More than ever, the United Nations is facing global environmental threats, due to poor governance strategy and various obstacles related to multilateralism. Environmental problems are, by definition, transboundary issues. This chapter will focus on one of the main challenges of environmental law and governance: biodiversity loss. The conservation of biodiversity has been recognized as a common concern of humanity. Nevertheless, even if a vast majority of UN member states agree on the importance of tackling environmental issues such as this one, the lack of binding regulations and good implementation leads to poor results.
Using Sustainable Development Goals 14 and 15, I will discuss governance and legal issues concerning the identified goals, and the international community’s capacity to meet them in practice. One of the major problems concerning biodiversity conservation is the multiplication of instruments contained in its legal regime as well as the overlap of actors involved. This chapter will also evaluate the upcoming challenges that the world and the United Nations will have to solve in the next decades in terms of biodiversity challenges at a multilateral level.
The chapter will explore two specific challenges that the UN must face in this new era of environmental degradation and climate crisis, which depart from the issues it was prepared to face when it was founded. Nowadays, after 75 years of work by universal and regional bodies, regional human rights courts such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have taken important steps toward the protection of the environment, with new regional treaties or with creative connections between regional human rights charters and the protection of the environment. These developments need to be observed, appraised and included in the universal efforts led by the UN, and a closer universal – regional dialogue is needed.
Regarding a second issue, the underrepresentation of indigenous peoples, their rights and their environmental agendas is still a challenge both at the UN and the local level. Securing active, permanent and effective representation of indigenous peoples in international bodies is vital for understanding different perspectives and solutions for particular environmental issues and climate change.