CELDF partners with Australian Earth Laws Alliance  to secure Rights of Nature for the Great Barrier Reef



Stacey Schmader
Administrative Director

MERCERSBURG, PA: Today, the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) launched its campaign, in partnership with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), to recognize legal rights of the Great Barrier Reef.

AELA is leading this work in Australia.  CELDF, with it’s International Center for the Rights of Nature, has been at the forefront of the growing global movement for the rights of nature, working on the world’s first rights of nature laws. Laws and judicial decisions recognizing legal rights of nature are in place today in the United States, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, and other countries.

“For decades our laws have been a death sentence for the environment,” says a CELDF representative, explaining the need for fundamental change.  “Now, from the Amazon to Australia, the tide is turning.”

The Great Barrier Reef is dying.
Climate change, along with pollution and other threats, has driven devastating harm to the Reef, with an estimated 50% coral die-off over the past two years. This has grave implications for ecosystems and the millions of species that depend on the Reef for food and habitat. It also threatens local economies dependent on tourism.

“It’s time we got serious about transforming our legal system, and we’re starting with the Great Barrier Reef,” states AELA’s Michelle Maloney.

Australia’s legal system has failed to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
Like the United States, the legal system in Australia holds nature as a resource – property to be extracted, bought, and sold. First Nations peoples, scientists, activists, communities, and environmental protection groups have endeavored to stop fossil fuel development, pollution, and other harms contributing to coral death. However, they are struggling under existing laws that are designed to allow these harms – not stop them.

Environmental protection laws aren’t enough.
Like us, our Australian friends have environmental laws. However, under these laws, the Reef is dying.  Environmental laws regulate how humankind uses the natural world, legalizing fracking, mining, and other practices which harm nature. Modifying these laws will not change their substance.

We need different laws.
Today, across the United States, in Australia, and around the world, growing numbers of people, organizations, and countries understand that we need a new legal paradigm. One that secures the highest legal protection for nature, through the recognition of legal rights. One that recognizes the rights of ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef to exist, flourish, evolve, and be restored.

AELA, working with CELDF, has drafted proposed changes to Australian law to recognize the rights of the Reef: at the state level in Queensland, the federal level with an amendment to the Australian constitution, and a model local law that enables local communities to assert their right to defend and restore the Reef.

About the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) & the International Center for the Rights of Nature

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund’s mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.  CELDF’s International Center for the Rights of Nature is partnering with communities and groups across the United States, with tribal nations and indigenous peoples, as well as with organizations in Nepal, India, Australia, and other countries to advance rights of nature legal frameworks.

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