Greens and DUP clash to give ‘rights to trees’ in Belfast


The DUP said a Green Party proposal for a Belfast declaration on the rights of nature “will give rights to trees”.

At the recent Belfast Council Policy and Strategic Resources Committee (Friday, September 24), councilors passed a green motion designed to start a public conversation in the city on the growing ‘Rights of Nature’ movement – a worldwide movement that advocates legal protection of all aspects of nature, including by conferring legal personality on natural features.

Such laws have been enacted around the world, including the United States and New Zealand, but the United Kingdom has yet to pass legislation. The Frome Council in Somerset, England, has been trying since 2019 to pass a bylaw giving part of a local river corporate status, with the council and a local charity becoming the legal guardian.

The Belfast Green motion calls for a council report on how a statement could be made for Belfast: and planet.

“He believes that Rights of Nature can help inspire an innovative overhaul of how to create regenerative, not extractivist economies, while making human and other communities safer, stronger and more resilient.

“The positive work already done by city council staff and groups on the climate emergency and biodiversity crises is commendable, but we recognize the need for a rights-based approach to nature. “

He adds, “It is proposed that over the next twelve months the council works with civil society to explore what the rights of nature mean for the people and economies of the region and to study how the rights of nature nature could be expressed in community plans. , business plans, improvement objectives and other strategic frameworks.

In particular, the council will organize, over the next twelve months, community workshops and work with the local community and stakeholders to draft a nature bill of rights for the city, which will be presented to council for adoption.

“It is also requested that a report, drafted in collaboration and with the contribution of the local community, be presented to the council regarding the integration of ‘rights of nature’ as a key concept in practice. operational, planning and long-term board processes. decision making.”

DUP Alderman Brian Kingston said: “We have looked at this and will definitely have a report, but I have to say that the DUP is not committing to this. When we look at the rights of nature assigning rights to trees, mountains, rivers, animals, then this could have an impact on planning decisions and how we develop the city.

“We will however see what comes up in the report, we approve a report but we do not commit to the wording of this motion, and we will have a real debate down the line.”

Green Councilor Brian Smyth said: “I’m disappointed with what the Kingston Alderman said, but to be honest I’m not surprised.

“What I would like the board to do is go away, come back hopefully in a few months with a framework and costs – just to keep the Kingston Alderman calm – on the way. to proceed.

“I think it is essential that we move closer to other councils that brought this motion forward, namely Derry and Strabane, and Fermanagh and Omagh, to develop a collaborative approach, as well as working with organizations such as the Friends of Earth, which can help write up some ideas on what a statement might look like.

“I think it’s really important for the council to work with civil society to explore what the rights of nature mean to the people and the economy of this city, and to explore how the rights of nature can be expressed. in community plans. ”

Sinn Fein adviser Matt Garrett said his party supported the green motion and added: “Having a conversation is the right thing to do. ”

Councilor Smyth then tweeted about the DUP’s response: “50 years to say no. No to LGBTQ rights. No to local women with access to the same healthcare as in other parts of the UK. Now reluctant to give rights to nature. Northern Ireland is the 12th worst place on the planet for biodiversity loss. The game must change.


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