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Open letter on Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss And A Constitutional Right to a Safe, Clean, Healthy, and Sustainable Environment

More than two years ago – on 9th May 2019 – the Dáil declared a climate and biodiversity emergency and called for the Citizens’ Assembly to examine how the State can improve its response to the issue of biodiversity loss. In the Programme for Government agreed in June 2020, the Government Parties committed to “progress the establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity,” but so far no visible progress has been made.

In March 2021, Ireland – alongside 68 other countries –  submitted a statement to the UN Human Rights Council stating that “a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is integral to the full enjoyment of human rights. Therefore the possible recognition of the right at a global level would have numerous important implications on what we leave to our future generations…We are committed to engaging in an open, transparent and inclusive dialogue with all States and interested stakeholders on a possible international recognition of the right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.”[1]

In July 2020, in Climate Case Ireland, the Supreme Court rejected implied judicial recognition of a right to a healthy environment, stating that the “advantage of express incorporation is that the precise type of constitutional right to the environment which is to be recognised can be the subject of debate and democratic approval.” Given the Government’s support for dialogue at the international level regarding the possible recognition of a right to an environment, for consistency the Government should also support such dialogue at the national level, and the forthcoming Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss provides an opportune occasion for this to happen.

We the undersigned call on Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party to:

  • Treat this like a real emergency and announce the date for the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss before 16th July 2021 (the beginning of the Dáil’s summer recess);
  • Ensure that the following points are included on the Citizens’ Assembly’s agenda when it considers biodiversity loss:
  • The possible recognition of a constitutional right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment; and
  • the principles of a Just Transition,[2] to ensure that action taken to address the biodiversity crisis is consistent with these principles.

Signatories

Climate Case Ireland

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Community Law & Mediation

Union of Students in Ireland

Trocaire

Friends of the Irish Environment

Irish Doctors for the Environment

National Youth Council of Ireland

Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation

Irish Wildlife Trust

Birdwatch Ireland

Environmental Justice Network Ireland

Jesuit Centre for Faith & Justice

Religious Society of Friends in Ireland

Friends of the Earth Ireland

Dublin Friends of the Earth

Eco Congregation

Afri

Community Work Ireland

An Taisce

VOICE Ireland

Lesbian Lawyers Network

Safety Before LNG

Environmental Pillar

Stop Climate Chaos


[1] The full statement and the list of signatories can be found here.

[2] See International Labour Organisation “Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all” available at: https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_emp/—emp_ent/documents/publication/wcms_432859.pdf