Research Handbook on International Environmental Law
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Research Handbook on International Environmental Law

  • Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Malgosia Fitzmaurice, David M. Ong and Panos Merkouris

This wide-ranging and comprehensive Handbook examines recent developments in international environmental law (IEL) and the crossover effects of this expansion on other areas of international law, such as trade law and the law of the sea.
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Chapter 2: International Framework for Environmental Decision-making

Geir Ulfstein


2 International framework for environmental decisionmaking Geir Ulfstein Introduction The international character of the most serious environmental challenges makes cooperation between States imperative. As a response to this need, international environmental law, as developed since the 1970s, includes essential institutional characteristics. Such institutions provide permanent fora for negotiating and adopting relevant measures for environmental protection. The United Nations has played a pivotal role as a framework for developing environmental decision-making, particularly the General Assembly and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Several of the UN specialized agencies are also involved in environmental decision-making, such as the Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). A particular feature of international environmental law is the ‘treaty bodies’ established by many multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). These bodies, and in particular, their ‘conference of the parties’ (COP), are permanent organs with subsidiary bodies and a secretariat, and have important functions in lawmaking as well as compliance control. In addition, international financial organizations, such as the World Bank, play a vital role. Finally, international environmental organizations and treaty bodies are found also at the regional level. Environmental problems require urgent international action. They are furthermore interconnected and need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner. This has given rise to a concern that there may be a need for a more effective and inclusive cooperation. Hence, the design of international environmental governance has for a long time been under scrutiny. The United Nations 1. General Assembly While environmental matters were not explicitly...

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