«EURASIAN INTEGRATION: LEGAL AND EDUCATIONAL ASPECTS Novosibirsk, 3–5 of December 2014 SECOND SCHOOL OF INTERECOLAW Novosibirsk, 4–5 of December ...»
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 . 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’ .
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 . The application of the planetary boundaries framework as a measuring stick for environmental protection has proven to be legally feasible in the treaty context . 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. ConclusionHumanity 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 .
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210 Р. Э. Ким, К. Боссельман
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