Chapter

Realism, Utopia, and the Future of International Environmental Law

Francesco Francioni

in Realizing Utopia

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199691661
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738593 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691661.003.0034
Realism, Utopia, and the Future of International Environmental Law

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International environmental law, in spite of its impressive development at the level of treaty law and notwithstanding the abundance of soft law instruments, declarations, and ‘understandings’, remains an immature and underdeveloped body of law. What are the prospects for further developments? At the normative level, a ‘realistic utopia’ entails the recouping of the original promise of the environmental movement, that is the conceptualization and the legal treatment of the natural environment as a ‘public good’ to be administered in the interest of all and of the generations to come. At the institutional level two approaches are possible: consciously to shunning the need for institutional reform as too costly and ineffective and rely on market mechanisms of self-regulation and transnational private enforcement; and a reform of the institutional system of environmental governance by creating effective multilateral institutions that can mirror what has been done in international economic law and human rights. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive. They should be complementary because the first one can hardly work without the other.

Keywords: international law; environmental law; environmental movement; institutional system; environmental governance

Chapter.  9774 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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