31 January 2019
Environmental Law Review Explores Need for Global Pact
Photo by Luis Del Río Camacho
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The authors of an article published in Fordham Environmental Law Review note that the current issue-by-issue approach to environmental governance has resulted in treaties suitable to address specific challenges, but not in a cohesive and mutually reinforcing environmental code.

The piece pleads for a Global Pact for the Environment that articulates “an explicit, universal right to a healthy environment”.

January 2019: Fordham Environmental Law Review published an article exploring the need for a Global Pact for the Environment Pact, what it could do, and how it could do it. The authors plead for “an explicit, universal right to a healthy environment.”

In May 2018, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) established an ad hoc open-ended working group (resolution 72/277) to consider a technical report by the UN Secretary-General identifying and assessing possible gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments, with a view to strengthening their implementation. The resolution also recommends, if necessary, consideration of the scope, parameters, and feasibility of an international instrument, with a view to making recommendations to the UNGA during the first half of 2019. The working group met from 14-18 January 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya, to consider the report of the UN Secretary-General (A/73/419), and plans to meet again in March 2019.

Treaties have created a profusion of technical norms that sometimes lack coherence.

In support of this process, Teresa Parejo Navajas, Carlos III de Madrid University, and Nathan Lobel, Columbia University’s Center on Sustainable Investment, briefly summarize the history of environmental law starting with the Stockholm Declaration, through which “the international community sketched out the basic contours of the environmental legal framework over the following 20 years,” including the creation of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in June 1972, and culminating in the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.

The authors note that the current issue-by-issue approach to governance has resulted in treaties suitable for addressing specific challenges (biological diversity, climate, chemicals, etc.), but not in a cohesive and mutually reinforcing environmental code, because the treaties have created a “profusion of technical norms” that sometimes lack coherence. They argue that the Pact could “usefully strengthen global environmental governance,” adding that the Pact’s design should ensure its ability to:

  • unify existing environmental governance in a guiding text;
  • establish a rights-based approach to environmental protection and recognize the right to a healthy environment;
  • provide for environmental adjudication in both international and domestic courts accessible to private citizens and non-governmental organizations (NGOs); and
  • promote greater integration of environmental planning in other areas of international and national governance, especially in international development policy.

The article was published as part of the March 2018 symposium on ‘Corporate Sustainability in the Era of Shifting Federal Priorities.’ [Publication: Framing the Global Pact for the Environment: Why It’s Needed, What It Does, and How It Does It] [IISD RS Coverage of First OEWG session] [Fordham Symposium Programme]

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