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README.md

README.md

Biodiversity laws are crucial to preserve nature – but are they becoming threatened themselves?

This repository aims at recording changes to biodiversity laws and policies.

Under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the international community agreed in 2010 to alleviate global biodiversity decline by 2020. There is now increasing scientific evidence that biodiversity trends are unlikely to improve by the end of this decade (see also Global Biodiversity Outlook 4). Nature protection laws are essential to meeting these targets but in a scientific paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution , we documented numerous tactics used to weaken environmental laws when they limited human activites. It is therefore important to keep track of legal or policy changes.

As attacks on laws can happen quickly (and often faster than academic publishing), your help is needed to keep updating our database of proposed or enacted legal or policy changes for biodiversity for every country.


Criteria for inclusion

  • Legal changes should be general rather than specific. For example, allowing a particular mining operation does not qualify, but changing the criteria to allow any or many mining operations qualifies.
  • Legal changes should be reported by a reputable source of information (peer reviewed scientific journal, news article from trustworthy news outlet, e.g. The Guardian, The NY Times).
  • Legal changes can be parliament or executive acts, constitutional amendments or international agreements, jurisprudence, administrative discretion or political interference.
  • Attempts at weakening environmental laws are often easier to detect and to understand than attempts at strengthening environmental laws but we record strengthening changes as well.
  • Possibly strengthening changes may include the opposite of the below mentioned tactics (e.g. giving priority to biodiversity, increasing funding, etc.) or include more complex policy mechanisms such as biodiversity offsetting or payment for ecosystem services.
  • Email guillaume.chapron@slu.se with the proposed change you believe needs to be included. Many thanks!

We have identified the following tactics that governments have used to weaken biodiversity laws (see Table 1 in Chapron G. et al. (2017) Bolster legal boundaries to stay within planetary boundaries. Nature Ecology & Evolution for examples):

Change targets of biodiversity protection

  • Permit extinction of species under protection law
  • Bypass ordinary standards to remove protection
  • Redefine terms (e.g. extinction)
  • Remove species protection through taxonomic change
  • Weaken species protection through taxonomic ambiguity
  • Restrict protection to economically valuable species
  • Remove natural habitat protection

Change mechanisms of biodiversity protection

  • Make requirements for protected status more difficult to meet (moving targets)
  • Increase requirements to regulate industrial activity
  • Fast-track environmental approval of development projects
  • Preempt protection
  • Give protection an expiry date (sunset provisions)
  • Shield specific threats from regulation
  • Weaken environmental licensing
  • Transfer of powers (e.g. environmental questions under mining authorities)
  • Remove oversight from higher authorities
  • Race to the bottom

Change importance of biodiversity relative to other considerations

  • Remove independent scientific advice
  • Preclude consideration of certain scientific data
  • Change definition of scientific data
  • Suspend protection under particular circumstances
  • Prioritize industry
  • Prioritize trade
  • Prioritize military activities
  • Prioritize anti-immigration measures
  • Prioritize diplomacy
  • Prioritize “national interest”
  • Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Mechanisms

Limit access to justice

  • Reduce access to justice
  • Shield government decisions from judicial review
  • Increase financial risk for litigating NGOs
  • Litigate to intimidate and silence critics

Abuse political power and weaken rule of law

  • Criminalize data collection and sharing
  • Silently neglect enforcement of strong laws (sleeping beauties)
  • Expressly weaken law enforcement
  • Deny apparent violation of law
  • Defund law enforcement
  • Ignore court ruling
  • Regulatory chill

We exclude legal tactics that do not specifically pertain to biodiversity laws, such as censorship on government scientists or use of national security and anti-terrorism laws to crack down on environmental advocates.