Colombia’s highest court has asked the government to take urgent action to protect its Amazon rainforest and put a check over rising deforestation, in order to help conserve forests and counter climate change.
In a historic ruling, the judges said that Colombia which is home to a swathe of rainforest roughly the size of Germany and England combined – saw deforestation rates in its Amazon region increase by 44% from 2015 to 2016. the country’s most senior judges said the state had not done enough to tackle the destruction of the environment.
The court recognised the Amazon as an “entity subject of rights” – meaning it has the same legal rights as a human being – and ordered action plans to be drawn up within four months. “It is clear, despite numerous international commitments, regulations that the Colombian state has not effectively addressed the problem of deforestation in the Amazon,” the supreme court said.
Colombia’s rainforest covers an area roughly the size of Germany and England combined but is slowly being destroyed by farming, agriculture, cocaine production, illegal mining and logging.
The judges said the rate of deforestation – an important factor in climate change – increased by 44 percent between 2015 and 2016 and lead to “imminent and serious” damage to children and adults. Deforestation is a key source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change, which damages ecosystems and water sources and leads to land degradation, said the court.
“Without a healthy environment, subjects of law and living beings, in general, will not be able to survive, let alone safeguard those rights for our children or for future generations,” said the court.
The ruling comes after a group of 25 people aged between seven and 26 filed a lawsuit claiming their constitutional rights to life, food and water were being violated.
The decision to grant Amazon rainforests the same legal rights as a human being marks a historical precedent in terms of climate change litigation.