global l'environment

Towards a global environmental law?


Since the end of the 18th centurye century, we have entered the "anthropocene", a new era characterized by the fact that man has become a major geological force; this era has accelerated sharply since 1945. The climate changes we are experiencing and the sudden collapse of biodiversity illustrate this. The law is only a tool, but a fundamental one, in the attempt to limit these upheavals, to regain a secure operating space, to ensure the resilience of ecosystems and their capacity to provide essential services. As a tool for cooperation and harmonization of national legislation, international law is particularly called upon when the threats are global.

International law in the face of global threats

En 1992, the Rio Conference gave impetus to a great dynamic from this point of view with the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Framework Convention on climatic changesas well as the Rio Declaration on environment and development.

The year 2017 marks the 25the anniversary of this declaration. Since 1992, legislators, jurisdictions and non-State actors around the world have progressively contributed to the dissemination and implementation of the fundamental principles enshrined in the Declaration. The importance and role of these principles for the protection of the environment at the local or global level are indisputable.

Reinforcing the Rio Principles

The time has come to revitalize this international cooperation, to consolidate - and no doubt also to clarify - the consensual principles laid down in Rio in a new "Global Compact for the Environment".

Contrary to the Rio Declaration, this new international convention, cross-cutting in its content and global in its universal scope of application, would reinforce the scope of the Rio principles.

It could provide the backbone of an international environmental law that is currently not very effective because it is fragmented into hundreds of international conventions operating autonomously and without "guardians". Diplomats, legislators, international and national judges, and more broadly all public and private actors must be able to refer to it.

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Climate governance: what has been achieved? What futures? (IFRIS, April 2015).

In the spirit of the Brundtland Commission

The idea of a Global Compact for the environment is not new: it has been carried by the international legal community for more than 30 years. It has its origins in the aftermath of the World Charter for Nature adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1982.

The need for a gradual transition from soft law to hard law was already stressed by legal scholars. The Brundtland Commission in 1986 recommended the preparation of a Universal Declaration and an International Convention for the Protection of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Following up on this recommendation, in 1995 a draft convention, the "Draft International Covenant on Environment and Development" was adopted by the Commission on Environmental Law of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, in cooperation with the International Council of Environmental Law (International Council of Environmental Law, ICEL). The IUCN project is a major reference in this area.

A preliminary project already developed

Convinced of its necessity, Laurent Fabius, President of the Constitutional Council of the French Republic, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of COP21, took the initiative to bring the Global Compact proposal to the international scene.

The adoption in September 2015 of the Sustainable development objectives (ODD) and in December 2015 of theParis Agreement s climate change strategy has created a momentum that can generate support for such a project.

The approach consisted, in the first instance, in undertaking legal work, an essential prerequisite before the political and diplomatic phase. For several months, with the "Environment Commission" of the Club des Juristes - which brings together leading French specialists in environmental law - we have been working for several months to finalize a preliminary draft of the Global Compact, in conjunction with an international network of experts representing nearly 40 nationalities.

The Millennium Development Goals (Eco Plus, 2015).

The environment as a fundamental right

This text will be finalised on Friday 23 June 2017 at a meeting of experts chaired by Laurent Fabius before being presented on Saturday 24 June at a meeting of experts on the subject. event open to the public which will take place at the Sorbonne, in the presence of personalities (Ban Ki-moon, Mary Robinson, Laurence Tubiana, Jean Jouzel in particular) as well as eminent jurists and magistrates of constitutional courts or supreme courts from all over the world.

The draft Global Compact on the Environment is intended to be adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in the coming years, to become the cornerstone of international environmental law.

After both International Covenants of 1966 - The new Covenant would enshrine a third generation of fundamental rights - those relating to the environment and development - in the form of civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. More than ever, the international community needs to take this new step and give new impetus to international action in favour of our environment.

Sandrine Maljean-DuboisResearch Director, Centre for International and Community Studies and Research (CERIC), National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Yann AguilaProfessor of public law, Sciences Po - USPC

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The original text of this article was published on The Conversation.

Header image: UNICEF France


The Conversation

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