Perspectives on international environmental law


in Daily updates, Law, Oxford, Politics, The environment

New College Cloisters, Oxford

It cannot be taken as a good sign to have a presentation in twelve hours and still not really be sure about the main thrust of what you are going to say. I feel like I have a lot of structural elements, but only a semi-rough conception of what I am going to build out of them. The feeling is somewhat akin to that which I have towards the thesis and, indeed, life in general once this program ends.

The immediate requirement is to decide how skeptical I ought to be about international environmental law. The fact that Canada, for instance, doesn’t seem to feel particularly obligated to meet its Kyoto targets makes one wonder whether there’s conviction out there to match rhetoric. One temptation is to fall back, and say that environmental law is just one more mechanism through which governments can be lobbied – both internally and externally. Another possibility is to say that law isn’t what’s in the books and filed with the Secretary General, but rather what states actually get up to. The latter view would probably be more favoured by my international law instructors, but it makes the whole corpus of international environmental law even more nebulous than it previously appeared to be.

I suppose I will write a draft, read for a few hours, then decide exactly what to say in the morning (when my cognitive faculties are at their lowest ebb).

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous January 30, 2007 at 11:40 pm

You’re definitely cutting things close on time. That said, just run the standard line about how states are still the big kahunas, but how NGOs have made a big contribution in particular ways. As for the UN, it’s just a talking shop for states – useful instrumentally.

Milan January 30, 2007 at 11:47 pm

That is more or less right.

States are the ones to lobby, and NGOs doing the lobbying (on their own behalf, as representatives for other bodies like businesses, or on behalf of individuals).

They make a big difference in raising awareness about issues, especially through the media. They have less power in formulating policy, but still have some role. In some cases, they are also important when it comes to implementation.

I am reading Raustiala’s piece on ‘the participatory revolution’ to help thicken my argument (ideally, to the point where it is like a tasty stew). Emerging notes:

Raustiala, Kal. “The ‘Participatory Revolution’ in International Environmental Law.” 21 Harvard Environmental Law Review 537-586 (1997).

Milan January 31, 2007 at 12:57 am

It is reassuring to see that most of what Raustiala says had already been in the draft structure for my presentation. That said, some new ideas and many good examples came from this article.

Jenn January 31, 2007 at 4:52 am

As Rob Schneider points out in every Adam Sandler movie:

‘You can doooooo it!’

And yes, I know you’re rolling your eyes at me.

squirrel January 31, 2007 at 5:36 am

I hope your presentation went well! Or that it will go well. As you can tell, my knowledge of time zones is quite poor.

Milan January 31, 2007 at 9:06 am

After three hours of sleep, I am now off to meet my co-presenter. At Starbucks, appropriately enough.

R.K. January 31, 2007 at 10:39 am

U.S. Congress grapples with global warming and political pressure on scientists


WASHINGTON (CP) – While U.S. senators talked about new measures on global warming, advocacy groups revealed Tuesday top officials put pressure on climate scientists for years to downplay the threat.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, along with the Government Accountability Project, said they’ve uncovered widespread interference and censorship in documents, interviews and surveys of hundreds of scientists at seven agencies. “This new evidence shows that political interference in climate science is no longer a series of isolated incidents but a system-wide epidemic,” said Dr. Francesca Grifo, a senior scientist at the union.


. July 10, 2008 at 3:10 pm

A strong case can be made that nations who exceed their fair share of safe global greenhouse gas emissions violate the human rights of others. How a “fair share” is determined is an ethical question beyond the scope of this post but a matter that will be the subject of future posts. Yet, without doubt some large emitting nations are beyond their fair share of global emissions no matter what distributive justice theory is used to determine any nation’s fair share. This can be concluded with high degrees of confidence because global emissions need to be reduced by large amounts ( between 60 and 90 percent) to prevent catastrophic warming and some nations are emitting much higher levels of emissions than other both on a per capita and total tons of emissions basis.

According to human rights theory, if climate change caused harm violates human rights, all governments have duties take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within their jurisdictions to that nation’s fair share of global emissions. Further, according to human rights theory, all persons whose rights are violated by climate change may demand protection from those nations who are exceeding their fair share of global emissions for as long as greenhouse gas emissions interfere with basic human rights.

If climate change can trigger human rights responsibilities, the duty to reduce national emissions to any nation’s fair share of global emission is not diminished because of justifications that have sometimes been used by some nations for not reducing their emissions such as cost-benefit analysis or the fact that not all nations have agreed to reduce their emissions.

For this reason, if climate change damages interfere with human rights, the international; debate about national responsibility should be limited to what is each nation’s fair share of safe global emissions. Therefore, understanding climate change as triggering human rights violations should transform the subject of future international climate change negotiations even if no existing human rights tribunal has jurisdiction to provide a remedy for climate change caused damages. This is so because very strong moral claims can be made that climate change interferes with human right enjoyment even if existing human rights regimes prove to not be viable remedies for climate change because of legal initiations of these regimes.

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