COP out - Earth’s Rights neglected in favour of market driven forces

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” (, 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[1] (including many indigenous people) speaking in seven languages[2] 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.


One of the highlights was the signing by the legendary Chief Raoni of the Kayapo people of the Brazilian Amazon of the People’s Convention that formally established the Tribunal.  The judges of the Tribunal reciprocated and signed their commitment for the support for the Alliance of Earth’s Guardians established by Chief Raoni and his delegation.


The united leadership of the Tribunal has forged the path ahead for the creation of regional Tribunals throughout the world.  The Tribunal bases its judgements on the Universal Declaration for the Rights of Mother Earth and international human rights law, and also recognises ecocide as a crime. 


The outcome of COP 21 will seek to restore balance sheets whilst the judgements of the Tribunal will identify who is accountable and what must be done to restore the balanced health and well-being of the Earth and her communities.


The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature will be the central point for accepting the submission of new cases and for providing guidelines, documents, assistance, intellectual support and training to expand the initiative to recognise the Rights of Nature worldwide.


The Tribunal calls on all communities and organisations that share its vision :

  • to become parties to the Peoples’ Convention on establishing the International Rights of Nature Tribunal
  • to establish more regional tribunals under the umbrella of the International Tribunal
  • to take creative action to support the implementation of its judgements


You can do so by visiting


The panel of Judges:

The following distinguished judges constituted the International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris:

  • President - Cormac Cullinan (Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, and author of Wild Law- South Africa)
  • Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network, Turtle Island - USA)
  • Alberto Acosta (Economist and former president of the Constitutional Assembly - Ecuador)
  • Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network - USA)
  • Terisa Turner (International Oil Working Group, Friends of the Earth – Canada, professor – Canada and USA)
  • Felicio Pontes (Federal Prosecutor - Brazil)
  • Damien Short (Director Human Rights Consortium, University of London - UK)
  • Attosa Soltani (Amazon Watch founder - USA)
  • Nnimmo Bassey (Health of Mother Earth Foundation / Oilwatch - Nigeria)
  • Ruth Nyambura (African Biodiversity Network - Kenya)
  • Christophe Bonneuil (Historian of Sciences, CNRS, Attac - France)
  • Philippe Desbrosses (Doctor in Environmental Sciences, farmer, Intelligence Verte - France)
  • Dominique Bourg - Honourary Judge (December 4th) (philosopher and author, University of Lausanne, Switerland).



[1] Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belorussia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, France Germany, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Philippines, Romania, Slovakia South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, USA, Venezuela.

[2] French, Spanish, English, Portuguese, Kichwa, Sapara, Rikbakstsá,

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