Resolution Calling for the Conservation of Biodiversity and the Realization of Sustainable and Autonomous Local Communities
All living things inhabiting our planet Earth have their own individual and unique characteristics. They live together supporting and linking each other through direct or indirect ways such as via the ecological chain or the co-existence between plants and polliniferous insects. The concept of biodiversity means the rich individuality of every living thing and their linkages. Biodiversity has given us a variety of blessings through nature, and its conservation is vital for us to survive on this planet.
Notwithstanding the above situation, however, biodiversity has been on the verge of a crisis caused by the overhunting, the habitat destruction or segmentation by human exploitation, the deterioration of village-vicinity mountains due to the lack of care, the disturbance of the eco-system due to exotic species or chemical agents, and the ongoing problems caused by global warming. To address this crisis, the Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted in 1992 by the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro (the UN Conference on Environment and Development). Japan acceded to the Convention in 1993, and, in the same year, it enacted the Basic Environment Act designating the conservation of biodiversity as one of its vital guidelines. Such legislation was further strengthened with the enactment of the Basic Act on Biodiversity in 2008. Nevertheless, the crisis faced by biodiversity has increased rather than easing.
For instance, Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan, has seen significant impairment in its rich biodiversity with many indigenous species and reed fields which it had sustained from time immemorial being lost due to industrial waste water, contamination by agrichemicals or living drainage since the commencement of the period of rapid economic growth and the integrated development project launched in 1972. Later, Shiga Prefecture and its residents started to work toward the conservation and regeneration of biodiversity, yet the effects of such efforts have so far been limited.
Therefore, in order to promote the conservation of biodiversity, it is essential that a comprehensive review of relevant laws be conducted in accordance with the principles of the Basic Environment Act and taking the purpose of enactment of the Basic Act on Biodiversity into consideration, and that effective measures be taken according to the findings.
For the conservation of the biodiversity, it is also essential to achieve the transformation of the agriculture and forestry industries into a biodiverse conservation model, adequate management and use of natural resources by the civil sector including those engaged in the fields of agriculture and forestry, and self-sustainable energy circulation using locally available renewable energy sources; and it is important to structure sustainable and autonomous local communities which involve the participation of citizens. Furthermore, in order to avoid the danger of a biodiversity crisis brought about by development projects, it is necessary to secure people’s civil rights to access to information on biodiversity, to participate in the decision-making process of the national and local governments, and to guarantee access to justice in environmental matters. The Aarhus Convention, or the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, requires state parties to guarantee these rights for its citizens. While the Convention was adopted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in 1998 and entered into force in 2001, Japan has not yet acceded thereto.
Now, the JFBA requests the Japanese government and local governments to perform the following in relation to the above:
1. Both the national and local governments should take the following legal measures:
(1) When the national or local governments enact laws or regulations concerning such matters that may have an impact on biodiversity, a clause requiring that attention be paid to the conservation of biodiversity should be included. If any existing law or regulation does not contain such a provision, it should be amended so as to include such new clause; and
(2) The national government should revise the Basic Act on Biodiversity in such a way as to create a system that requires measures to mitigate impacts on biodiversity through the steps of avoidance, minimization and compensation (“mitigation system”) for any action that may have an impact on biodiversity.
2. Local governments should take the following measures individually or jointly with other local governments in order to conserve biodiversity and realize sustainable local communities, and the state should provide local governments with financial, technical or any other kinds of support necessary:
(1) To draw up a conservation management program concerning local biodiversity;
(2) For the promotion of sustainable agriculture or forestry management that preserves biodiversity, to give economic assistance or tax benefits to those who are engaged in agriculture and forestry utilizing the direct disbursement system after further improvement, etc.; and
(3) To deter the deterioration of biodiversity induced by global warming, to promote initiatives by citizens to expand sustainable and renewable energy sources.
3. The state should accede to the Aarhus Convention, and achieve the following:
(1) Improve the information disclosure system regarding biodiversity;
(2) Develop the provision of a procedure stipulating that citizens are entitled to participate in the formulation, implementation and evaluation (monitoring) of programs that may have an impact on biodiversity; and
(3) Make a law that enables citizens to bring a lawsuit for the conservation of biodiversity, and create a legal system for environmental class actions in which environmental groups can file lawsuits based on the public interest.
October 6, 2017
Japan Federation of Bar Associations