The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has welcomed the recommendation from the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss that the constitution should be amended to better protect biodiversity and nature.

The IWT had asked in its submission that the rights of nature be enshrined in the constitution as well as recognising the rights of people to a safe and healthy environment.

According to the IWT, currently there is no reference to nature or biodiversity in the constitution which the trust said leaves little recourse to hold the government of the day to account for its neglect of this issue.

Importance of nature

The assembly found that the state “comprehensively failed to adequately fund, implement, and enforce existing national legislation, national policies, EU biodiversity-related laws and directives”.

The state can no longer shirk its responsibilities and must start immediately to right these wrongs, according to the IWT.

IWT campaigns officer, Pádraic Fogarty, said: “Recognising that nature has a right to exist, that species have a right to live and thrive in Ireland, and that people depend upon nature for health and prosperity, would mark a radical but necessary shift in our ethics.

“It would signal that we no longer see it as acceptable to destroy nature at every turn for the sake of convenience or short-term gains.

“Our dysfunctional relationship with the rest of the natural world is at the heart of the climate and biodiversity emergency and amending the constitution would signal that Irish people are ready to re-evaluate that relationship,” he added.

Rights for biodiversity

According to the IWT, granting rights to nature has been done in other countries and has practical benefits as well as symbolic ones.

The trust said that it would give nature the right to represent itself in court and assert its right to exist, thrive and evolve.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss voted in favour of holding a referendum on an amendment to the constitution to protect biodiversity.

The assembly has also advocated that the proposed amendment should include a “range of protections for substantive and procedural environmental rights” for both people and nature.

The top three recommendations adopted by the assembly outlined that:

  • “The state must take prompt, decisive and urgent action to address biodiversity loss and restoration and must provide leadership in protecting Ireland’s biodiversity for future generations.”
  • “The assembly believes that the state has comprehensively failed to adequately fund, implement, and enforce existing national legislation, national policies, EU biodiversity-related laws and directives related to biodiversity. This must change.”
  • “The ambition of the state needs to be significantly increased to reflect the scale of Ireland’s biodiversity crisis. Adequate funding must be made available to address this crisis. This is likely to require substantial and sustained increases in expenditure, which should be made available immediately and guaranteed in the long term.”