Tuesday, October 6, 2020
In the fight against climate change, law and sovereignty are being affected by major conceptual changes. The reasons are diverse, and they are related to the changes in our societies and their legal systems, which are increasingly globalized. Nowadays, we have more interrelated laws that are subjected to important international limits, and in some case, to the European Union laws (Translated from Spanish by Alissa D’Vale).

This approach confronts us with important outcomes in the environmental dynamics of the planet and its protection. The relationships and impacts of ecosystems, natural resources, fisheries, and the climate go beyond any territorial or political limit. Something similar is happening today with the covid-19 pandemic; and the same happens with natural disasters and their prevention, as well as with droughts.

Phenomena with global implications do not know territorial limits nor are they receptive to local legal responses. However, it is a global issue rarely discussed at consecutive UN climate summits.

A process on a planetary scale

The phenomenon of climate change already has implications for the global environment, for the quality of fresh and ocean waters and for the configuration of coasts, for example. This presupposes that the principle of sovereignty that accompanies the application of the law is not fully effective in environmental matters nor does it facilitate global responses to climate problems.

The role of international law and the new concepts of sovereignty are once again relevant, since the political use of legal systems has been squeezed to unsustainable limits.

The international system imposes a series of limits on the classical concept of sovereignty. The most important rights are the human rights of all people, today directly implied in the defense of the environment. So, it is essential to take decisive steps towards achieving the rights of a person to a healthy or balanced environment. All human beings must be its real recipients, beyond any other consideration or legal limit.

Changes in the concept of sovereignty

The current concept of sovereignty begins to move away from the all-embracing power of States to approach models of limited or shared sovereignty. However, there are States anchored in notions of the past, whose systems avoid submitting to international parameters or prefer not to share sovereignty.

The most obvious example is that of the United States, which, in general, practices a policy contrary to the limitation of sovereignty or to the idea of ​​sharing political power, especially in terms of international environmental protection.

Additionally, the globalization and the free market economy have imposed limits on the most unprotected societies, on their governments (less and less sovereign) and policies. These limitations are of interest in terms of environmental protection. The exercise of power and its public politics of investment, infrastructure and transport policies must also be subject to political control. These are important quantitative and qualitative limitations so that these policies cannot be executed if they go beyond the capacity of endurance of the biosphere. The aim is for the general principles of sustainable development to be applied by all.

Smart investment decisions

It is also necessary that investment policies – in particular those beginning with new infrastructures – are executed by establishing social profitability indices for their impacts. In other words, it is essential that public administrations commit to preparing and comparing investments using objective indices.

This implies knowing, measuring, quantifying and comparing options so that it becomes possible to choose the investment or infrastructure that guarantees greater social profitability in terms of job creation, environmental impact, number of users, and impact on transport or generation of public service.

We have before us, a whole series of objective and personal related elements that should contribute to public administrations drawing and executing their policies – in which sustainability and profitability are measured in three aspects: the social, environmental and economic spheres. It is something that is imposed in the field of theory and planning. However, practice shows that some decisions are made without any certainty about these indices.

There must be awareness that the environmental protection of the planet cannot be based on the full sovereignty that executes its mandates over a given society: there is a need for conceptual and practical changes. This affects the economy, law, environmental issues, climate change, energy and fishing policies, and many other issues.

The old recipes for the exercise of political power are not necessarily valid today. This implies relying on forms of shared, direct or networked power that should generate a greater active participation of society. Nature does not submit to our territorial and political limits; therefore, we need to design and develop a more global and coercive law for the environmental protection of planet Earth.

Original article: Abordar la crisis climática exige un Derecho global

To know more see here: The law that could make climate change illegalPolicy Responses to Climate Change, and Economics of Climate Change

[The Conversation 13.08.2020. Xabier Ezeizabarrena. Translated by: Jpic-jp.org: Jpic-jp.org]