Editorial
  • 1 Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales
  • | 2 The University of Sydney Law School
  • | 3 Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology
  • | 4 Deakin University
  • | 5 Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology
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<italic toggle="yes">APJEL</italic> IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION

This second issue of APJEL in the 2021 volume – APJEL’s 24th – features articles on environmental issues relevant both to particular Asian states and to the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. The four articles in this issue follow the five in the first issue of 2021, eight in 2020 and 13 in the 2019 volume, which concerned environmental law developments in Australia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, the Maldives, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, the South China Sea region and Thailand.

We are confident that APJEL

1 APJEL IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION

This second issue of APJEL in the 2021 volume – APJEL’s 24th – features articles on environmental issues relevant both to particular Asian states and to the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. The four articles in this issue follow the five in the first issue of 2021, eight in 2020 and 13 in the 2019 volume, which concerned environmental law developments in Australia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, the Maldives, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, the South China Sea region and Thailand.

We are confident that APJEL will continue to make a valuable contribution toward advanced scholarship in the region.

We look forward to submissions of general environmental relevance and submissions on specific, focused issues, with relevance to Asian Pacific environmental law scholarship. APJEL’s aim continues to be to publish careful research on the broad spectrum of environmental law issues in the Asia Pacific region. The articles we seek to publish will always demonstrate high quality scholarship, both through broad considerations of globally relevant issues and close considerations of aspects of environmental law in particular states.

2 DELAYS IN 2021

APJEL continues to publish rigorous scholarship in environmental law in the Asia-Pacific region and the four articles in this second issue of the 2021 volume will, we believe, make a valuable contribution toward such research and enhanced understanding.

APJEL was, however, affected in both 2020 and 2021 by the COVID-19 pandemic – in many ways. Our team of volunteer editors has struggled with many aspects related to the commissioning, editing, reviewing and rewriting of submitted articles – and we understand that many of our authors have struggled also with responses and rewrites. This has necessitated a delay and this second issue of 2021 is appearing some six months later than usual. To our contributors and to our readers we offer our firm apologies – we hope soon to be back on a more regular track.

3 THE ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE

3.1 Eco-centrism and legal protection in Sri Lanka

Considerably increased scholarly attention is being given to the subject of rights of nature – from close analyses of legal instruments to broader, more ‘philosophical’, discussions of the relationship that humankind is having, and that which we ought to have, with nature. APJEL has long taken an interest in this theme.1 It is interesting to note that in recent years some of the most significant legal developments have taken place in South America (Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador, for example) and in the Asia Pacific (Bangladesh, India and New Zealand, for example).

The first article in this issue2 is by Asanka Edirisinghe and Michelle Lim and considers legal developments, jurisprudence, religion and philosophy in Sri Lanka. The authors argue that for centuries Sri Lankan tradition and religious practice have recognized a right to life held by all living beings and duties resting on humans in the ways they co-exist with nature. Sadly, however, they explain that environmental degradation, and even destruction, due to human activities feature strongly in Sri Lanka. Anthropocentric thinking, they argue, pervades Sri Lankan jurisprudence; and legislation and court judgment have generally not recognized nature’s rights to be protected (both for its relational and its intrinsic values). The authors also identify as a problem that in Sri Lanka there is only limited acknowledgement that human survival depends on environmental health – and they contrast the Sri Lankan experience with significant recent moves away from anthropogenic thinking in other jurisdictions.

The authors consider whether the adoption of a greater eco-centrism ethic might help to strengthen environmental protection in Sri Lanka. They argue that a valuable overarching question that can be asked is whether examination of eco-centrism in Sri Lankan religious and cultural texts might assist an Earth jurisprudence approach to nature protection to emerge. The article highlights traditional and religious teachings from Sri Lanka, and the authors contend that greater recognition should be given to existing cultures and histories as a foundation from which contemporary law could be used better to protect nature. The article places the Sri Lankan experience also in the wider context of the emergence of Earth jurisprudence globally, then provides recommendations for legal reform in the Sri Lankan context.

3.2 Climate change-related loss and damage in Pacific Island States

Developing states which are also islands, which feature heavily in the Pacific, are extraordinarily vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Much scholarly attention is turning to climate change-related litigation and the extent to which this can be used to compel governments to take responsibility for their historic failures; and to meet their international obligations.3

In the third article,4 authors Zoe Nay, Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh and Willy Missack discuss the implications of recent developments in climate science and apply these to efforts made in international law by Pacific Island States to avert, minimize and address loss and damage from climate change.

