On 28 June 2016, Ukraine celebrated the 20th anniversary of the adoption of its Constitution. So, what kind of environmental framework is stipulated by the fundamental law? As a matter of fact, the Constitution:

  • introduces a legal term “довкілля” (environment) replacing inadequate linguistic calque from Russian (i.e. “навколишнє середовище”);
  • acknowledges a range of environmental rights as fundamental constitutional rights of man and of the citizen. In particular, “the right to environment safe for life and health” and to compensation for damage caused by violation of this right; “the right of free access to information about the state of environment”, the quality of food and consumer goods, as well as the right to disseminate such information;
  • recognizes that property rights on the land, subsoil, atmosphere, water and other natural resources within the territory of Ukraine belong to the Ukrainian people. As a result, each citizen enjoys the right to utilize the natural objects of the people’s property rights, and the public authorities and local self-governing authorities exercise these rights on behalf of the Ukrainian people;
  • imposes environmental obligations both on the State (ensuring environmental security, maintaining ecological balance in the territory of Ukraine, overcoming the aftermath of the Chornobyl accident) and on every owner (prohibition to use property that causes degradation of the environmental situation and natural characteristics of soil), man and the citizen (causing no harm to the nature or the cultural heritage and compensating for any damage caused);
  • outlines the legal status of the public authorities and local self-governing authorities in the area of environmental management. For example, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is empowered to approve national programmes for environmental protection. The Government is responsible for the implementation of policy in the areas of environmental protection, environmental security and exploitation of natural resources. Meanwhile local state administrations ensure the implementation of environmental protection programmes.

The question is how the environmental issues will be regulated by the Constitution in the nearest future? The ongoing constitutional reform will obviously impact the future constitutional framework of environmental protection in terms of both the human rights (extended definition of the right to safe environment) and decentralization of power (distribution of central authorities’ powers between local self-governing authorities and assignment of the relevant resources).