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Critically Analyze the significance of the Earth Summit

  • 07 Pages
  • Published On: 04-12-2023

Critically Analyze the significance of the Earth Summit to the continuing maturation of international environmental law through scrutiny of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Include a comparative analysis of the Rio Declaration and its predecessor Stockhom Declaration

Introduction

The last few decades witnessed a mammoth change in the structure of environmental law, clearly the risks have become expanded and jostled the environment traversing boundaries. Awareness and assessment with regard to climate have garnered a lot of attention, discussion, leading to various multilateral agreements among countries to look towards a more comprehensive environmental law. However, if we trace back at the beginning of 1972, there were not much awareness with regards to environment which meant fewer countries were looking at environmental issues more significantly, thus devising either poor legislations or no legislations at all. This has taken a massive change post 2011 and many countries have taken part in both multilateral and bilateral agreements in order to frame a more expansive legislation, a statute that is wide and detailed enough to cover all aspects of environment with a futuristic approach. Today, environment is no different from the economic aspect of a country and functions in an integrated form with trade between countries, issues of human rights and the gross violation in terms of environmental law and most important of all the issues of national security. Addressing these aspects of environmental law has also allowed conversation around the problems that the legislation fails to suffice, in countries beyond and within territories.

The development on the laws related to the environment were taken up in the United Nations Conference in the year of 1972 in Stockholm, which was deemed to be the acceleration point of addressing environmental issues across countries and this conference went on to identify the international impact with the inter-governmental presence to have constructive discussions around the economic development across borders and the conflict that arose in protecting

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  1. Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Report of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, U.N. Doc. A/ CONF.48/14/Rev.1 (1973), p. 3; U.N. Doc. A/CONF.48/14 (1972), pp. 2-65. and Corr. 1.
  2. environment in that light. There was a sense of scare among the developing countries that looking into the development and growth of the environment would possibly cost them a fortune, given there weak financial position in the global front. The United Nation Environment Protection, an intergovernmental organization was also formed in Kenya, especially to highlight the fact that the formation of this organization in a country like Kenya would encourage and give importance to the environmental issues, that are endemic to all. Many Non-Governmental Organizations were forming after the Stockholm Conference and encouraged the drafting of several legislative instruments.

    The Earth Summit: 1992

    The Stockholm Conference had played a huge role in accumulating the lenses towards the protection of biosphere, initiated discussions and enhanced the international policies regarding the same. A governing council was set up, the UNEP was formed and the overall impact of Stockholm Conference was immense in upholding a stronger environmental awareness. This Earth Summit, right after two decades was a follow up of the Stockholm Conference essentially. The action plans, principles and recommendation devised in the Stockholm Conference was considered a “Soft Law” as opposed to the legal instruments that were formed. However, the meeting held in Rio had representatives attending from about 170 countries which had elevated its position as the largest conference to be held since Stockholm. Even though head of states had participated in the Stockholm Conference, the representation gathered in Rio was larger in order to follow up the meetings on development and environment but most importantly, the need to address the issues of developing countries and its possible hindrances keeping the rapid industrialization in mind rose up in Rio largely. The World Commission on Environment and Development constituted in the year of 1983 was formed essentially to address long standing issues and develop strategies to combat such existing environmental hurdles that would be covered only by initiating discussions regarding a more sustainable form of development.


  3. Michele M. Betsill and Elisabeth Corell, eds., NGODiplomacy: ThelnfluenceofNongovernmental Organizations in International Environmental Negotiations (2008), p. viii.
  4. LYNTON K. CALDWELL, INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY: EMERGENCE AND DIMENSIONS 55 (2d ed. 1990).
  5. Pierre-Marie Dupuy, Soft Law and the International Law of the Environment, 12 MICH. J. INT'L L. 420 (1991) (providing general overview of"soft law" in the international environmental context);
  6. WCED largely discussed “Sustainable Development” and this had heavy impact on the central agenda devised in Rio Declaration where the attention shifted from air, land and water pollution to a more sustainable environment where the earth’s resources are spent in a way, that the future generations have enough to sustain themselves and the cycle goes on and on. The position of developing country and developed country are to be adjudged judiciously in devising priority in terms of using resources and meeting the needs and the concept of limiting usages through State disciplinary action was inherent in developing a sense of security and equal distribution of resources. The Rio Declaration had a more technical approach where sufficient opportunity was created where the discussions regarding environmental hazards and development in Stockholm was fairly limited and had made way for innovative technologies central to the frameworks which would highlight a broad range of such hazards that are prospective to the world’s attitude. Some looked at the declaration in an appreciative manner with regards to the broad range of countries, inclusiveness, the coverage made by the press and the attention it received that encouraged the non-governmental organizations to be formed and increased coverage of the magnitude of problems that were originally faced.

