars of environmental democracy" are established by this international agreement: the right to access environmental information, the right to public involvement in environmental decision-making, and the right to receive environmental justice. Access to knowledge is thus an essential requirement for meaningful participation, and access to justice is a method to enforce the other two rights. These three rights are therefore considered as interrelated and mutually reinforcing.

Convention for Environmental Racism in Europe

The major conventions for Environmental Racism in Europe are −

Aarhus Convention

The Fourth "Environment for Europe" Ministerial Conference, which took place in Aarhus, Denmark, on June 25, 1998, saw the adoption of the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention). The law becomes effective on October 30, 2001. As of April 2014, it had 47 parties, including the European Union and 46 nations from the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) area of the United Nations (UN).

An innovative form of environmental accord is the Aarhus Convention. It creates a connection between environmental and human rights, recognizes our responsibility to future generations, and states that only by including all stakeholders in sustainable development can it be accomplished. It connects environmental conservation with government accountability. It is developing a new method for public engagement in the drafting and carrying out of international agreements and focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities in a democratic setting.

The interaction between people and governments is at the core of the Aarhus Convention's topic. The Convention is about government responsiveness, accountability, and openness, in addition to the environment.

The Aarhus Convention establishes rights for the public in terms of information access and public involvement, and it places duties on parties and public bodies. It supports these rights with measures relating to access to justice that, in certain ways, give the Convention some teeth. In fact, the preamble specifically states that every individual has a right to live in an environment that is suitable for their health and well-being and directly relates environmental protection to human rights standards.

The Aarhus Convention addresses duties that parties have to the public, unlike the majority of multilateral environmental accords, which only address obligations between parties. In terms of putting unambiguous responsibilities on parties and public authorities towards the public in terms of access to information, public involvement, and access to justice, it goes farther than any other environmental treaty. This is supported by the Convention's compliance review mechanism, which enables the general public to submit compliance-related complaints before an international authority. 


Environmental racism has several root causes, including deliberate neglect, the alleged need for a dump for pollutants in urban areas, a lack of institutional power, and low land prices for people of color. It is well recognized that polluting industries (and notably hazardous waste facilities) have a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color and low-income locations. Environmental racism is influenced by a number of variables, including the availability of cheap land, a lack of political will to fight enterprises, and poverty. Businesses and the government alike look for low-cost land to develop hazardous waste sites or dump toxic materials.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Which is an example of environmental racism on a global scale?

Ans. The international practice of shipping hazardous garbage from industrialized nations to underdeveloped nations is considered environmental racism.

Q2. What is the root cause of environmental racism?

Ans. Environmental racism is influenced by a number of variables, including the availability of cheap land, a lack of political will to fight enterprises, and poverty. Businesses and the government alike look for low-cost land to develop hazardous waste sites or dump toxic materials.

Q3. What are the four major global environmental problems?

Ans. Water shortages, soil exhaustion and erosion, deforestation, and air and water pollution afflict many areas.

Q4. What are the three root causes of environmental problems?

Ans. The primary causes of these environmental problems are excessive deforestation, industrialization, and overfilling landfills, all of which produce CO2 and increase greenhouse gas emissions, as well as pollute the air, land, and water.

Q5. What is the best example of environmental racism?

Ans. The Flint water crisis and arsenic contamination in the San Joaquin Valley are examples of environmental racism.

Updated on: 10-Mar-2023


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