Law 300 Framework Law of Mother Earth and Holistic Development for Living Well

Ley 300 - Ley Marco de la Madre Tierra y Desarrollo Integral para Vivir Bien
Framework Law of Mother Earth


Law 300 is particularly focused on climate change and represents a continuation of the agenda of Law 71 of 2009, which first recognised the rights of Mother Nature. It was a product of the Unity Pact (Pacto de Unidad), a group of five social movements that was key to helping President Morales and his party MAS win the elections in December 2005. 

The central objective of the law is to "establish holistic development in harmony and balance with Mother Earth to live well, guaranteeing the ability of the components and life systems of Mother Earth to regenerate, strengthening local and ancestral knowledge..." (Art. 1). I.e. it aims to link the three concepts of: (i) the rights of Mother Earth; (ii) Holistic Development; and (iii) Living Well.

The law makes it clear that all programmes related to greenhouse gas reduction must not involve the commodification of nature or carbon markets (Art 32). However the law also makes several references to promoting the agriculture, livestock, hydrocarbon and mining sectors. The distinction that the law makes between these is a fine one: selling nature's goods is permitted, selling nature's functions (i.e.ecosystem services) is not.

It creates three new climate change mechanisms: (i) Art. 55: The Mitigation Mechanism for Living Well, focused on emission reductions from non-forestry sectors (ii) Art. 56: the Adaptation Mechanism for Living Well; and (iii) Art. 54: The Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Holistic and Sustainable Management of Forests” (Mecanismo Conjunto de Mitigación y Adaptacion para el Manejo Integral y Sostenible de los Bosques de la Madre Tierra; MCMA) - Bolivia's alternative to REDD+.

According to Art. 54 the aim of the MCMA is to promote the Holistic Management and Sustainable Harvesting of forests and Mother Earth's life systems. Art. 16 sets out the actions that the State will carry out to "Conserve Mother Earth's Components, Zones and Life Systems within a framework of Holistic and Sustainable Management" while Art. 25 sets out the relation of Living Well to forests.

Law 300 also creates a new set of climate change institutions:
(i) Art. 53. The Plurinational Authority of Mother Earth (Autoridad Plurinacional de la Madre Tierra; APMT). The APMT forms part of the Ministry of Environment and Water. It is responsible for the formulation and design of policies on climate change and oversees the MCMA, the Mitigation Mechanism, the Adaptation Mechanism and the Plurinational Fund for Climate Justice. It will replace the National Climate Change Programme (Programa Nacional de Cambio Climático; PNCC)
(ii) Art. 57. The Plurinational Fund for Mother Earth (Fondo Plurinacional de la Madre Tierra; FPMT), is administered by the APMT. The main role of the FPMT is to obtain, administer and assign financial resources to the mechanisms.

Art. 4 enshrines a number of principles including the precautionary principle (4.4); the principle that natural environmental functions cannot be sold (4.2); and the right to climate justice - for those affected by climate change to Live Well in respect of Mother Earths's ability to regenerate.

The concept of Living Well ("Vivir Bien") is central to the new body of legislation that has been passed since 2006 and is defined by Article 5.5 as "a civilizational and cultural alternative to capitalism based on the indigenous worldview (cosmovision)" that "signifies living in complementarity, harmony and balance with Mother Earth and societies, in equality and solidarity and eliminating inequalities and forms of domination. It is to Live Well amongst each other, Live Well with our surroundings and Live Well with ourselves". The values of Living Well are set out at Article 6 and the objectives at Article 12. Article 23 makes it clear that conservation of biological and cultural diversity is central to Living Well. Holistic Development is seen as the path to Living Well.

Art. 5 also defines a number of biological/ecological/geographical terms of relevance to the MCMA including: (i) Art. 5.16: Life Zones. These are "biogeographic-climatic units", specific geographical areas that are classified by geographical, biological and climatic characteristics; (ii) Art. 5.12: Life Systems (Sistemas de Vida). These are "organised and dynamic communities of plants, animals and peoples" which have an optimal management system that needs to be identified based on "the interaction between Life Zones and the socio-cultural units that inhabit each Life Zone including productive practices, cultural diversity and indigenous cosmovisions"; (iii) Art. 5.5: Components of Mother Earth to Live Well. These are components of local Life Systems that can be "used sustainably by humans"; and (iv) Art. 5.8: Environmental Functions (Funciones Ambientales). This refers to what are often called environmental services, a term that Bolivia does not use because of its association with the commodification of nature. 

The concept of of Life Systems is of particular relevance to the new system of land planning and therefore to the MCMA, since they determine the use that can be given to a given area. According to Article 48, the State will map out the different Life Zones and Life Systems and this will form a key base for planning holistic development. These currently (at November 2013) exist alongside the existing system of land planning: (i) departmental-level Land Use Maps (Plan de Uso de Suelo; PLUS); (ii) Municipal Land-Use Plans (PMOT); and (iii) Property Land-Use Plans (POT).

Articles 10 and 11 set out the obligations of the State and population towards Mother Earth. Articles 19 and 20 are commitments to facilitate access to land and water and democratise access to means of production. Article 24 covers agriculture, including (Art. 24.8) a commitment to phasing out the use of genetically modified crops in Bolivia (currently over 90% of all soya production in Bolivia is genetically modified).

Art. 51 - The State will carry out a registry of components of Mother Earth [which will include forestry resources] and publish it annually.

Consultation on implementation of the Law 300 will be carried out in the Plurinational Council to Live Well in Harmony and Balance with Mother Earth (Art. 52).