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Environmental Law: International Agreements

Southern nations have constantly approached issues of the environment as the reference point in negotiations of the unequal utilization of resources instead of protecting the environment from industrial capitalism. Thus, the main differences between the southern hemisphere and the northern hemisphere over global issues of the environment rotate around three main concerns: the query of responsibility for degradation of the environment, the right of the southern states to pursue industrialization, and the question of free transfer of technology which is not considered to be the step to pollute the environment of the southern states by the northern ones (August, 2004). It has always been seen and proved that trans-boundary issues of the environment such as depletion of the ozone have provoked more rigorous forms of cooperation between nations in spite of the fact that individual countries can not face such issues alone.

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Deterioration of the environment has always been re-territorialized in terms of forming international agreements among the nations covering depletion of the ozone or rather the climate change. For instance, the UNEP developed a scientific committee about ozone depletion in the year 1972 later leading to a number of nations participating in a remarkable Vienna convection in the year 1985 and the 1987 protocol called the Montreal Protocol (Bainbridge, 2009). The sole aim of the latter was the elimination of chemical substances which are harmful to the normal ozone concentration in the earth’s conditions. The northern states were unwilling to create funds to assist the third world nations such as Brazil, China and India financially in their struggle to find alternatives to chlorine-fluoro-carbons, which were very destructive to the ozone. Most of the third world states, or rather the countries in the southern hemisphere, disagreed on signing the 1987 Montreal Protocol until technical and financial aid to these states from the northern ones had been agreed totally by the majority of the latter in the year 1991(Bainbridge, 2009).

Preliminary Activities

In the middle of the 20th century the environmental issues attracted the public’s attention to the greatest extent. International summits and conferences were established to negotiate and solve the issues of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, water and air pollution, and the measures to fight these aspects of human activity on Earth (August, 2004). The Stockholm Conference held in 1972 was one of the first steps in this direction. This conference initiated the process of environmental protection generally by its recommendation that global resources should be safeguarded in order to benefit both the future and present generations through careful planning. The general assembly of the unite nations in 1982 took into consideration planning and implementations of development activities such as conservation of nature (Hatchard & Perry-Kessaris, 2003).

The Montreal Protocol of 1987 was the next measure taken. This was a set of rules on handling substances that depleted the ozone layer. It is therefore an international treaty put in place for protection of the ozone layer. This is the elimination of the production of certain substances that causes depletion of the ozone layer (Malanczuk, 1997). This treaty was ready for signatures by the year 1987 but entered into force on January 1, 1989. This was followed by the first meeting held in Helsinki the same year. Since its formation Montreal Protocol has undergone seven revisions. By 2050, the ozone layer will have recovered. It is due to Montreal Protocol’s implementation and adoption that the treaty has been hailed to be an exceptional example of international cooperation. The treaty is based upon cutting the emissions of several groups of hydrocarbons that have proved to play a great role in depletion of the ozone layer. All of the ozone depleting substances contain either chlorine or bromine. The treaty stipulates that the parties involved are to base their decisions on current environmental, scientific, economical, and technical information (Malanczuk, 1997).

Finally, the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and the Antarctic Protocol of the same year have established the main principles according to which the further development of environmentalism has been since carried out. Thus, Rio Summit conference supported the principle that environmental problems globally should be solved by multilateral environmental cooperation or by consensus (Schaffer, Earl, & Augusti, 2004). This way the disguised protection and arbitrary discrimination were reduced. Rio Earth Summit of 1992 reflects the international community’s shared concern and responsibility for global resources. The Antarctic Protocol stipulated the protection and maintenance of the Antarctic environment which was viewed as wilderness with both scientific and aesthetic value. Among the ways of achieving this goal there were such points as prohibition of any activity involving extraction of minerals other than for research purposes only; assessment of the environment for all activities; creation of a special committee on environmental protection of the continent stipulated, etc. Mining and ore production were banned in Antarctic to provide for elimination of disputes or any environmental complications (Schaffer, Earl, & Augusti, 2004).

UNFCCC Framework

As well, one of the initial steps of the international community in respect of overcoming the environmental harmful effects of then human activities, including industries, ore production, etc. was the so called United Nations Convention of Climate Change (FCCC in abbreviation) that took place in 1994 (Gallagher & Werksman, 2007). Currently, about 192 countries are parties to this convention, which stipulates that all its members are to cooperate on environmental issues. In more detail, the state-parties are to look for and work on the programs or individual measures to be taken to fight the environmental issues including gas emissions, greenhouse effect, ozone layer depletion, etc. Moreover, the participants of the FCCC convention of the UN are to exchange their ideas in this respect. Finally, all the 192 countries joining the FCCC are to cooperate on the issue of implementation of the measures found and solutions worked out jointly.

GATT Agreement

The same year the so-called GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) Agreement was ratified. Its main results were the establishment of the World Trade Organization and the consequent rules and regulations of the international trade and other kinds of cooperation (August, 2004). As for the environmental protection issues, the GATT Agreement facilitated the elimination of the gap between the southern and western hemispheres of the Earth on the points of environmental protection, gas emissions, etc. In its essence, the GATT Agreement has led to the establishment of the more civilized and peaceful cooperation of states that realized the necessity of cutting harmful GHG gas emissions for the sake of the whole mankind. The so called Kyoto Protocol was the continuation of the steps taken initially by concluding the GATT Agreement and the subsequent creation of the WTO (Jackson, 1997; Krueger, 2000).