    The developments established in Rio Declaration

    The Rio Declaration that focused largely on the issue of development of the Environment and growth in general brought in several principles that framed rules that were relevant and directly addressing issues of development in the international front. The second document that was governed around “The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change;" the Convention on Biodiversity” specified and brought clarity on the actions that were to be taken by countries and set out a set of agenda. The Conference additionally embraced a "Non-legitimately Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of a wide range of Forests,” along with ensuing arrangement for the option of “Desertification”. Thus, It brought about the foundation of another establishment at the United Nations, the Commission on Sustainable Development, in order to audit progress in

  7. World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future (1987), pp. 8-9.
  8. Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Report ofthe United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.151/26/Rev.1 (1992).
  9. United Nations Framework Convention Climate Change (UNFCC), May 21, 1992, United Nations Treaty Series, Vol. 1771, p. 107 (No. 30822).
  10. Non-Legally Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of All Types of Forests, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.151/26 (Vol. III) (1992).
  11. actualizing the agenda that would drive the basis of the international environmental law. Even though the roles of Government were established as formal actors but the ultimate game changer would the institutionalization of the Non-Governmental Organizations. There was a coherent relationship between the governmental actors and the NGOs developed in order to ascertain the functionality of their organs and its impact on the practical lives.

    Not only did the declaration impact on the formation of legal instruments but heavily induced developments on the linkages that were devised between all fronts of law. There was a significant rise in the policies developed and designed by the Multilateral banks that were solely focused to implement the procedures devised, to uphold a sustainable conduct between the partnerships developed, NGOs and the society in general. Another undeniable aspect that was seen was the turn of events and refinement of new global standards alongside rules of worldwide ecological law that governed all areas of environmental law internationally and the increment in illicitly restricting instruments It is also noteworthy that the agreements that have been devised are given more importance and there has been an accentuation on usage of and consistence with worldwide natural arrangements.

    Drawing Comparison between the Stockholm Declaration and Rio Declaration

    The era of evolutionary environment principles has been rightly observed by the two huge instruments that were set twenty years apart. Both the declarations have their own identity and achievements that have proved worth a milestone and has significantly impacted the revolutionary international environment law. These non-binding instruments reflected the customary era that the world was progressing and the 26 and 27 principles devised respectively is an evidence of that.

    Both the declarations had a strong approach that were human centric in nature. The right to a healthy environment has been considered a fundamental right in the Stockholm Declaration but not as much in the Rio Declaration. Even though there is a strong association with human rights


  12. Brown Weiss, Edith, "The Evolution of International Environmental Law" (2011). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 1669. https://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/facpub/1669
  13. Brown Weiss, Edith, "The Evolution of International Environmental Law" (2011). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 1669. https://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/facpub/1669
  14. Ibid
  15. but not comprehensively so. The concept of sustainable development had been very vocally implemented in the Rio Declaration and remained latent in the discussions undertaken by the Stockholm Conference. The concept of intergenerational equity was fundamental to Rio but was also implicitly present in Stockholm in its Principle 1 and 2

    The concept environmental harm was also common to both declarations and sufficient discussion regarding the procedure and responsibility of State in preventing the same had been upheld. This has been largely reflected in the decision made in Pulp Mills essentially.

    With respect to the problem of population, the Stockholm Declaration had vaguely addressed the solutions to the issue but there had been no direct mention of this persisting problem in the Rio declaration as this had been a growing problem for developing countries. The position of developing countries were reduced to its state due to the constant colonialism that later allowed the ruling countries to attain the position of developed countries and thus the Stockholm Declaration had well addressed the political chasm that was a genuine reflection in the devising of the international law and by the time of Rio declaration, the political discussions were mostly in reducing the gap between poor and the rich countries, especially the position of Palestinians. It made way for people and countries who had suffered the constant oppression, leading to the degrading state of the country were well protected under Rio declaration.

