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Call for UN Nation States to be Earth trustees


Call for UN Nation States to be Earth trustees

An environmental law expert and academic from the University of Auckland is calling for the United Nations to adopt the idea of Earth trusteeship to protect the planet from further environmental degradation.

Professor Klaus Bosselmann, director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law at the Auckland Law School addressed a meeting of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York recently, where he advocated for substantial institutional reform to strengthen the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Speaking at the Fifth Interactive Dialogue of the UN General Assembly on Harmony with Nature, Bosselmann proposed that environmental governance of the planet should be facilitated by UN member states operating as trustees for the Earth.

“The ethics of Earth stewardship are an integral part of the world’s religions and indeed humanity’s cultural heritage, but these ethics have never been more topical than today,” he said.

Professor Bosselmann argued there is already a duty for states to protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, a duty expressed in no fewer than 25 international agreements. This obligation must extend to acting as trustees for the natural environment.

“The state as an environmental trustee is not a mere political philosophy, but also an emerging legal concept,” he said.

Using a local example, Professor Bosselmann outlined how the New Zealand Government passed legislation in March, giving the Whanganui River legal personality. The associated trusteeship function has its origins in the Maori concept of kaitiakitanga and is jointly performed by the Crown and local Maori tribes.

“For the first time a Western nation is acknowledging legally enforceable trusteeship over natural objects,” he said.

Professor Bosselmann is the coordinator of the Planetary Integrity Project – an interdisciplinary network of universities, research centres, non-government organisations and leading environmental experts – currently working to further develop the concept of Earth trusteeship.

“Institutionalising the fundamental duty to protect the integrity of the Earth’s ecological systems would greatly enhance the legitimacy of nation-states and help the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

‘For the good of humanity and our common home’, he urged the UN General Assembly to welcome the Project’s proposal.

ends

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