Global Pact for the Environment
The number of multilateral environmental agreements has multiplied over several decades, creating a fragmented assemblage of hard and soft law that is often difficult to apply, particularly at the national level. A group of 80 experts from 40 countries has prepared a draft Global Pact for the Environment that assembles and codifies the main principles of international environmental law, supplemented based on current challenges. It consolidates the principles already agreed in the Stockholm Declaration of 1972, the Rio Declarations of 1992 and 2012, the environmental Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2015. They propose this as the basis for negotiating a legally-binding international treaty that would supplement the existing conventions, filling gaps and making them easier to implement.
United Nations has already adopted two Global Pacts, in 1966, one dedicated to civil and political rights, the other to economic, cultural and social rights, so there are precedents for this initiative. France organized a Summit for the Global Pact on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2017 with some 40 Heads of State and Government and ministers who called for support to the project. A resolution is being prepared at the UN to establish an intergovernmental working group to negotiate a final text.
Even in its draft form, the Global Pact is a useful summary of international environmental law. It has a preamble and 26 articles, each devoted to one aspect of international law and development – most of which enjoy consensus. In particular, it includes the right to an ecologically sound environment; the duty to take care of the environment, to exercise prevention and precaution; to remediate environmental damages; to enforce “polluters pay”; to establish inter-generational equity; to ensure public information and participation, access to environmental justice, education and training in environmental protection. The Pact also provides for the vital role of non-governmental stakeholders; the effectiveness of environmental standards; resilience; non-regression of standards and shared but differentiated responsibilities. It suggests mechanisms for implementation and follow-up. The text of the draft is provided below.
Global Pact for the Environment
Draft presented by the group of experts at La Sorbonne in Paris on 24 June 2017
Right to an ecologically sound environment
Every person has the right to live in an ecologically sound environment adequate for their health, well-being, dignity, culture and fulfilment.
Duty to take care of the environment
Every State or international institution, every person, natural or legal, public or private, has the duty to take care of the environment. To this end, everyone contributes at their own levels to the conservation, protection and restoration of the integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem.
Integration and sustainable development
Parties shall integrate the requirements of environmental protection into the planning and implementation of their policies and national and international activities, especially in order to promote the fight against climate change, the protection of oceans and the maintenance of biodiversity.
They shall pursue sustainable development. To this end, they shall ensure the promotion of public support policies, patterns of production and consumption both sustainable and respectful of the environment.
Intergenerational equity shall guide decisions that may have an impact on the environment.
Present generations shall ensure that their decisions and actions do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The necessary measures shall be taken to prevent environmental harm.
The Parties have the duty to ensure that activities under their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environments of other Parties or in areas beyond the limits of their national jurisdiction.
They shall take the necessary measures to ensure that an environmental impact assessment is conducted prior to any decision made to authorise or engage in a project, an activity, a plan, or a program that is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment.
In particular, States shall keep under surveillance the effect of an above-mentioned project, activity, plan, or program which they authorise or engage in, in view of their obligation of due diligence.
Where there is a risk of serious or irreversible damage, lack of scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing the adoption of effective and proportionate measures to prevent environmental degradation.
The necessary measures shall be taken to ensure an adequate remediation of environmental damages.
Parties shall immediately notify other States of any natural disasters or other emergencies that are likely to produce sudden harmful effects on the environment of those States. Parties shall promptly cooperate to help concerned States.
Parties shall ensure that prevention, mitigation and remediation costs for pollution, and other environmental disruptions and degradation are, to the greatest possible extent, borne by their originator.
Access to information
Every person, without being required to state an interest, has a right of access to environmental information held by public authorities.
Public authorities shall, within the framework of their national legislations, collect and make available to the public relevant environmental information.
Every person has the right to participate, at an appropriate stage and while options are still open, to the preparation of decisions, measures, plans, programmes, activities, policies and normative instruments of public authorities that may have a significant effect on the environment.
Access to environmental justice
Parties shall ensure the right of effective and affordable access to administrative and judicial procedures, including redress and remedies, to challenge acts or omissions of public authorities or private persons which contravene environmental law, taking into consideration the provisions of the present Pact.
Education and training
The Parties shall ensure that environmental education, to the greatest possible extent, is taught to members of the younger generation as well as to adults, in order to inspire in everyone a responsible conduct in protecting and improving the environment.
The Parties shall ensure the protection of freedom of expression and information in environmental matters. They support the dissemination by mass media of information of an educational nature on ecosystems and on the need to protect and preserve the environment.
Research and innovation
The Parties shall promote, to the best of their ability, the improvement of scientific knowledge of ecosystems and the impact of human activities. They shall cooperate through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge and by enhancing the development, adaptation, dissemination and transfer of technologies respectful of the environment, including innovative technologies.
Role of non-State actors and subnational entities
The Parties shall take the necessary measures to encourage the implementation of this Pact by non-State actors and subnational entities, including civil society, economic actors, cities and regions taking into account their vital role in the protection of the environment.
Effectiveness of environmental norms
The Parties have the duty to adopt effective environmental laws, and to ensure their effective and fair implementation and enforcement.
The Parties shall take necessary measures to maintain and restore the diversity and capacity of ecosystems and human communities to withstand environmental disruptions and degradation and to recover and adapt.
The Parties and their sub-national entities refrain from allowing activities or adopting norms that have the effect of reducing the global level of environmental protection guaranteed by current law.
In order to conserve, protect and restore the integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem and community of life, Parties shall cooperate in good faith and in a spirit of global partnership for the implementation of the provisions of the present Pact.
States shall take pursuant to their obligations under international law all feasible measures to protect the environment in relation to armed conflicts.
Diversity of national situations
The special situation and needs of developing countries, particularly the least developed and those most environmentally vulnerable, shall be given special attention.
Account shall be taken, where appropriate, of the Parties’ common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.
[Articles 21-26 concern implementation]
Last updated 11 March 2018