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«EURASIAN INTEGRATION: LEGAL AND EDUCATIONAL ASPECTS Novosibirsk, 3–5 of December 2014 SECOND SCHOOL OF INTERECOLAW Novosibirsk, 4–5 of December ...»

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In our view, the reference to ecological integrity is the missing planetary dimension to the conventional anthropocentric definition of sustainable development. The concept of ecological integrity refers to much more than just healthy ecosystems, and includes other ‘planetary must-haves’, which are materials use, clean air, nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) cycles, hydrological cycles, ecosystem services, biodiversity, and climate stability [172]. Therefore, the concept contributes to an updated definition of sustainable development tailored to the Anthropocene, that is, ‘development that meets the needs of the present while safeguarding Earth’s lifesupport system, on which the welfare of current and future generations depends’ [173].

Importantly, the measurability of planetary boundaries could possibly enable the integrity of Earth’s life-support system to be used as a direct measure of the legality of state behaviour [174]. The application of the planetary boundaries framework as a measuring stick for environmental protection has proven to be legally feasible in the treaty context [175]. For example, the climate regime hints at an environmental limit with its reference to holding global warming to a certain level. The ozone regime performs a similar function in relation to the ozone layer protection. Similarly, the parties to the CBD have recently agreed on a set of non-binding but measurable biodiversity targets. Other examples can be pointed to in treaties for other areas of concern. Vidas, for example, remarked about the potential feasibility of the concept of planetary boundaries as

follows in relation to transnational marine environment protection:

208 Р.  Э. Ким, К. Боссельман   [The] proposed concept of planetary boundaries may offer an important new perspective for the law of the sea in the face of an Anthropocene epoch, in which it is conceivable that maintaining the type and level of activities within and beyond our jurisdictional boundaries — including maritime ones — may become conditional upon respecting certain overall, planetary-scale boundaries.

As an amalgamation of minimum environmental standards as informed by the planetary boundaries framework, the grundnorm of protecting the integrity of Earth’s life-support system has the capacity to function as ‘the ultimate arbiter of the myriad trade-offs that need to be managed’. It should be the overarching goal of international environmental law, thereby underpinning and guiding the interpretation of existing, and the creation of new, international environmental laws.

6. Conclusion

Humanity is facing the dual challenge of maintaining Earth subsystems within their planetary boundaries while limiting the risk of problem shifting across environmental media. The accumulating body of environmental treaties, which narrowly focus on particular problems or sectors, has not been able to ensure that its balkanized efforts lead to a net improvement. This research arose out of the need to identify a way to make international environmental law more effective as a whole in terms of planetary sustainability.

To this end, this article approached international environmental law from the perspective of the entire biosphere. We began by considering the implications of planetary boundaries for international environmental law. The presence of interacting thresholds or tipping points on the planetary scale points to the presence of an environmental grundnorm. However, we observed that the international environmental law system is missing a grundnorm, hence an overarching goal that binds the actions of international environmental actors and institutions.

By employing empirical examples of environmental problem shifting, we have illustrated how the absence of an overarching goal has translated into an absence of a unifying reference point for legal reasoning and interpretation. The missing component, in our view, provides an explanation as to why international environmental law has been unable to function coherently and purposively.

We made a preliminary observation that the notion of protecting and restoring the integrity of Earth’s life-support system is emerging as a common denominator among MEAs and other landmark international environmental documents. This concept makes a strong candidate for the environmental grundnorm. The ecological integrity at the planetary level implies maintaining and restoring the environmental conditions of the Holocene. Planetary boundaries of the Anthropocene are quantifiable; hence integrity can be used as a measure of legality of state behaviour.

The step forward for the international community would be to recognize the emerging notion of protecting and restoring global ecological integrity as a grundnorm of international environmental law. We anticipate that this may require what some scholars call a constitutional moment in international environmental governance [179].


1. Mitchell R. B. International Environmental Agreements Database Project. Version 2013.1 // IEA Database Project, 2013, available at: [http://iea.uoregon.edu]. For general information about MEAs see, e. g., Mitchell R. B. International Environmental Agreements: A Survey of Their Features, Formation, and Effects // Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 2003. Vol. 28. P. 429–461; Carruthers C. et al. Multilateral Environmental Agreement: Negotiator’s Handbook. University of Joensuu Department of Law, 2007.

