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Ireland on Brink of Changing Constitution For Nature

Ireland is considering a nationwide referendum on the rights of nature and the human right to a healthy environment.


Kerry coast, Ireland

If that happens, Ireland would become the first European country to constitutionally recognize that ecosystems possess legal rights.


This comes after a legislative committee proposed last month that the Irish government should draft constitutional amendments recognizing that nature has inherent rights to exist, perpetuate and be restored, and that humans have a right to a clean environment and stable climate.


The idea for the dual amendments emanated from a Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, which produced numerous recommendations aimed at protecting plants, animals and other living beings.


Mari Margil, executive director of the US-based Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights, was one of several rights of nature advocates who told Irish lawmakers about the global rights of nature movement and how policymakers around the world are embracing the idea to change “how we govern ourselves toward nature, and how nature itself is treated under law.”


At least six countries - Ecuador, Bolivia, Panama, Uganda, New Zealand and Spain - have some form of national law recognizing the rights of nature or legal personhood for ecosystems. Those rules generally provide a higher level of legal protection to ecosystems or individual species, compared to conventional environmental protection laws.


Ireland has amended its constitution more than 30 times since it came into force in 1937. The Citizens’ Assembly proposal recommended that the government appoint an expert panel to draft proposed rights of nature and right to a clean environment amendments.

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