The international panel of judges of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change has issued its final Advisory Opinion after 10 months of deliberation. They have recommended a worldwide ban on unconventional oil and gas extraction. This would include a ban on hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”), underground coal gasification, tar sands and oil shale extraction, among other extreme oil and gas extraction processes.
In the judges’ opinion: “From many jurisdictions around the globe, the evidence is overwhelming: first, Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction (“UOGE”) is a major contributor to the crisis the world is facing at the “climate crossroads”; second, the dangers of UOGE to the rights of people, communities and nature are inherent in the industry, and such dangers all too often result in serious, even catastrophic violations of those rights. Where UOGE operations impact, local ecosystems are destroyed and that of the planet comes under threat… Thus the industry has failed to fulfil its legal and moral obligations”.
The judges went on to say that “The evidence also shows that governments have, in general, failed in their responsibility to regulate the industry so as to protect people, communities and nature. In addition, they have failed to act promptly and effectively to the dangers of climate change that fracking represents.”
In terms of nature’s rights, the judges have made various recommendations, including the following:
- “That the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth (UDRME) be adopted as soon as possible by the United Nations.” (Recommendation 1)
- “That ecocide be given similar recognition as genocide in international law through a Universal Declaration from the United Nations.” (Recommendation 8).
Also of interest to anyone who is actively defending Mother Earth is the judges’ 3rd recommendation:
- “That an International Working Group (IWG) be established to develop People’s Earth Jurisprudence and publish reports which can be used by legislatures and courts around the world. The IWG should include in its work an analysis and justification of the right to use civil disobedience including forcible action where necessary and morally justified to defend Mother Earth”.
Background to the Case on Nature’s Rights: The PPT is an international opinion tribunal that is independent of state authorities. Until now, it has been solely a Human Rights Tribunal, but for the first time since its inception in 1979, the PPT judges were asked for their opinion on the impact of fracking and climate change on nature’s rights. As Co-counsel for Nature’s Rights, Lisa Mead of the Earth Law Alliance and Michelle Maloney of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance made the case for nature by invoking the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, which does not (yet) have the force of law. Earth Law Alliance also co-ordinated a legal team acting for Nature’s Rights, which called various witnesses and experts to testify. The evidence was presented during 4 hours of oral pleadings, which formed part of a total of 5 days of online oral pleadings conducted in May 2018 via Zoom. The oral pleadings also bore witness to the myriad negative impacts of UOGE on human health. In advance of the online hearings, extensive written submissions were made, incorporating a raft of evidence of harms done to nature by UOGE in various countries.
Our case for nature was built on the premise that any future governance system must recognize the rights of all life to exist, thrive, evolve and regenerate, and that intrinsic rights exist where life and life-supporting systems exist. The underlying basis for this is the key principle of Earth Jurisprudence that the Universe is the primary law-giver, not humans. We made the case, for example, that there have been violations of the rights of land and its sub-surface, where seismic activity and water pollution has occurred as a result of the sub-surface injection of fracking fluids. This includes the violation of the right to be free from contamination, pollution and toxic or radioactive waste; the right to maintain its identity and integrity as a distinct, self-regulating and interrelated being; and the right to integral health. We also made the case for the rights of animals and birds, plants, forests and air.
The PPT’s judgement has moral, if not legal, force. The documents, oral testimonies, official transcripts and of course the final Advisory Opinion of the PPT are all available to activists and members of the public who wish to challenge the UOGE industry via the Tribunal on Fracking website.