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A delegate representing the UK government stated to the UN that they will not consider the concept of nature having rights.
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A delegate representing the UK government stated to the UN that they will not consider the concept of nature having rights.

A representative from the UK’s environment department has informed the UN that the British government will not acknowledge nature or Mother Earth as having rights.

Critics deemed the rejection of a concept that has been acknowledged in UN declarations and holds significant importance to Indigenous communities as shameful, inconsistent, and undemocratic.

During preliminary negotiations for the UN environment assembly in Nairobi on Wednesday, Britain declined to support the inclusion of rights for nature in a draft resolution proposed by Bolivia. The resolution focused on the concept of “living well in balance and harmony with Mother Earth” and included language regarding the rights of nature.

The United States, the European Union, Canada, and the United Kingdom expressed opposition to the resolution, stating that they did not have enough time to fully consider the complicated matter submitted by Bolivia at the eleventh hour.

The representative from the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) expressed concerns that the proposed resolution did not acknowledge the various perspectives on understanding and engaging with nature. They stated their opposition to the fundamental principle of the resolution and implied that the UK would not be open to adopting this alternative approach towards nature in legal proceedings.

The UK is resolute in their stance that only legal entities with a legal identity can possess rights. They do not agree with the idea of granting rights to nature or Mother Earth,” stated the delegate. “Although we acknowledge that some may hold a different viewpoint, this is a core principle for the UK and one that we cannot stray from.”

Legal professionals have been focusing on the concept of “rights of nature” in order to enhance safeguards for endangered species and ecosystems. This is in response to the dominant belief in the market that views them solely as exploitable resources.

Many campaigns worldwide have seen advancements in this field, frequently linked to initiatives to unite Indigenous knowledge, ethical considerations, and environmental conservation. The Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights has compiled a record of nations, regions, and legal frameworks that have acknowledged rights for nature. Ecuador, Bolivia, Uganda, the United States, Canada, Brazil, New Zealand, Mexico, and Northern Ireland all have varying degrees of recognition for nature’s rights in their constitutions, national legislation, or local regulations.

Experts in law have observed that companies and even vessels are not living beings, but can be given legal status through the enactment of laws. In 2012, at the Rio+20 conference, the UN general assembly passed resolutions acknowledging the rights of Mother Earth or the natural world, and in 2022, this was further recognized in the biodiversity convention. In total, there have been 14 resolutions from the UN general assembly pertaining to this matter.

According to Agustín Grijalva, a previous high court justice in Ecuador who made a groundbreaking decision regarding the rights of the Los Cedros forest, the UK’s rejection was offensive. He expressed, “It is highly disrespectful to outright dismiss the proposal of Bolivia and other UN member nations, where government representatives are expected to at least listen, discuss, and deliberate on what is best for humanity and the environment. This statement is a disgrace for the UK.”

According to César Rodríguez-Garavito, a legal expert from Colombia who heads the Earth Rights Advocacy Clinic at New York University, the UK’s stance is at best paradoxical and at worst contradictory. He believes it is paradoxical because it grants rights to corporations, which are non-human entities, but refuses to acknowledge them for non-human living beings. He also finds it contradictory because, although the UK acknowledges the importance of different cultures and Indigenous perspectives, it still imposes a Western understanding of rights and law.

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Peter Doran, a lecturer in environmental law at Queen’s University Belfast and a leading campaigner for the rights of nature to be included in Ireland’s constitution, said the “fundamentalist” British response in Nairobi was “threadbare in both logic and substance”. He said it reflected the position of European colonial powers who had “foisted the twin pillars of genocide and ecocide on Indigenous peoples around the world, using the force of arms to transform the earth into dead matter, valued only as feedstock for industry and commerce.”

According to a representative from the government, the UK acknowledges the significance of safeguarding and promoting the environment. However, our stance is that rights can only be granted to legal entities, not nature or Mother Nature.

“We expressed our concerns, along with the US, Canada, and the EU, that the Resolution did not consider the perspectives of other cultures and communities who also strive towards environmental progress.”

Source: theguardian.com