Chile’s green constitution could clash with international obligations – expert

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, April 21, 2022
Chile’s green constitution could clash with international obligations – expert

Chile’s constitutional convention has avoided the question of whether a text more oriented towards environmental protection could cause conflicts with the country’s international obligations, according to Ricardo Irarrázabal, former head of environmental evaluation service SEA.

“[Talking about] the costs of incorporating these issues, possible international lawsuits with ICSID regarding foreign investments, is something that hasn’t been done, and I believe that [the convention] doesn't want to do that,” Irarrázabal said during a webinar. 

The convention, responsible for drafting a new constitution to replace the one created under the Pinochet dictatorship, has approved a series of proposals aimed at increasing environmental protection, including the creation of rights of nature, which the state and society have the duty to protect and respect.

Irarrázabal admitted that he is very critical of the proposed environmental norms that have made it to the draft constitution. 

“If you analyze what has been approved, it's experimental. It [rights of nature] isn't included in the countries that are ranked highest in environmental issues,” he explained, pointing out that, in the case of Ecuador, the only other country in which the constitution enshrines rights of nature, they are mostly symbolic. 

“I believe the change of paradigm is good, but we don’t have to go into rights of nature, but protection of nature as a state duty instead,” he explained during a webinar organized by Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS). 

He said that establishing rights of nature could also create conflicts with other rights, such as the human right to access potable water, as well as others aimed at resource management. 

Irarrázabal said that he preferred a constitutional model in which environmental protections are distributed across all levels of government, rather than using the rights of nature as a line to dictate all decisions.

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