Brazilian lawyer Lia Helena Monteiro de Lima Demange holds an LL.M. degree from Pace Law School. This is her report from the World Meeting of Environmental Jurists, held at the Rio Botanical Garden on June 15.
There was a ubiquitous feeling among the jurists that no effective commitments will come out of the final Declaration of Rio+20. However, many lecturers put forward an optimistic view of the effectiveness of environmental norms, reminding us of the great obstacles that environmental law has overcome during the last four decades. According to Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin, it took 40 years for environmental law to be able to achieve its maturity, by promoting groundbreaking principles and concepts in direct confrontation with the foundations of traditional law.
Like many others, Justice Herman Benjamin reaffirmed the intrinsic connection between environmental protection and human rights, alleging that the protection of the environment is not possible in places where human rights are not respected because it means that in such places the rule of law is not effective.
In the same line of reasoning, Michel Prieur set the foundation for the frequently mentioned principle of non-regression on the idea that, as human rights are intangible and cannot regress, environmental laws likewise should be based on intangibility because of their effects on the exercise of human rights. [More information on the principle of non-regression can be found in Michel Prieur, De l’urgente nécessité de reconnaître le principe de “non régression” en droit de l’environnement, 1 IUCN ACAD. ENVTL.
L. E-J. 26, (2011)]
Professor Nicholas Robinson stressed the importance of principles in the improvement of environmental protection by affirming that environmental degradation continues to increase despite our efforts in creating good instruments and institutions because such instruments and institutions act only at the margins: they do not change business as usual. In order to change, Professor Robinson suggests analyzing good environmental practices in order to identify the principles underling them. Professor Robinson identified the following principles, besides the principle of non-regression: the principle of cooperation (taken to a deeper level, meaning the cooperation between humans and nature); the principle of solidarity; the principle of biophilia (thereby elevating the love for nature from a moral principle to a legal principle); and the principle of resilience (which departs from the ecological concept of ecosystem resilience to create a legal principle that guides environmental protection towards the preservation of ecosystems functions). [More information on the principle of resilience can be found in Lia’s LL.M. thesis, The Principle of Resilience (Nov. 28, 2011).]