The authors consider these implications in connection with three areas of international law pertaining to loss and damage: averting the threat of existential losses; minimizing loss and damage through adaptation and climate resilience; and addressing loss and damage through reparations for victims. They seek to demonstrate that evolving climate science exposes a need for urgent action to be taken in each of these areas; and that the science provides fresh insight into specific requirements states need to meet in order to comply with international obligations related to such actions.

The article examines how established mechanisms within the international climate regime, such as the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts, could be used to assist in meeting such obligations. The article then explores how, and to what extent, evolving climate science may bolster the evidentiary basis of litigation in which various parties seek to hold states to account for their failures to meet international legal obligations.

3.3 Water sharing and cooperation between Bangladesh and India

The difficulties of adopting effective international treaties, be these bilateral, regional or global, to deal with the complexities of transboundary water management are notoriously complex. The second article in this issue,5 by Mohammad Pizuar Hossain, explains that Bangladesh and India have adopted a number of bilateral agreements and have taken several initiatives on transboundary water cooperation.

In the face of, especially, water pollution and degradation, the author explains that environmental critics have for many years questioned the effectiveness of water cooperation efforts between the two states. However, he argues, it is not clear to what extent the two comply with international environmental law principles when they create – and implement – agreements on water sharing.

This article assesses issues of compliance with the ‘no harm’ principle, the ‘precautionary’ principle and the ‘polluter pays’ principle, all of which assist the states to achieve sustainable development and are purportedly applicable to water sharing management agreements between Bangladesh and India. As a case study, the article gives attention to the management of water sharing of the Ganges, the Teesta, and the proposed Tipaimukh dam projects through a consideration of existing studies on transboundary water cooperation between Bangladesh and India.

3.4 Environmental protection in the Anthropocene in Indonesia

Understanding is growing in scholarship worldwide that humankind has so altered the Earth’s physical environment that the ‘Age of Man’ can now be considered as a new geological epoch. The final article in this issue,6 by Agung Wardana, considers the concept of the Anthropocene, applied specifically to environmental protection in Indonesia.

The author first explains that the rise of the Anthropocene is evidence of the historic failure of environmental governance to prevent human-induced effects from encroaching, even overrunning, planetary limits. It is argued that to understand the Anthropocene overall, it is valuable to understand how particular countries contribute to, and are affected by, it. In this regard, Indonesia, the author contends, provides an interesting narrative: on the one hand, he explains, Indonesia has contributed to the current planetary crisis, especially through its forestry and land use sectors; but, on the other hand, as a mega-biodiverse country, it is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of planetary change.

The author argues that Indonesia represents a ‘paradox in the Anthropocene’ in that it is responding to complex and alarming environmental problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic, by relocating its capital city to Indonesia’s ‘lung of the Earth’, Kalimantan, and by relaxing environmental safeguards with the potential for further encroachment onto ecosystems.

4 COMMENT

As inadequate a thank you as it is, we like to conclude by affirming our belief that the scholarship contained in APJEL always represents an under-acknowledged partnership between authors, anonymous reviewers, editors and publishers. The editorial team would like to record our gratitude to all who contributed – as always, we are very grateful!

  • 1

    See, for instance, the articles by

    Riley Sophie , '‘Listening to Nature’s Voices: Invasive Species, Earth Jurisprudence and Compassionate Conservation’ ' (2019 ) 22 (1 ) APJEL : 117.

    and by

    Sohidul Islam Mohammad & O’Donnell Erin , '‘Legal Rights for the Turag: Rivers as Living Entities in Bangladesh’ ' (2021 ) 23 (2 ) APJEL : 160.

  • 2

    ‘A Plea for Survival: Can the Return to Eco-Centrism Strengthen the Legal Protection of Nature in Sri Lanka?’.

  • 3

    See, for instance, the articles by

    Dellavedova Brooke , '‘The Role and Impact of Environmental Class Actions in Australia’ ' (2021 ) 24 (1 ) APJEL : 6.

    Butterfield Bridie , '‘The Potential Role of Climate Change Litigation in Furthering the Mitigation Objectives of the Paris Agreement’ ' (2018 ) 21 (1 ) APJEL : 29.

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  • 4

    ‘Climate Loss and Damage in Pacific Island States: International Law Implications of Evolving Climate Science’.

  • 5

    ‘Bangladesh-India Water Sharing Cooperation: An Analysis from the Perspective of the International Environmental Law Principles’.

  • 6

    ‘The Indonesian Paradox in the Anthropocene’.