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Kyoto Protocol

This was an agreement concluded in 1997 in the United Nations framework on climate change by a number of countries both for Northern and the Southern hemispheres, It came into force in 2005 and stipulated the gas emissions cutting norms that every particular country should keep to in order to restore the ozone layer of the Earth by 2050. The Kyoto Protocol stipulated that the countries ratifying it would do the following in order to protect the environment (Gallagher & Werksman, 2007):

  • The parties involved shall jointly or individually ensure that their emission of greenhouse equivalent to anthropogenic carbon dioxide does not exceed assigned limits;
  • That the situation with the emission of greenhouse gasses by their sources changes and the countries reduced removal by means of directly induced human activities which are limited to reforestation, forestation and deforestation since the year 1990;
  • Measured of changes shall be used to meet the requirements under article 2 of the agreement that can be verified in carbon stocks; Emissions of greenhouse gases from these activities should be reported in a manner that is transparent and verifiable;
  • Each party should provide its carbon data for verification by the body of Technological and Scientific Advice to estimate their carbon stock so as to be able to evaluate their change in carbon stocks in subsequent years;
  • Countries that were under transition and had their market economies estimated shall use the determined market economy as the base year or period for implementation of commitment of this act;
  • Enhance energy efficiency in the relevant sectors of their economies;
  • Improve and protect sink reservoirs of greenhouse gases that were not taken care of by Montreal Protocol and promote sustainable practices of forest management, reforestation and a forestation;
  • Encourage appropriate reforms that are likely to reduce emission of greenhouse gases;
  • Employ measures to reduce and/or limit the emission of greenhouse gases which are not regulated by Montreal Protocol;
  • The involved parties shall strive to limit or reduce emission of greenhouse gases which are not regulated by Montreal Protocol from marine and aviation bunker fuels;
  • All these activities were meant to promote protection of the environment in their integral connection;
  • The protocol understands the WTO created after the GATT Agreement has been cancelled as a global body that ensures that international businesses are run fairly without discrimination (Gallagher & Werksman, 2007; Matsushita, 2005).

Environmental Law

General Notions

Finally, the problematic situation with environmental protection has induced the international community to implement the set of legislative acts and regulations that run the global relations in respect of natural protection (Cassese, 2005). The very concept of the environmental law is the set of regulations according to which the international community cooperates. These rules presuppose the fruitful cooperation and exchange of information on the environmental issues, water pollution, air pollution, soils and ground water pollutions, etc. There are two main principles in the environmental law – they are the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle (Cassese, 2005).

Precautionary Principle and Polluter Pays Principle

The essence of the precautionary principle lies in the fact that the international community considers the persons or the organizations responsible for the harm to the environment that caused this harm. In other words, the community considers certain industrial, etc. activities to be potentially harmful and in case if they are nevertheless taken up all the responsibility for their harm falls on those who dared to take them. It is the opposite of the polluter pays principle (Cassese, 2005).

The polluter pays principle states that the whole responsibility for compensating the harm from the negative environmental developments is placed upon those people or organizations that caused these negative environmental developments (Cassese, 2005). There is a certain disagreement on these principles of the international environment law as far as the countries from the Southern and Northern hemispheres cannot come to terms on them (Collier & Lowe, 2000). In the Southern countries, the polluter pays principle is welcomed due to the fact that the local industries are not yet developed enough and the state cannot finance their development by compensating people’s losses suffered from what these privately owned organizations did (Fairhurst & Vincenzi, 2007). On the other hand, the countries from the North are against these principles as they are currently seeking for more state control over private businesses, and the sphere of environmental protection is not an exception here.

Reference List

  1. August, R, (2004), International Business Law, 4th Edition, Pearson.
  2. Bainbridge, D. (2009) Intellectual Property, Pearson.
  3. Cassese, (2005), International Law, 2nd Edition, OUP.
  4. Collier, J & Lowe, V, (2000) The Settlement of Disputes in International Law, OUP.
  5. Fairhurst J & Vincenzi C, (2007), Law of the European Community, 6th Edition, Longman.
  6. Gallagher, K, Werksman, J (eds). (2002). International Trade and Sustainable Development, Earthscan.
  7. Hatchard, J, Perry-Kessaris, A, (2003) Law and Development: Facing Complexity in the 21st Century, Cavendish.
  8. Jackson, J, (1997), The World Trading System: Law and Policy of International Economic Relations 2nd Edition, MIT Press.
  9. Krueger, (2000), The WTO as an International Organisation, University Press Chicago.
  10. Malanczuk, P, (1997) Akehurst’s Modern Introduction to International Law, Routledge.
  11. Matsushita, Schoenbaum ,Mavroidis, (2005), The World Trade Organisation, OUP.
  12. Schaffer, R, Earl, B, Augusti, F, (2004), International Business Law and Its Environment 6th Edition, West.

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