Session 5.1

Can law save nature?

The EU has some of the most ambitious environmental protection rules and policies in the world. However, although commonly agreed by EU Member States, rules are not always properly implemented on the ground.

Europe's biodiversity continues to suffer as ecosystems degrade. The most recent State Of the Environment Report from the European Environment Agency showed that 60% of species assessments and 77% of habitat assessments are still in unfavourable conservation status.

EU Environmental laws – enacted inside EU borders and as transborder measures – should offer protection. They give rise to obligations to protect species and habitats by various means ranging from prohibitions to establishing protected areas and management plans. Despite these laws, questions remain. How easy are they to enforce? Do we have sufficient legal means to protect nature? What if nature had rights? And would the creation of intrinsic rights be a solution to reconcile man and nature?

Europe's impact on biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation extends well beyond its borders. Europe has a high ecological footprint and relies heavily on the import of resources and goods from all over the world. How can we ensure that pressures are not transferred to other parts of the world thereby exacerbating global biodiversity loss?

And finally, what of our obligations to future generations?


Mumta Ito, Founder & CEO of Nature’s Rights

James Thornton, CEO, ClientEarth

Jaap Spier, University of Amsterdam

Karl Falkenberg, APCO Worldwide International Advisory Council

Nicole Schwab, Director International Relations, National Geographic

Birgit Van Hour, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Marius Vascega, Head of Cabinet of the Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, European Commission