New book chapter: EU biodiversity law and its health impacts

In recent years, and with growing intensity since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the concept of environmental health has emerged as a fundamental prism through which to analyse the complex interplay between global health and environmental law. Environmental risks, ranging from soil, water and air pollution to waste management and land use change, are now estimated to contribute to one quarter of the global disease burden, amounting to at least 13 million deaths per year according to assessments conducted by the World Health Organization (1).

Debates proliferate in multilateral fora ranging from the World Health Assembly to the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, covering aspects including the environmental determinants of health, the social-ecological dynamics of infectious disease emergence, and the direct and indirect health benefits arising from the fight against environmental degradation. As a consequence, the need to harness synergies between these two areas of global policy-making also becomes more urgent.

For this reason, I was especially happy to join Prof Riccardo Pavoni as a co-author for a chapter in the upcoming volume ‘Environmental Health in International and EU Law‘, edited by Prof Stefania Negri. The chapter particularly deals with the health impacts of current European legislation in the field of biodiversity, and the possibility for a more effective integration of human health and well-being within its provisions. It addresses the progressive incorporation of  health considerations in the Habitats and Birds directives and in the Invasive Alien Species regulation, the use of health-related arguments in the biodiversity jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the linkage between environment and health in the application of the precautionary principle.

The volume, which will be published by Routledge in its ‘Routledge-Giappichelli Studies in Law‘ series at the end of the year, is now available for pre-order at this link.

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(1) The WHO estimate is based on the following assessments: Prüss-Üstün A, Corvalán C. Preventing disease through healthy environments: towards an estimate of the environmental burden of disease. Geneva: World Health Organization 2006; and Prüss-Üstün A, Wolf J, Cornavalán CF, Bos R, Neira MP. Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks. Geneva: World Health Organization: 2016.

Collaboration with University of Eastern Finland/UN Environment Course on Multilateral Environmental Agreements

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I am happy to announce that, as part of my role with the Jean Monnet Module on European Union Law and Sustainable Development, I will be one of the co-organizers of the prestigious University of Eastern Finland / United Nations Environment Course on Multilateral Environmental Agreements.

Pursuant to the agreement reached between EULawSD and UEF, the EULawSD Module (with the support of the University of Siena and its Department of Law) will host the 2019 edition of the course, which will be themed ‘Emerging Issues in International Environmental Law‘ and will take place in Siena from 14 to 24 October 2019. The two-week, high-profile course is entering its 16th year, having welcomed over 400 participants from 122 countries since 2004. It reaches Italy for the first time, having been previously hosted in Finland (eight times), South Africa (twice), Kenya, Grenada, France, China and Thailand.

The ultimate aim of the UEF/UN Environment course is to improve environmental negotiation capacity and governance worldwide by transferring past experiences in the field of international environmental law to future negotiators of environmental agreements. In addition, the course aims to provide a forum to foster North-South cooperation and to take stock of recent developments in the negotiation and implementation of multilateral environmental agreements and in diplomatic practices in the field.

Each edition concentrates on one specific theme under international environmental law. Through interactive lectures, workshops, and excursions, the course equips participants with basic skills in international environmental law-making, diplomacy and negotiations related to that specific thematic area. It is intended for experienced government officials engaged in international environmental negotiations, but other stakeholders (such as representatives of NGOs and the private sector, researchers and academics in the field of international environmental law) are also eligible.

I am honoured of this opportunity to work with the University of Eastern Finland and UN Environment. This collaboration will further EULawSD’s objective of establishing new partnerships and networks focused on the teaching and study of international and European law for sustainable development. I wish to express my gratitude to the Finnish colleagues for giving EULawSD this high-profile opportunity for expanding its activities and worldwide impact.


In order to learn more about the course and apply, visit https://www.uef.fi/en/web/unep

New EJIL:Talk! blog post on a planetary boundary for biosphere integrity in international law

In this era of mass extinction, international biodiversity law is at a crossroads. As the debate on a post-2020 global biodiversity framework intensifies, calls are growing for the Convention on Biological Diversity to set an ambitious overarching goal to fight biodiversity loss and find innovative ways to link such a goal with national targets and commitments.

In a two-part blog post just published on EJIL:Talk!, the blog of the European Journal of International Law, I argue that the planetary boundary framework first developed in 2009 by the Stockholm Resilience Centre could represent an important tool in this quest to identify more substantive legal obligations applying to biodiversity within national jurisdiction. In addition, I suggest four ways in which the planetary boundary for biosphere integrity could be incorporated in international biodiversity law, ranging from institutional arrangements within the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) to normative developments at the level of emerging principles of international law.

