Solicitors to ponder calls to extend legal rights to nature

20th October 2022


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IEMA

Extending legal rights to animals, rivers, trees, ecosystems and landscapes could be part of future responses to tackling biodiversity loss and climate change, according a major report for the Law Society.

The “horizon scanning” study, Law in the emerging bio-age, looks at the latest understanding of biotechnology and innovations, “second chances” for addressing planetary limits and compensation for past damage to the global ecosystem, as well as the rights of “non-humans”. It says that granting them legal rights “communicates our dependence and a greater role for nature in decision-making”.

A non-human rights-based framework in international and local law is likely to differ radically from a human rights-based approach, it admits. If rights were granted to non-humans or living systems, it would raise questions of liability for damage to the environment such as climate change or biodiversity loss.

The report notes that Bolivia and Ecuador have already granted legal rights to nature, while a Brazilian court recently recognised the climate crisis as a human rights issue.

The study, which considers biopolitics, biohazards, ethics and indigenous views of nature, says that the “emerging trend” of granting legal rights is part of considering “how humans can be better ancestors to future generations of all species”.

However, it acknowledges that such a move would raise significant questions for the Law Society and the legal profession, especially around the ethics and rights of shifting humanity’s relationship to the planet and living systems. This in turn “rebounds” into the policy arena, impacting decision-makers’ responsibilities in creating future laws and regulations and working out how to enforce them, it adds.

Image Credit | iStock

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