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Tim Stephens

According to the mainstream narrative, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has tended to be labelled a follower rather than a leader in the advancement of environmental law principles by responding slowly and cautiously to external developments, and by refraining from offering definitive conclusions on controversial environmental disputes. This chapter surveys the ICJ’s growing body of environmental jurisprudence and contends that there are strong indications, revealed particularly clearly in several recent decisions, that the ICJ has both the willingness and the capacity to address environmental matters more directly and substantively.
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Tim Stephens

International environmental law has been profoundly shaped by disasters. While international environmental law has been developed in order to avert or ameliorate catastrophes attributable to human activities, it also has relevance to the emerging field of disaster law that is primarily concerned with natural disaster preparedness, mitigation and response. This is not least because of the increasing difficulty in distinguishing natural from human-induced disasters in the Anthropocene. However, an international environmental law fashioned in the aftermath and shadow of a disaster suffers from several failings, fixating on discrete incidents and the risks of recurrence, rather than on the larger structural shortcomings in the international order that is enabling global environmental decline.
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Tim Stephens

The oceans are vitally important to the regulation of the Earth’s climate. The oceans have put a brake on global warming by being a store of ‘blue carbon’, taking up around a third of all carbon released from human activities. But while this has been beneficial for the climate, one side-effect has been ocean acidification. This is the progressive change in the chemistry of the world’s oceans as they draw down carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. It is widely recognized that ocean acidification is changing ocean productivity, with major implications for ocean ecosystems and the societies and economies dependent upon them. This chapter examines how ocean acidification is addressed in international law. It is seen that the phenomenon is currently not directly controlled by any treaty regime, and is indirectly regulated by an uncoordinated assortment of environmental treaties and soft law instruments. The precautionary principle, and the desirability of sustainability goals for the oceans, suggests the need for the international community to set a single upper limit for the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to match both climate change and ocean acidification mitigation goals.
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Tim Stephens

The Anthropocene brings with it a risk of environmental disasters at scales not previously experienced. This chapter argues that disasters caused or made worse by climate change are appropriately addressed under the rubric of international climate law rather than global disaster policy. A turn to generic disaster risk reduction in response to the risks of climate disasters in the Anthropocene is no substitute for the urgent task of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet the objectives of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Instruments such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, as important as they are, can offer only wishful thinking when it comes to the governance of environmental disasters in the Anthropocene.

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Tim Stephens

Abstract

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, and has developed a large body of environmental jurisprudence. Its decisions have increasingly engaged with environmental principles, including the principles of prevention, sustainable development and cooperation. Environmental ­principles have been used creatively by the ICJ in order to structure aspects of its reasoning.

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Edited by Ed Couzens and Tim Stephens

This content is available to you

Edited by Tim Stephens and Ed Couzens