EULawSD Webinar with Guido Schmidt-Traub

On March 1st, in my position of Programme Manager for the the Jean Monnet Module on European Union Law and Sustainable Development (EULawSD), I had the pleasure of hosting the first session of our EULawSD Webinar Series 2018 on YouTube.

The EULawSD Webinar Series complements the activities of the EULawSD Jean Monnet Module, which is coordinated by Prof. Riccardo Pavoni (Department of Law, University of Siena) and co-funded by the European Commission for the period 2017-2020. Each webinar is aimed at fostering a lively public debate on the role of the European Union as a key actor in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and offers all interested citizens the opportunity to engage with leading experts and practitioners in the fields of European Union law and governance, sustainability science, international economics, and many more.

EULawSD’s first guest was Dr. Guido Schmidt-Traub, Executive Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).  One of the world’s leading experts on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda, Dr. Schmidt-Traub engaged with the audience to discuss the current trends and scenarios for their implementation in the European context, the challenges of financing and monitoring of progress, and the role that the European Union can play in the achieving sustainable development in third countries. I wish to thank him deeply for his participation in the webinar, which can be watched on EULawSD’s YouTube Channel.

For more information on the future project activities of the EULawSD Module, visit http://www.eulawsd.org.

On the 41st session of the WHC

As the G20 Summit in Hamburg wraps up to considerable media attention, I would like to spend some time reflecting on the other intergovernmental meeting currently under way, namely the 41st session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (the body tasked with overseeing the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and managing the World Heritage List and the World List of Heritage in Danger).

This year, the Committee has addressed important dossiers, including increased logging in the Białowieża Forest, the widespread destruction of the Site of Palmyra, and the repeated coral bleaching events affecting the Great Barrier Reef. For many of the sites inscribed in the two lists, the negative human impacts are growing, and certain country policies plainly run counter to the objectives of the Convention.

At the same time, however, the World Heritage Convention remains a powerful symbol of hope, and a testament to how sites of outstanding cultural and natural value speak to the very existence of humankind on planet Earth. In particular, the new inscriptions shall remind us of the quintessential importance of the interactions between different populations, religions and cultures in shaping human civilization as we know it (the Hebron/Al Khalil Old Town in the West Bank, the Historic City of Yazd in Iran, Kulangsu island in China); of the inextinguishable interplay between nature and culture in creating unique cultural landscapes which underpin the identity of human societies (the Kujataa farming landscape in Greenland, Taputapuātea on Ra’iatea Island, the ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape between Botswana and Namibia); and of the multiple direct and indirect functions played by natural ecosystems around the world, ranging from their role as habitats of vulnerable and rare species to the irreplaceable services they provide for human well-being (the Landscapes of Dauria in Mongolia, the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex in the Sudano-Sahelian region, the Primeval Beech Forests in the Carpathians and other areas of Europe).

In times of unprecedented threats to the world’s cultural and natural heritage, the work of UNESCO truly is invaluable, and after 35 years the World Heritage Convention continues to be one of the most relevant instruments in multilateral cooperation on global public goods. This is why all parties should refrain from politicizing its work, and instead seek to strengthen its contribution to cultural diplomacy, local livelihoods, and environmental protection.

For the newly inscribed properties, see: http://whc.unesco.org/en/newproperties/.

New CTEI Working Paper on trade and climate change

A study I recently co-authored (with Rana Elkahwagy and Vandana Gyanchandani) for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development is now out as a Working Paper of the Centre for Trade and Economic Integration (CTEI) of the Graduate Institute of Geneva. It was prepared under the supervision of Prof. Joost Pauwelyn and Prof. Anne Saab as part of TradeLab, an independent NGO which brings together students, academics and practitioners to provide pro bono legal advice on international trade and investment matters to developing countries and other smaller stakeholders.

The study, entitled ‘UNFCCC Nationally Determined Contributions: Climate Change and Trade‘, assesses the legal interactions between the Paris Agreement and international trade in the light of country commitments under their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). More specifically, the study seeks to achieve a better understanding of the impacts of the ‘response measures’ contained in the NDCs on economic diversification, including their interplay with existing trade rules, in order to build mutual supportiveness between the climate and trade regimes while also contributing to broader sustainable development objectives.

You can read the working paper here.