Evolution and Implementation of International Environmental Law

The modern international environmental law exists due to the ability of the general international law and the states to identify previous and existing environmental challenges and to enter a process of learning from their mistakes by establishing the Aarhus Convention (Brownlie 1999; Stec 2010; Stec and Casey Lefkowitz 2000). The evolution of the Stockholm Principle I (1972) brought up the notion of the human right to the healthy environment.

This was later strengthened by the Rio Principle 10 that declared the necessity to implement the Principle I by promoting public awareness and considering all levels of stakeholders in the decision-making process. Thus, the international law recognized the need to address the well-known Kuztets curve of the condition of the environment, where the modern state focus should be on enhancing the environmental conditions where humanity resides. Interestingly, this notion of healthy environment was very new to the existing generations of human rights (Brownlie 1999; Stec 2010; Stec and Casey Lefkowitz 2000; Szasz 1992).

The evolution of the human rights progressed rapidly through the 20th century, completely recognizing and establishing the first and second generations of human rights one by one. These rights include civil rights, political rights, rights to freedom as well as the economic and social rights (Stec 2010; Stec and Casey Lefkowitz 2000; Turgut 2007). Third generation rights were first considered and discussed in the Stockholm Principles and include most importantly the right to the healthy environment and the right to the development (Turgut 2007).

Another serious issue that is raised by the concepts of safe environment is the idea of sustainable development to be adopted by the states. Sustainable development is identified as the wise use of existing resources and progression of development without jeopardizing the future development of succeeding geenrations (Stec 2010; Stec and Casey Lefkowitz 2000; Turgut 2007). This concept spells out the principles of precautionary approach and addressing the pollution of the environment within the root of the problem (Brownlie 1999).

Thus, the legislative framework of the international environmental law has to consider all possible ways to implement sustainable principles into both international and national framework. This is addressed in the Three Pillars of the Aarhus convention, where the states are responsible to promote sustainable development through accepting their duty to establish public participation within their decision-making process, informing their society about their legislations and providing public access to justice (Stec 2010; Stec and Casey Lefkowitz 2000).

These Three Pillars were originally stated within the third generation of human rights to a healthy environment discussed within the Stockholm Principle I and also by the Rio Principle 10 which esttablished the grounds for public participation and promotion of information from the international level to the national level (Stec 2010; Stec and Casey Lefkowitz 2000). Today, the key duty of the states is to inform the public of their actions within the international environmental law (Brownlie 1999; Stec 2010; Stec and Casey Lefkowitz 2000).

Thus, the state is obliged to inform the citizens of the progress and changes within the international environmental law. Also, the states have to provide a working scheme for the public participation in the decision-making process. This has to be achieved through the involvment of the non-state actors that will discuss the national framework concerns and raise challenging questions in order to speed the process of decision-making up and succeed in applying the principles of sustainable development to the international and national legislations (Stec 2010; Stec and Casey Lefkowitz 2000).

Non-state actors will provide environmental scientific evidence that can be incorporated into the decision-making process and give it more credibility. Public participation will also represent a different degree of the interest in the field of national implementation of the legislation compared to the state interest, since all of the non-state actors are subject to the international environmental law.

Combined state and non-state effort will accelerate the transition from the legislative framework that only considers industrialization development to the framework that is based on the sustainable development and works on the transboundary level as well (Brownlie 1999; Stec 2010; Stec and Casey Lefkowitz 2000). Another step of the evolution of the international environmental law was the slow progression from the international jurisprudence to the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) (Szasz 1992; Turgut 2007).

Public participation and famous law suits of Environmental Court for Human Rights together with the African Commission on Human Rights (2001) made the transition of the third generation human rights into the legal international framework (Nwobike 2005). For example, the famous successful case of Lopez Ostra vs Spain (1994) at the Environmental Court for Human Rights demonstrated the rights of citizens to be protected by the state from the harmful pollution due to the local leather company’s production (Turgut 2007).

The fact that the ordinary citizens could appeal to the European Court of Justice in order to prove their right for the healthy environment was a stimulus for the international environmental law to appear. This case has also shown the stability of the first and second generations of human rights by that time (1994) and presence of the established ground for the third generation of human rights to be implemented.

African Commission on Human Rights in 2001 demonstrated the SERAC case that showed clear lack of the implementation of all generations of human rights and stressed the difference between the developed and the developing countries in terms of their implementation of the human rights’ principles (Nwobike 2005). Thus, the states have to cooperate and to employ the non-state actors to control the implementation of the international decisions on the national level (Brownlie 1999; Szasz 1992; Turgut 2007).

Implementation of international environmental law will enforce the key concept of the sustainable development which is absolutely crucial for the future generations. The resource use has to be properly maintained and organized (Stec 2010; Stec and Casey Lefkowitz 2000; Szasz 1992). Also, major issues such as corruption and wasteful lifestyles have to be addressed and eliminated. The current international environmental law is at the first step of increasing the transparency and incorporating reliable scientific evidence into the decisions it makes on the international level in order to provide for proper sustainable development.

The industrial development has to be limited to the extent where it is either based on new technologies or scientific proof of its sustainability. Yet, there is an issue with limiting the existing industrial development with respect to the Millenium Development Goal of poverty irradication. Decreased development within developing countries may lead to more harsh consequences where there will not be enough measures to combat poverty issues.

Hence, the sustainable development principles have to be wise and take into consideration safe measures and some golden standards for identifying and implementing processes and pathways most suitable for both developing and developed countries (Brownlie 1999; Stec 2010; Stec and Casey Lefkowitz 2000). Finally, the existing major experience within the international environmental law suggests there is more to the decision making process than just allocating financial resources to the state envrionmental issues.

Johannesburg conference serves a good example of failing to continue with major environemntal issues’ identification and made no progress with environmental policies to address them (Anderson and Morgenstern 2003). The outcome of this conference was alocation of funds towards projects within the energy and water sectors, which was not sustainable in terms of the lack of international environmemntal policy making.

It is necessary to correctly identify the issues and then to combine scientific, public and state evidence and opinions in order to produce a coherent decision for the international environmental law that is applicable on both international and national levels (Anderson and Morgenstern 2003). The regional cases described above can serve a very good model for learning experience and can be applied as models for the state decision-making process with regard to the future generations.

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