Accountability in the Global Business Environment
Corporations, Globalisation and the Law series
Chapter 8: The Global Firm and the Environment
Just as corporations should be invited to subscribe to obligations spelt out in the key human rights treaties of the United Nations and its organizations, so also should corporations be invited and permitted to sign up to relevant international treaties in the area of the environment. TNCs should also be bound by, and take their place in the formation of, accepted tenets of customary international law relating to protection of the environment – at least those which have attained the status of jus cogens or peremptory norms of behaviour in international law. Customary environmental legal principles which have attained this status have been said to include such concepts as the preventive principle, the principle of sustainable development, the precautionary principle, the polluter pays principle and the concept of intergenerational equity.1 A. THE FRAGMENTED STATE OF INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW 1. A Multiplicity of Instruments Environmental issues are undoubtedly global in nature. However, most serious attempts made so far to deal with environmental problems have occurred at national or regional level and/or on an ad hoc, specific issue basis. The result has been, as described in the UN Secretary-General’s Report In Larger Freedom, a proliferation of instruments and agencies dealing with environmental matters: There are now more than 400 regional and universal multilateral environmental treaties in force, covering a broad range of environmental issues, including biodiversity, climate change and desertification. The sectoral character of these legal instruments and the fragmented machinery for monitoring their implementation make it harder to mount effective responses across...
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