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The World is too naïve to fathom the importance of the protection of the Environment. There have been many cries but only fruitless. Now is the most crucial times of all to understand that the protection of the Environment is more important than any other task. The whole world must unite for this fight. One of the first steps that can be taken is the creation of a document that will be common for all, abided by all, respected by all. The need for this document has been raised by many; however, it has yet not become a reality. There will be many hurdles in this endeavour but we must rise above all differences and achieve it.
The world is moving at a faster pace than it ever was. Due consideration is being given to all aspects of human life for the survival of humans and also for their development. Amidst this maturity growing around the world, one important or rather the most essential aspect is being shown a cold shoulder, i.e. the Environment. If this was in some time in the past, it might have recovered at its own, but today when we humans are consuming resources at a dangerously high rate which is fifty per cent faster than the reproduction of those resources, we face a threat of mass extinction. Yes, we today face a dangerous environmental crisis.
The prime cause is the reluctance of us humans in realizing that it is indeed not just an important but an essential and probably the most indispensable part of our lives. We have to realize that today the need to safeguard this environment is much more emphasized and needed than it ever was.
For hundreds of years now, many of us have been asking for a Global Pact for the Environment (GPE), but no one has taken a step forward in order to actually make this a reality, but now the time has come when we realize that without it we would not live longer, that we would face a catastrophe never felt before.
HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT
Although the cry for the protection of the environment and the realization of its well-being goes back to a long time ago, the international aspect of this realization was not much accepted and understood until the 20th century.
The initial international law recognized only the aspect that every sovereign nation has complete and lasting control and autonomy over their natural resources and all the wealth within their territory. However, a modern outlook to this mentality was given in 1972, when states came together in Stockholm and agreed that ‘adequate conditions of life, in an environment of quality’ were and are fundamental to human rights, thereby, for the first time, they recognized the human right to live in a healthy environment.
It was after this realization in Stockholm, that the world got together to make a legal international framework for the environment over the next few years, one such step was taken by creating the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in June 1972, and then by the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. After this, many issue-specific steps have been taken focusing on specific aspects of the environment. Despite these issue-specific steps have now covered almost all the aspects of environmental concern, the international jurisprudence on the environment is still to be improved.
After that, there was a French Think Tank called Le Club des Juristes (CDJ). This French think tank argued in favour of the argument that a new mechanism is needed to strengthen the international environmental law. In this light, CDJ proposed a new GPE in order that a greater uniformity to international environmental laws can be had and also so that, for once and for all, clear obligations and duties could be laid down of the states and the individuals to guard the environment.
Amedeo Postiglione, a Judge of the Italian Corte Suprema di Cassazione advocated for the first time, the need of an International Court for the Environment (ICE). He also advocated for the need for a universal environmental document ever since the 1990s. Another aspect of this proposed convention is that it would also define the “main obligations of the individual States,” and would also “hold people responsible for promoting and protecting the human right” accountable if they do not oblige to their duties.
The preliminary draft for the GPE was an outcome of concerted efforts of the World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which was brought about in the year 2017 as an initiative to conclude a legally binding international instrument under the UN that synthesizes the principles outlined in the Stockholm Declaration, the World Charter for Nature, the Rio Declaration, the IUCN World Declaration on the Environmental Rule of Law and some other instruments to solidify the environmental rule of law around the world and to achieve the 2013 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Following this draft, the UN in its 72nd session on May 14, 2018, adopted a resolution “Towards a Global Pact for the Environment”. Vide this document, the UN requests the UN Secretary-General to prepare a report identifying possible lacunas in the international environmental law and environment-related instruments with special focus on strengthening the implementation part. Furthermore, the UN seeks to establish an “ad hoc open-ended working group” which shall consider that report and shall discuss possible gaps in the international environmental law and shall try to find the feasibility of having an international instrument for the environment protection.
SETTING UP OF SOME NEW INSTITUTIONS
This draft proposal aims to set up two institutions. One of them is the International Court for Environment. The need for this special court for the purposes to cater with the concern of enforcement of environmental rights and set precedents at the international level pertaining to international environmental law, which now would not have to stand alone but would be read with the notion of ‘human rights’. Its abidance would become voluntary which is the need of the hour considering the upcoming challenges of world unity, especially with regards to environmental concerns. This body would become the enforcement mechanism for the GPE with an ideal compulsory jurisdiction over environment disputes.
The other body, which is not so much about setting up a new organization as much as it is of enhancing the presently established, UNEP. UNEP is envisioned to oversee the implementation and enforcement of the GPE inside the UN system. Such an administrative body would be imperative to promote the observance with the GPE because though many nations may say that they want to observe with the provisions of the pact, most won’t and the others might not have requisite resources or institutional capacity to do so.
The UN’s primary initiative for a better world came from its resolution passed on 27th of July 2012 titled “the future we want” where one of the visions of the UN was to mainstream ‘sustainable development’ and to take more initiatives to meet the visions of the other international documents entered into or agreed to.
The need for a Global Pact for Environment has forever been felt but there cannot be a better time for its becoming reality than now. The world is separating day by day and notions of people are changing by leaps and bounds. Some leaders are willing to take measures for international environment’s sake while some are not, and they keep changing. A global pact would once and for all bind all the nations and would oblige them to protect and nurture the one good environment that we have and strive to reduce its destruction.
One of the prime challenges we face today regarding a global pact is making its principles and visions more effective. There are documents and other norms in the international regime that are inadequately enforced or are not even duly recognized and accepted. With this mindset, we would move forward but only to destruction. We may have many cities, states, countries and a few continents, but as of now we only have this one world. Being its residents, it is our collective duty to make concerted efforts to safeguard it. If this ‘initiative’ does not come from within us all, then we need a global law mandating it, in absence of which we won’t feel obligated to do so. And history is an epic example to the fact that we tend to follow a norm when there is a sanction attached to its non-observance.
Another negative aspect of this is the multifarious documents that exist making it difficult for each of us to know it all. One single document would solve the purpose.
The need for a single, binding, sanctioned global pact for the environment is more now than ever, with the nuclear weapons taking prime position in the armies of many of the nations, with the chemical weapons being a silent killer possessed by the mighty and powerful nations. Once used, the world would no longer be a place safe for anybody to breathe in. There are many things that we can do, many more than are ought to be done, we can’t do them all in a day but there has to be an initiative.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Prateek Charan is a third-year law student at the National Law University of Nagpur.
In Content Picture Credit: Lokaantar