Research Handbook on Fundamental Concepts of Environmental Law
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Research Handbook on Fundamental Concepts of Environmental Law

Edited by Douglas Fisher

The quality and the strength of an environmental legal system is a reflection of the conceptual foundations upon which it is constructed. The Research Handbook on Fundamental Concepts of Environmental Law illuminates key aspects of environmental governance through the lens of their underlying dimensions: for example, the form, structure and language of international, regional and national instruments; the function of norms, objectives and standards; and the relevance of economic analysis and of integrated policy formulation.
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Chapter 3: From protection to restoration: a challenge for environmental governance

Afshin Akhtar-Khavari and Anastasia Telesetsky


Environmental protection continues to be the key driver of conceptual and technical developments in environmental law and governance. However, protection initiatives alone simply assume that passive restoration will support ecosystem health and resilience moving forward. In the Anthropocene, where talks about breaches of planetary boundaries are too common, we have to rethink whether concepts like protection or even sustainability make us complacent about nature’s own capacity to restore itself. Restoration ecology encourages human beings to actively assist with the holistic recovery of ecosystems to an historical trajectory that will enable it to function in a healthy way. This chapter considers whether international environmental law is geared to supporting restoration generally and restoration ecology in particular. After examining the significance of restoration for reshaping environmental governance in the Anthropocene this chapter surveys international soft law instruments and asks whether and to what extent they have dealt with restoration issues and whether enough evidence exists to suggest that the groundwork has been done to shift environmental law from simply protecting ecosystem to holistically restoring them in the Anthropocene. The chapter argues that international environmental law has yet to use holistic approaches to restoration that compel the involvement of human beings as active agents in the recovery of ecosystem. Crucially, existing international environmental law has yet to define ecological parameters for states who undertake legally mandated restoration; as a result, restoration in practice may do little more than achieve remediation and rehabilitation, leading to an irreversible loss of ecosystem functions.

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