Earth Law Alliance, in collaboration with Earth Thrive and Consensus Law Magazine, is delighted to present the recording of our third and last webinar on the subject of “Eco-Law”. This webinar took place on Tuesday 6th December 2022 and focused on the emergence of the many laws around the world that aim to ensure the human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. We also considered the interface and obvious intertwining of human rights with the inherent right of nature and ecosystems to exist and thrive, which is not yet reflected in the majority of legal systems around the world.
On 26th July 2022, in the face of the continuing rapid and alarming decline of ecosystems and biodiversity globally, the United Nations General Assembly declared that everyone on the planet has a right to a healthy environment. The resolution states that climate change and environmental degradation are some of the most pressing threats to humanity’s future and calls on states to increase their efforts to ensure that their citizens have access to a “clean, healthy and sustainable environment.”
The triple planetary crisis of (1) climate change, (2) biodiversity loss and (3) increasing waste and pollution are challenges that will profoundly affect us all in various ways in the coming years and decades. Recognising the human right to a healthy environment is a big step forwards, and over 100 countries now include the human right to a healthy environment in their national constitutions, but does this go far enough, given what we now know from the science of ecology about the interconnectedness of all life?
In looking at the “environment” part of the equation, we considered how things would be different if we reframe our relationship to the living world from a more ecocentric perspective. Human rights can only exist in the first place because we have a habitable planet to live on. Arguably, one of the biggest ‘missing pieces’ from our legal systems is the recognition of the rights of nature. We cannot exist or thrive without healthy ecosystems, and yet nature, ecosystems and other species have no recognised right even to exist in the majority of legal systems, let alone to be clean and healthy. However this too is slowly changing via the Rights of Nature movement globally.
To inform us further on these topics, we were delighted to welcome the following speakers:
Dr. David R. Boyd is the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment (2018-2024) and a professor of law, policy, and sustainability at the University of British Columbia, jointly appointed at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs.
Dr. Boyd is also the author of ten books and over 100 reports and articles on environmental law and policy, human rights, and constitutional law. His books include The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights and the Environment (UBC Press, 2011), The Right to a Healthy Environment (UBC Press, 2012), The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Toward a Greener Future (ECW Press, 2015), The Rights of Nature: A legal Revolution that could Save the World (ECW Press, 2017), and his first novel, Thirst for Justice (2020).
Sue Willman is an Assistant Director and Lecturer at King’s College, London where she launched the UK’s first human rights and environment legal clinic. She is a member of the King’s Centre for Climate Law and Governance. Sue has jointly established the ERRP project to promote the Right to a Healthy Environment (see briefing paper The Right to a Healthy Environment in the United Kingdom: Supporting the Proposal for a New Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights by Harry Balfour-Lynn and Sue Willman). She is currently working with NGOs in Ireland and Iceland to advocate for the human right to a healthy environment. Sue aims to approach environmental justice from a Rights of Nature perspective and recently worked with Earth Thrive and students from King’s Legal Clinic on a Bern Convention complaint on behalf of EkoKrajiste in Serbia, making a landmark legal complaint aimed at protecting endangered species in Serbia from mining operations, using Rights of Nature arguments.
Cormac Cullinan is a practising environmental attorney and author based in Cape Town, South Africa. He is a director of the leading South African environmental law firm, Cullinan & Associates Inc, and director of the Wild Law Institute, a non-profit organisation that advocates for Rights of Nature. In the academic field he has lectured and written widely on governance issues related to human interactions with the environment and is notable for authoring a book, Wild Law – A Manifesto for Earth Justice, as well as several works commissioned and published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He is a graduate of the University of Natal and King’s College London.
in 2010, Cullinan led the drafting of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth and is a founder and Executive Committee member of the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature. He drafted the Peoples’ Convention that established the International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature, and was the president of the Tribunal hearings in December 2015 in Paris. Between 2019 and 2021, Cullinan served as the president of the European Tribunal on the Rights of Nature. He has addressed conferences throughout the world on Earth Jurisprudence and the rights of Nature, including the UN General Assembly in 2011.
Ana Beridze is an environmental lawyer from Georgia. She holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Law from the University of Dundee, where she studied as a Chevening Scholar. Her areas of expertise include environmental regulation and international climate change law. Currently, Ana works as an environmental human rights’ analyst at the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association. She is responsible for researching and analyzing Georgian environmental and climate change legislation and developing recommendations on how to advance them.