2. Steffen W. et al. Global Change and the Earth System: A Planet under Pressure. IGBP Secretariat, 2004.

3. Rockstrüm J. et al. A Safe Operating Space for Humanity’ // Nature. 2009. Vol. 461 (7263). P. 472–475.

See also its critiques, e. g., Brook et al. Does the Terrestrial Biosphere Have Planetary Tipping Points? Trends in Ecology & Evolution (forthcoming). 2013. For identification of the nine planetary boundaries, see Section 2 and n. 28 below.

4. Crutzen P. J. Geology of Mankind // Nature. 2002. Vol. 415(6867). P. 23; Steffen W., Crutzen P. J., McNeill J. R. The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature? // Ambio. 2007.

Интерэкоправо в антропоцене: к вопросу о целенаправленной системе... 209 Vol. 36(8). P. 614–621; Steffen W.et al. The Anthropocene: From Global Change to Planetary Stewardship //

Ambio. 2011. Vol. 40(7). P. 739–61; Steffen W., Grinevald J., Crutzen P., McNeill J. The Anthropocene:

Conceptual and Historical Perspectives // Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. 2011. Vol. 369.

P. 842–867.

5. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 21 Issues for the 21st Century: Results of the UNEP Foresight Process on Emerging Environmental Issues (UNEP, 2012), available at: http://www.grid.


6. See, e. g., Haas P. M., Keohane R. O., Levy M. A. (eds) Institutions for the Earth: Sources of Effective International Environmental Protection. (The MIT Press, 1993); Victor D. G., Raustiala K., Skolnikoff E. B.

(eds), The Implementation and Effectiveness of International Environmental Commitments: Theory and

Practice (The MIT Press, 1998); Young O. R. (ed), The Effectiveness of International Environmental Regimes:

Causal Connections and Behavioral Mechanisms (The MIT Press, 1999); Louka E. International Environmental Law: Fairness, Effectiveness, and World Order (Cambridge University Press, 2006).

7. Sands P., Peel J. Principles of International Environmental Law (Cambridge University Press, 2012), at p. 894. On the notion of fragmentation in the international environmental law context, see, e. g., Brown Weiss E.

International Environmental Law: Contemporary Issues and the Emergence of a New World Order // Georgetown Law Journal. 1993. Vol. 81(675). P. 675–710; Wolfrum R., Matz N. Conflicts in International Environmental

Law (Springer, 2003); Doelle M. Linking the Kyoto Protocol and Other Multilateral Environmental Agreements:

From Fragmentation to Integration? // Journal of Environmental Law and Practice. 2004. Vol. 14. P. 75–104;

van Asselt H., Sindico F., Mehling M. A. Global Climate Change and the Fragmentation of International Law // Law & Policy. 2008. Vol. 30(4). P. 423–449; Carlarne C. Good Climate Governance: Only a Fragmented System of International Law Away? // Law & Policy. 2008. Vol. 30(4). P. 450–480; Biermann F., Pattberg P., van Asselt H., Zelli F. The Fragmentation of Global Governance Architectures: A Framework for Analysis //

Global Environmental Politics. 2009. Vol. 9(4). P. 14–40; Scott K. N. International Environmental Governance:

Managing Fragmentation through Institutional Connection // Melbourne Journal of International Law. 2011.

Vol. 12(1). P. 177–216; Anton D. K. «Treaty Congestion» in International Environmental Law’ / Alam S., Bhuiyan J. H., Chowdhury T. M. R., Techera E. J. (eds) Routledge Handbook of International Environmental Law (Routledge, 2012); van Asselt H. Managing the Fragmentation of International Environmental Law: Forests at the Intersection of the Climate and Biodiversity Regimes // New York University Journal of International Law and Politics. 2012. Vol. 44(4). P. 1205–1278.

8. Nilsson M., Persson Е. Can Earth System Interactions Be Governed? Governance Functions for Linking Climate Change Mitigation with Land Use, Freshwater and Biodiversity Protection // Ecological Economics. 2012. Vol. 81. P. 10–20, at 12.

9. Yang Y., Bae J., Kim J., Suh S. Replacing Gasoline with Corn Ethanol Results in Significant Environmental Problem Shifting // Environmental Science & Technology. 2012. Vol. 46(7). P. 3671–3678.

