Global Environmental Law at a Crossroads
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Global Environmental Law at a Crossroads

Edited by Robert V. Percival, Jolene Lin and William Piermattei

This timely volume considers the future of environmental law and governance in the aftermath of the "Rio+20" conference. An international set of expert contributors begin by addressing a range of governance concepts that can be used to address environmental problems. The book then provides a survey of key environmental challenges across the globe, before finally giving an assessment of possible governance models for the future.
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Chapter 17: Legal challenges in the creation of a World Environment Organization

Nils Goeteyn


Since its establishment in 1972, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has faced significant scholarly scrutiny and harsh criticism. Advocates for more centralized or more authoritative international environmental governance (IEG) have argued for the creation of a World Environment Organization (WEO). What this new institution should look like, the scope of its mandate and exactly how it could practically be created has long been debated in academic circles. Proposals range from an environmental organization that would focus on global issues with global participation and representation; a global internalization-based bargaining marketplace; an upgraded United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); a Security Council-style supranational organization; the clustering of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs); or a United Nations Environment Organization (UNEO). For the purpose of this chapter, ‘WEO’ is defined as the concept of a World Environment Organization, without prejudice towards these existing proposals. Abstraction is made of the different denominations of the proposals. The term ‘WEO’ is thus used as the banner denomination for all of these proposals, unless otherwise specified. While the political challenges for the creation of a WEO have been assessed numerous times, the same cannot be said about the legal challenges or consequences of such a move. It is in this respect that this chapter will contribute to the debate. The chapter starts from the (unrealized) premise that the political decision for the creation of a WEO has been taken. It assesses the practical and legal consequences and challenges of such an institutional reform.

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