International Environmental Law

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A “Legally Binding Treaty” or Not? The Wrong Question for Paris Climate Summit

Both media and negotiators are spending an inordinate amount of time on whether the Paris climate summit starting this week should lead to a “legally binding treaty”. For the EU Commission, it “must be”. For US Secretary of State John Kerry “definitely not”. For realist scholars of international relations this obsession is puzzling. In the absence of an international police force, why care about whether a commitment is legally binding? For international lawyers, in contrast, it seems to confirm the self-standing moral authority of their discipline. Why else would politicians hackle about bindingness? The Paris red herring Yet, “to treaty or not to treaty” is really not the question. Paris will certainly be a treaty and not be a treaty.

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UN Climate Change Negotiations: Last Tango in Paris?

The Paris Climate Change Conference starting on 30 November 2015 is tasked to set the world on a path to address the greatest challenge to ever face humankind, by adopting a new climate agreement. It was hoped that agreement in Paris would bring an end to the impasse that has long affected international climate governance. However, the…

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Japan’s New Optional Clause Declaration at the ICJ: A Pre-Emptive Strike?

On the pitch, the best offense is sometimes a good defense. Alternatively, you can simply decide not to play. It was reported yesterday that Japan has submitted a new reservation to its declaration recognizing the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The new reservation, which is not yet available on the Court’s…

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Evidence in Environmental/Scientific Exceptions: Some Contrasts between the WTO Panel Report in China-Rare Earths and the ICJ Judgment in Whaling in the Antarctic

Two significant international decisions involving environmental protection claims were issued within the last few days of March 2014.  On 26 March 2014, a World Trade Organization (WTO) Panel issued its Report in China-Measures Related to the Exportation of Rare Earths, Tungsten, and Molybdenum (hereafter, China-Rare Earths), which held, among others, that "China may not seek to justify the export…

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The Right to Regulate for Public Morals Upheld (Somewhat): The WTO Panel Report in EC-Seal Products

There have been few interpretations of Article XX(a) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1994) - the  specific exception that justifies what would ordinarily be a State's GATT-inconsistent measure, unless such measure is deemed "necessary to protect public morals".  As with any of the ten enumerated exceptions under Article XX of GATT 1994, a State invoking GATT…

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