See also de Sadeleer N. Environmental Principles: From Political Slogans to Legal Rules (Oxford University Press, 2002), at p. 79.

10. von Moltke K. On Clustering International Environmental Agreements / Winter G. (ed), Multilevel Governance of Global Environmental Change: Perspectives from Science, Sociology and the Law. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

11. Biermann F. The Case for a World Environment Organization // Environment. 2000. Vol. 42(9).

P. 22–32; Biermann F., Bauer S. (eds), A World Environment Organization: Solution or Threat for Effective International Environmental Governance? (Ashgate, 2005); Biermann F., Davies O., van der Grijp N.

Environmental Policy Integration and the Architecture of Global Environmental Governance // International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics. 2009. Vol. 9(4). P. 351–369.

12. Ebbesson J. Lex Pernis Apivorus: An Experiment of Environmental Law Methodology // Journal of Environmental Law. 2003. Vol. 15(2) P. 153–174; Carlman I. The Resource Management Act 1991 through External Eyes’ // New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law. 2007. Vol. 11 P. 181–210; Westerlund S. Theory for Sustainable Development: Towards or Against? / Bugge H. C., Voigt C. (eds) Sustainable Development in International and National Law. Europa Law Publishing, 2008; Jуhannsdуttir A., Cresswell I., Bridgewater P.

The Current Framework for International Governance of Biodiversity: Is It Doing More Harm Than Good? // Review of European Community and International Environmental Law. 2010. Vol. 19(2). P. 139–149.

210 Р.  Э. Ким, К. Боссельман  

13. Westerlund, ibid.

14. Ebbesson, n. 12 above.

15. Jуhannsdуttir, Cresswell & Bridgewater, n. 12 above, at p. 141.

16. Carlman, n. 12 above; Ebbesson, n. 12 above; Jуhannsdуttir, Cresswell & Bridgewater, ibid.

17. Decleris M. The Law of Sustainable Development: General Principles (Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2000), at p. 9. See also Ashby W. R. An Introduction to Cybernetics (Chapman & Hall, 1956).

18. Westerlund, n. 12 above.

19. See, e. g., Haas, Keohane & Levy, n. 6 above.

20. See, e. g., Lafferty W., Hovden E. Environmental Policy Integration: Towards an Analytical Framework // Environmental Politics. 2003. Vol. 12(3). P. 1–22.

21. Steiner A., Kimball L. A., Scanlon J. Global Governance for the Environment and the Role of Multilateral Environmental Agreements in Conservation // Oryx. 2003. Vol. 37(2). P. 227–237.

22. Rockstrüm et al., n. 3 above.

23. Ibid. The scientists acknowledged that there could be need for additional planetary boundaries or the reformulation of existing ones as scientific research will continue to uncover more insights into the dynamics of the Earth system. See, e. g., Steffen W., Rockstrüm J., Costanza R. How Defining Planetary Boundaries Can Transform Our Approach to Growth // Solutions. 2011. Vol. 2(3). Available at: http://www.thesolutionsjournal.


24. Meadows D. H., Meadows D. L., Randers J., Behrens W. W. The Limits to Growth. Universe Books, 1972.

25. Ciriacy-Wantrup S. V. Resource Conservation: Economics and Policies. University of California Press, 1952.

26. O’Riordan T., Cameron J. (eds) Interpreting the Precautionary Principle. Earthscan, 1994;

Raffensperger C., Tickner W. (eds) Protecting Public Health and the Environment: Implementing the Precautionary Principle. Island Press, 1999.

27. German Advisory Council on Global Change, Scenario for the Derivation of Global CO2 Reduction Targets and Implementation Strategies: Statement on the Occasion of the First Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Berlin (Secretariat of the German Advisory Council on Global Change, 1995).

28. Estimates indicate that the first three of the nine boundaries listed have already been crossed. For a detailed description of the method used to quantify planetary boundaries, see Rockstrüm J. et al. Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity // Ecology and Society. 2009. Vol. 14(2).

Available at: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol14/iss2/art32.

29. Biermann F. Planetary Boundaries and Earth System Governance: Exploring the Links // Ecological Economics. 2012. Vol. 81. P. 4–9 (discussing that the scientific determination of planetary boundaries is a political process).

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