Rights of Nature: Why it Might Not Save the Entire World

By Dr. Julien Bétaille - Dr. Bétaille, Associate Professor of Law the at the University of Toulouse (France), recently published an article on the rights of nature in the Journal for European Environmental & Planning Law, as a contribution to the academic debate.


The advent of Rights of Nature (RoN) marks a new paradigm shift in the philosophical approach to nature. As such, the concept has generated enthusiasm amongst environmentalists and legal scholars. This is not surprising since granting legal personhood to nature seems to present itself as a relative easy fix for the multitude of deficiencies of “modern” environmental law. However, when critically assessed, many of the underlying assumptions justifying a shift towards rights-based approaches to nature are open to challenge. In this paper, which takes a more critical stance on the topic of RoN, it is submitted that also the much-criticized modern environmental law is moving towards a recognition of the intrinsic value of nature, puts breaks on property rights, offers remediation actions for pure ecological damage and also increasingly grants environmental ngos wide access to courts. Moreover, on a second level, it is argued that RoN are not a legal revolution and that many of the problems Rights of Nature tries to cure – such as a lack of enforcement – will simply re-emerge if not adequately assessed within this novel paradigm.

You can access the full article here: https://brill.com/abstract/journals/jeep/16/1/article-p35_35.xml

About the Author

Julien Betaille Photo: Julien Betaille Dr. Julien Bétaille is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Toulouse (France). He undertook his PhD at the University of Limoges under the supervision of Pr. Michel Prieur. His thesis was dedicated to “The legal conditions of norms’ effectiveness”, especially in Planning Law and Environmental Law (2012). In 2013, he was recruited to a permanent position at the University of Toulouse as Associate Professor (Maître de conferences). His thesis dissertation was awarded twice, with the thesis prize of the University of Limoges and with the special thesis prize of the French Society for Environmental Law. 

Dr. Bétaille is the French representative of the International Centre of Comparative Environmental Law (CIDCE) and the co-director of a Master’s degree in Environmental Law at the University of Toulouse since 2018. His research interests are Legal Theory, Environmental Law and Planning Law. Julien’s research focuses on the theoretical dimensions of environmental law (Effectiveness, Sanctions, Interpretation, etc.). His research areas are notably Environmental Democracy, Access to Justice, Environmental Constitutionalism, Rights of Nature, Biodiversity and Large predators. He is also involved in Planning Law where he studies the ways Planning Law protects the Environment. Julien has authored or edited 5 books and numerous journal articles. 

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