The year 2017 has seen some significant strides being taken in the development of concepts and principles of environmental law at an international level. One of the more significant of these is the preparation of a draft Global Pact on the Environment, which was initiated by the French Club des Juristes in late 2016, debated in Paris in June 2017 by a wide range of legal and other experts, and the subject of a further gathering in New York in September 2017.1 Of course, as with many other areas of international law, such initiatives build on both recent ideas as well as historical development of principles and concepts that can stretch back many years. The draft Pact incorporates concepts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights2 and the Human Rights Covenants,3 as well as the declarations of the successive United Nations conferences on environment and development,4 and instruments emanating from bodies such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature.5 The Sustainable Development Goals6 are a further example of the continuing endeavour to set targets for the achievement of bold and vital environmental objectives. The development of such documents continues apace, with principles relating to the climate obligations of enterprises agreed and published by year’s end.7 The emerging concept of the Environmental Rule of Law also continued to be debated. The Organisation of American States, the World Commission on Environmental Law (
In addition, we are anticipating the concluding reports of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment, whose work has already influenced some of the recent documents cited here. Already the draft guidelines on human rights and the environment9 issued by the Special Rapporteur in October 2017, are a robust statement of the general obligation of states ‘to prevent, reduce and remedy environmental harm that interferes with the full enjoyment of human rights’, while the substantive and procedural obligations spelled out in the document would make it incumbent on states to set up mechanisms through legislation, policies and institutions to ensure that meeting environmental and human rights obligations are dealt with in a unified framework. This striving to promote and develop environmental law concepts represents the very essence of what legal research and scholarship is about, and is reflected in various ways in the articles and notes included in this second issue of the Chinese Journal of Environmental Law.
The first article in this issue, ‘Role of the South in the Development of International Environmental Law’ underlines the importance of being aware of the historical development of the modern environmental law principles and concepts mentioned above. The author, Parvez HASSAN, the former Chair of the
The second article, by Jeanette JENSEN and Alex GARDNER of the University of Western Australia, canvasses a challenging task that often confronts international lawyers, namely ascertaining the legal enforceability of stated convention obligations. The authors focus on the Ramsar Convention (Ramsar) and, to a lesser extent, on the Convention on Biological Diversity (
The third article, by Richard ZHANG Qing and Benoit MAYER of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, concentrates on very recent developments in the area of public interest environmental litigation in China. The 2015 Environmental Protection Law (
In the final article, ‘Biodiversity Conservation of the Third Pole: Potential Lessons from the Mekong Basin’, Simon MARSDEN of the University of Stirling examines the viability of developing a transboundary environmental management regime focused on biodiversity conservation in relation to the Third Pole, which covers the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau. The global ecological significance of this region lies in the fact that it contains more snow and ice than anywhere in the world outside the polar regions, as well as the largest reserve of freshwater beyond the polar regions. In his analysis, he draws on examples of regional environmental management frameworks such as the Alpine Convention and the Carpathian Convention, and then uses the transboundary legal framework applicable to Mekong River as an example to draw out the benefits as well as the pitfalls for the establishment of a Third Pole biodiversity regime. His central argument is that there is a clear need in the Third Pole region to improve collaborative governance and planning frameworks to contend with the challenges of climate change, dam development, water management, resource extraction, infrastructure development and recognition of Indigenous/minority rights. He contends that the Mekong River Basin regime has failed to effectively deal with biodiversity, due to the low emphasis placed on transboundary environmental management of the basin, the lack of assessment of transboundary environmental effects of development activities, notably hydropower dams, and the inadequate efforts to involve communities and non-government organisations appropriately in decision-making processes, including environmental assessment. He observes that these failures must serve as a major lesson in the design of any Third Pole regime. He suggests that an appropriate biodiversity conservation instrument for the region could take the form of a protocol relating to a framework convention, with both needing to be developed from the ground up, drawing on the recognized needs of the relevant stakeholders for both environmental protection and equitable utilization.
Our Notes on Recent Developments reflect our concern to report on both practical developments and research initiatives from around the Asian region and around the world, both from academic researchers as well as international institutions and organisations.
The note by Alice MAH and Xinhong WANG of Warwick University reports on their ongoing sociological research around the concept of environmental justice. Their work forms part of a five-year European Research Council-funded project focused on ‘the contested politics of making scientific claims about the health impacts of pollution.’ The project focuses on the global petrochemical industry as a significant source of pollution, with unequal regulations and risks across different countries and populations. They critically review how the concept is being increasingly used in the Chinese context, and observe that it resonates with ‘shared ideas of social justice within Chinese legal traditions.’
The note by Andy RAINE and Luan HARFORD records the recent initiatives undertaken in the region on the promotion of various aspects of environmental law by
Finally, we thank all those who have given positive feedback on the first issue of
Conference on the Global Pact for the Environment, <http://ccsi.columbia.edu/2017/09/20/conference-on-the-global-pact-for-the-environment/> accessed 14 November 2017.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights General Assembly Resolution 217 A(iii) of 10 December 1948.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16 December 1966. 993
See the 1972 Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment,
These include but are not limited to the 2015 Draft Covenant on Environment and Development, at <https://www.iucn.org/content/draft-international-covenant-environment-and-development>; the 2015 Oslo Principles on Climate Change Obligations at <https://law.yale.edu/system/files/area/center/schell/oslo_principles.pdf>; the 2016
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, <http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/> accessed 13 November 2017.
See Jaap SPIER, (ed) Principles on Climate Change Obligations of Enterprises (Eleven International Publishing, 2017); see also Climate Principles for Enterprises, https://climateprinciplesforenterprises.org/ accessed 22 December 2017.
2nd Inter-American Congress on the Environmental Rule of Law Convenes in Santiago (Chile), at < https://www.iucn.org/news/world-commission-environmental-law/201710/2nd-inter-american-congress-environmental-rule-law-convenes-santiago-chile >accessed 15 November 2017.
See call for inputs: Draft Guidelines on Human Rights and the Environment, at <http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/SREnvironment/Pages/SRenvironmentIndex.aspx > accessed 14 November 2017.
See eg, Kathryn MCCALLUM, ‘Changing Landscapes: enforcing environmental laws in China through public interest litigation’ (2017) 20 Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law 57; and SUN Qian and Jack TUHOLSKE, ‘An Exploration of and Reflection on China’s System of Environmental Public Interest Litigation’ (2017) 47