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

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 8: Common but Differentiated Responsibilities

Philippe Cullet


Philippe Cullet Introduction Equity has been one of the central concerns in international environmental law over the past couple of decades. Debates have largely focused on the North–South dimension of a number of international environmental problems and on the need to adopt legal frameworks that foster substantive equality between developed and developing countries. In particular, attention has been given to the different contributions that states have made to the degradation of the environment and the different capacities that they have to address environmental degradation. In the case of global warming, for instance, one of the quintessential global environmental problems, there is a relatively clear link between the contribution to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the capacity to introduce environmentally friendly technologies. Debates over equity in the context of global environmental problems are reflected in the development of an array of measures designed to take into account the special position of developing countries. These can take the form of differential treatment where different groups of countries take different commitments or where the implementation of developing countries’ commitments is conditioned upon the implementation by developed countries of their financial and technology transfer commitments. This can also take the form of softer differential measures, such as the introduction of contextualisation in commitments that apply to all countries in the same way, but allow countries a level of flexibility in their implementation, depending on their specific situation. Differential treatment in international environmental law is a pragmatic response that states...

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