Lake Tekapo, New Zealand (Courtesy of Marine Almeras)
The following overview of national law highlights the role that the Environment has played in Constitutions around the world. There are 193 UN member states, and each of them is member of the UN General Assembly. Each country page displays relevant constitutional passages containing specific references to the Environment and therefore provides a quick snapshot of when the Environment was first introduced in a country's Constitution. For those countries, where the Environment is not addressed in the Constitution, this overview references the introduction of the most appropriate environmental statute(s).
Given the vast and lengthy pieces of environmental statutes and Constitutional provisions enacted over the years by member states, the objective of this site is not to reproduce all pieces of environmental law enacted but to focus on the main piece of environmental law nationally adopted, addressing Constitutions first and then statutes as appropriate. It thus provides a quick overview of the evolution of environmental consciousness worldwide.
National official websites as well as legal databases from the UN System, such as the database from the Food and Agricultural Organization's legal office, were significantly consulted and relevant disclaimers have been provided accordingly. Links to official websites containing further pieces of environmental Constitutional provisions and statutes have been provided, whenever possible. In some instances, national websites either lacked updating or information was not officially translated thus creating certain limitations.
It is our hope that, at the dawn of the 21st century, this collective rendering of how the Environment is featured in Constitutions and statutes around the world provides some reflection regarding the legal undertaking that has taken place in the journey towards sustainable development.
In June 2012, on the occasion of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, commonly referred as Rio+20, the outcome document 'The Future We Want", in its paragraph 39 states:
"We recognize that planet Earth and its ecosystems are our home and that "Mother Earth" is a common expression in a number of countries and regions, and we note that some countries recognize the rights of nature in the context of the promotion of sustainable development."
More on Rights of Nature can be accessed here.