International Environmental Law’s Lack of Normative Ambition: an Opportunity for the Global Pact for the Environment?

This paper argues that international environmental law (iel) is not sufficiently ambitious to confront the Anthropocene’s socio-ecological crisis. The critique specifically focuses on iel’s lack of ambitious and “unmentionable” ecological norms such as rights of nature, Earth system integrity, and ecological sustainability that are not yet considered to be part of the corpus of iel, but that arguably should be in light of the prevailing and ever-deepening socio-ecological crisis. Assuming that the recent Global Pact for the Environment initiative and its accompanying United Nations-mandated report that assesses possible gaps in iel are indicative of the type of reforms we might expect of iel now and in future, the paper determines if and the extent to which the Global Pact initiative embraces ambitious norms and addresses iel’s “unmentionable” normative gaps. A secondary, but related, objective of the paper is to briefly respond to the recent view that any radical critique of the Global Pact initiative is either unfounded, unwarranted or undesirable.

Louis J. Kotze, North-west University, South Africa and University of Lincoln