COP out – Earth’s Rights neglected in favour of market driven forces
By Cormac Cullinan, Cullinan & Associates, 29 February 2016
When world leaders celebrated a ‘decisive’ outcome at COP21 they were inadvertently demonstrating the utter futility of continuing to believe that we can rely on United Nations processes to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Commenting on the December 2015 Paris Agreement that emerged from COP21 climate talks George Monbiot wrote: “By comparison to what it [the Paris Agreement] could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.” (Guardian, 12th December 2015). Monbiot was pointing to the fact that while negotiators and their French hosts had done much better than expected, what they agreed remains woefully inadequate to prevent catastrophic climate change.
The Paris Agreement is probably as good a deal as could have come out of COP 21, and the participants deserve credit for that. However if the apex of 21 years of climate negotiations is an agreement that far, far too weak to protect the right to life (let alone to dignity) of many millions of people and other species, then what is there to celebrate and what do we do now?
As the political leaders and diplomats worked to polish the text of the Paris Agreement that would “cover all the crucial areas identified as essential for a landmark conclusion: …. for nations to build clean, resilient futures” (http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52802#.VnACGtJ9600), across town at the Maison des Métallos others were already constructing that future. Organisations and communities from around the globe demonstrated that if governments don’t deliver, people must take the initiative, by signing a Peoples’ Convention to establish an International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature. For two days the Tribunal judges heard a wide range of cases concerning alleged violations of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, including cases on climate change, the commercialization of Nature, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), fracking, mega dams in Brazil and ecocide.
More than 65 people from 32 nationalities (including many indigenous people) speaking in seven languages participated as judges Earth Defenders, experts or witnesses. People flocked to the hearings and more than a thousand people who wanted tickets had to be turned away because the venue was full.
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About Cormac Cullinan
Cormac Cullinan is a founding member of the Executive Committee of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. He served as President of the Paris International Rights of Nature Tribunal. Cormac is an author, practising environmental attorney and governance expert who has worked on environmental governance issues in more than 20 countries. He lives in Cape Town, South Africa and is a director of Cullinan & Associates, a specialist environmental and green business law firm (www.cullinans.co.za) and of the governance consultancy, EnAct International (www.enact-international.com ).
His groundbreaking book “Wild Law A Manifesto for Earth Justice” has played a significant role in informing and inspiring a growing international movement to recognise rights for Nature. In 2008 he was included in Planet Savers. 301 Extraordinary Environmentalists, a book that profiles environmentalists throughout history. At the invitation of Bolivia, Cormac spoke at the 2009 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and led the drafting of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth which was proclaimed on 22 April 2010 by the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia. In September 2010 he played a leading role in establishing a Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and currently sits on the Executive Committee of the Alliance.