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Give Nature rights

Deer at Richmod Park in London. Source: Pikist

This is a shorter version of an article by our own Jonathan Elmer, consultant ecologist and the Green Party’s national spokesman for the natural world, recently published in The Ecologist.

The regeneration of nature isn’t happening, either in the UK or around the world. We need to give nature inalienable rights.

Since 1970 there has been a 68% decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish across the globe.

In the UK 15% of species are threatened with extinction. Already the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. The pace that we are losing nature is accelerating and there is no sign of a reversal in this trend.


The Green Party has set down a marker for what that change needs to be: giving nature rights equivalent to people through a Rights of Nature Act.

Around the world, often led by indigenous communities, rights of nature acts are giving ecosystems inalienable rights - possibly the most famous example is in Ecuador, where the rights of nature are enshrined in the national constitution

Giving legal rights to nature can be seen clearly in relation to planning law. Currently in the UK - and most other countries - planning regulations require ‘net gain’ in biodiversity when development occurs.

What that means is that developers are free to destroy hundreds-year-old habitats as long as they plant a few saplings elsewhere. And often, not even that gets done as councils lack capacity to oversee delivery of “biodiversity net gain”.


What a Rights of Nature Act would do would be to reject the principle of 'net gain' in favour of outlawing harm to nature in the first place.

It seems very simple. But it could be revolutionary. The Green Party’s policy, if enacted, could be the most far-reaching in the world. The Rights of Nature Act would be backed by a massive regeneration programme. Land and aquatic environments would receive ironclad protection, with a fully-funded - through progressive taxation like a land value tax - Commission for Nature to oversee and enforce the protections.


The Greens’ new policies include measures to bring people closer together with nature, to mend this broken relationship so that people can once again appreciate that essential contribution that nature makes to their mental and physical health – to their very survival.

The Green Party would ensure that the vital role of nature is properly reflected in the National Curriculum and that all of our children are able to directly experience nature through outdoor activities designed to help them learn and care for the natural environment.

Protection and regeneration of nature must be at the heart of our society and at the heart of all policy considerations. Let it be a marker for what we need to do to halt the destruction of nature and rebalance our relationship with the natural world.