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Toward a Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights


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Presentation prepared for the United Nations' COP15 round in Copenhagen by barrister Polly Higgins of

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Toward a Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights

  1. 1. Planetary Rights COP 15 PLANETARY RIGHTS and the implications for international legislative frameworks Polly Higgins COP 15 December 2009 Barrister Advocate of Planetary Rights Initiator Universal Declaration of Planetary RIghts and Rights of All Beings Founder Trees Have Rights Too
  2. 2. Planetary Rights COP 15 SUMMARY 1. Why we need expansion of rights 2. The Planetary Rights explained 3. Current inclusion in COP 15, para 13 4. Bolivia’s recent UN Resolution 5. Proposals for next steps
  3. 3. Planetary Rights COP 15 1. EXPANSION OF RIGHTS why we need them 1. trade mechanisms not sufficient 2. identification of ‘value’ 3. history of rights extends to eco-systems
  4. 4. 2 DIVERGENT APPROACHES Planet Earth = Inert Thing Living Being = = Imposed Value $$$ Intrinsic Value = = Commodity Responsibility = = OLD PARADIGM NEW PARADIGM
  5. 5. Trade: Transition: | | Pollution continues: Laws to stop pollution: Carbon Permits to Pollute EPA rules GHG = pollution Business as usual: Finance the transition: dirty fuel subsidies remain withdraw dirty fuel subsidies ($300 billion pa) implement clean energy subsidies International trade: Community Governance: Kyoto Protocol (ecological restoration, Community (CDM, JI) Land Trusts, Global Commons) Hidden: Unaccountable Transparent: Accountable (now + for future generations) = = SLAVE SERVICE
  6. 6. SLAVERY 200 years ago: human slavery = human energy Today: planet slavery = fossil fuel energy Instead of enslaving humans we have enslaved the planet *Heavy extractive industry accounts for 78% of the worldsʼ man-made GHGʼs
  7. 7. 200 years ago: 300 companies traded in slaves Industry said: Industry proposed: - to stop would be uneconomic - leave it to market forces (trade) - to stop would lead to loss of jobs - self-regulation - use less/use more efficiently “Public demand that it remain” - improve conditions - limit numbers (cap) - tradeable permits - pay fines if exceed Industry said it was a necessity
  8. 8. TODAY: 300 corporations* trade the planet Industry said: Industry proposed: - to stop would be uneconomic - leave it to market forces (trade) - to stop would lead to loss of jobs - self-regulation - use less/use more efficiently “Public demand that it remain” - improve conditions - limit numbers (cap) - tradeable permits - pay fines if exceed Industry said it was a necessity
  9. 9. 200 years ago: The industry proposals were laughed at Human slavery was outlawed Today: The proposals have been implemented Planetary slavery continues “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom: it is the argument of tryrants it is the creed of slaves.” William Pitt, Prime Minister, House of Commons, 18 March 1783
  10. 10. 60 years ago Human Rights were set down as law after the humanitarian crisis of the 2nd world war. Now we have a planetary crisis. Now we need laws to protect the planet.
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  12. 12. Planetary Rights COP 15 2. THE PLANETARY RIGHTS Right to Diversity Right to Ecological Integrity Freedom of the Natural Cycles of Life Right Not to be Polluted Right to Restorative Justice Freedom of a Healthy & Clean Environment
  13. 13. Example: LOESS PLATEAU, CHINA 35,000 square kilometres of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet.
  14. 14. Hierarchy of failing Ecosystems Loss of biodiversity -> reduced biomass -> reduced photosynthesis -> loss of carbon sequestration -> reduced accumulated necromass -> breakdown of soil stability -> insufficient nutrient cycling -> hydrological regulation breakdown (Natural Infiltration and Retention of Rainfall) Systemic dysfunction extensive disruption -> continuous, accumulative, predictable outcomes OUTCOMES: soil erosion -> loss of fertility -> floods -> drought -> mudslides -> dust storms -> food insecurity -> poverty -> disparity -> climate change -> unchecked population growth
  15. 15. Planetary Rights COP 15 Focus of the Leuss Principles diversity ecological integrity -> natural cycles of life banned polluting practices implemented extensive restoration -> a healthy & clean environment
  16. 16. Loess Plateau, after implementation, 8 years later
  17. 17. Planetary Rights COP 15 THE RIGHT NOT TO BE POLLUTED Pollution = introduction of contaminants into the environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem eg chemical substances, energy, foreign or naturally occurring (when exceed natural levels) Forms of pollution: air, water, soil, litter, radioactive substances, noise, light, visual, thermal, GHGʼs
  18. 18. ID of POLLUTION Non-Point Source ID Point Source ID = = Country Fossil Fuel eg USA extraction Sector destruction of eg Logging natural habitat Carbon use of contaminants = = OLD PARADIGM NEW PARADIGM
  19. 19. Planetary Rights COP 15 3. CURRENT INCLUSION Para 13:“Noting that a shared vision for long-term cooperative action should take account not only of the rights of human beings, but also of the rights of Mother Earth and all its natural beings as the adverse effects of climate change also have a range of direct and indirect implications for the full and effective enjoyment of human rights – including the right to sustainable development, self determination, statehood, life, the right of people not to be deprived of their own means of subsistence, the right to water and the right to live well – and are increasingly posing a risk to security and the survival, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.”
  20. 20. Planetary Rights COP 15 4. BOLIVIA’S UN RESOLUTION “Harmony with Mother Earth ...seeks recognition of the Earth as a Whole and the interaction of human beings with that system of which we are a part” presented by Bolivia to the UN 12.11.09 Co-sponsored by 22 countries: Algeria, Benin, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Eritrea, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mauritius, Nepal, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Seychelles and Venezuela.
  21. 21. Planetary Rights COP 15 5. NEXT STEPS & PROPOSALS 1. replace Sustainability with Responsibility (ID duties and obligations eg health of the asset) 2. ID point-source pollution 3. legislate out damaging practices (harm) legislate in beneficial practices (restore) (stewardship via public trust doctrine/fiduciary laws)