Professor Ben Boer - The Environmental Rule of Law and the Sustainable Development Goals - 5 August

The Environmental Rule of Law and the Sustainable Development Goals

The concept of the ‘environmental rule of law’ has been growing in importance in recent years. It is based on the long-term acceptance of the centrality of the rule of law in the achievement of sustainable development, which was initially recognised in Agenda 21 of 1992, and, since Rio + 12 Conference, is now becoming accepted in many countries.  This paper will briefly examine the development of the ‘environmental rule of law’, and analyze some of the new principles that have recently emerged as a part of it.  These include: the principle of in dubio pro natura (when in doubt, decide for nature), the principle of non-regression and the principle of progression.

The paper will argue that the principles and concepts associated with the ‘environmental rule of law’ should be closely aligned with and underpin the implementation of the newly minted ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) and associated Targets that are embodied in the United Nations ‘Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.  Several of the SDGs will be used as examples. The implications of such an alignment call for a comprehensive examination of environmental and natural resources laws at national, regional and international levels, with a view to generating more principled, integrated, consistent and robust frameworks for environmental and natural resources management. Examples will be drawn from various jurisdictions, with a focus on China and its recently developed policy framework of ‘ecological civilization’.