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    The concerns regarding Transboundary Pollution was addressed significantly in the Stockholm Declaration in Principle 21, where the Principle 2 of Rio declaration was simply considered an update by adding the phrase “own developmental policies” as that was implicitly placed in the former instrument.

    The “Precautionary Approaches” included in the Article 15 of the Rio declaration had no mention in the Stockholm Declaration which is an inherent attribute of the concept of sustainable

  16. Gunther Handl, Audiovisual Library of International Law, “ Declaration of United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm 16th June, 1972” < https://legal.un.org/avl/ha/dunche/dunche.html#:~:text=The%20Stockholm%20Declaration%20consists%20of,instruments%20are%20formally%20not%20binding. > accessed on 3rd March, 2021
  17. Principle 1, “ "solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations." And Principle 2,” natural resources, including air, water, land, flora, and fauna, "must be safeguarded for the benefit of present and future generations”
  18. Ibid
  19. Ranee Khooshie Lal Panjabi, From Stockholm to Rio: A Comparison of the Declaratory Principles of International Environmental Law, 21 Denv. J. Int'l L. & Pol'y 215 (1993).
  20. Ibid
  21. development as well which allows the implementation of measures in case any serious threat to the environment may appear. The procedures have been well established in Principle 24 of the Stockholm Declaration and similar attributes have been reflected in Principle 7, 18 and 19 of the Rio Declaration where the requirements of procedural standards legally have been explicitly mentioned in Stockholm but have not been defined in the Rio declaration as much. The relationship between trade have been well addressed in both the declarations and discusses the onus of polluter in paying through the polluter pays principle have been instrumental.

Conclusion

The significance of Earth Summit goes beyond the visible product of UNCED along with Rio Declaration. The significant principles addressed in Rio declaration being the “Transboundary pollution” or the” polluter pays principle” or the “Precautionary approach” etc. have been devised on the basis of Stockholm conference and its impact on the legal instruments that effectively functioned from 1972. However, the Stockholm conference has also stood stronger in comparison to Rio declaration. It also highlights the power of a non-binding instrument that led to the implementation of the practice preached in Rio declaration. In Comparison, we may see that less than a modest amount of the states that were a part of Rio Conference partook in the last and dispositive consultations during the last meeting, where pivotal settles on the most petulant issues were forged. Probably on the grounds that the agreement on the content was so delicate, the draft Rio Declaration, rather than the previous Stockholm Declaration, was not returned in the Rio meeting itself and we may see the diversion yet the underlying similarity that existed in both the declarations that allowed for such a impactful, global revolutionary approach in confirming with the environmental agenda with the international issues.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Journals

  • Michele M. Betsill and Elisabeth Corell, eds., NGODiplomacy: ThelnfluenceofNongovernmental Organizations in International Environmental Negotiations (2008), p. viii.
  • Lynton k. Caldwell, international environmental policy: emergence and dimensions 55 (2d ed. 1990).
  • Pierre-Marie Dupuy, Soft Law and the International Law of the Environment, 12 MICH. J. INT'L L. 420 (1991) (providing general overview of"soft law" in the international environmental context);
  • Brown Weiss, Edith, "The Evolution of International Environmental Law" (2011). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 1669. https://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/facpub/1669
  • Ranee Khooshie Lal Panjabi, From Stockholm to Rio: A Comparison of the Declaratory Principles of International Environmental Law, 21 Denv. J. Int'l L. & Pol'y 215 (1993
  • Documents / Reports

  • Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Report of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, U.N. Doc. A/ CONF.48/14/Rev.1 (1973), p. 3; U.N. Doc. A/CONF.48/14 (1972), pp. 2-65. and Corr.
  • World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future (1987), pp. 8-9.Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Report ofthe United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.151/26/Rev.1 (1992).
  • United Nations Framework Convention Climate Change (UNFCC), May 21, 1992, United Nations Treaty Series, Vol. 1771, p. 107 (No. 30822).
  • Non-Legally Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of All Types of Forests, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.151/26 (Vol. III) (1992).
  • Gunther Handl, Audiovisual Library of International Law, “ Declaration of United Nations Conference on the uman Environment, Stockholm 16th June, 1972” < https://legal.un.org/avl/ha/dunche/dunche.html#:~:text=The%20Stockholm%20Declaration%20consists%20of,instruments%20are%20formally%20not%20binding. > accessed on 3rd March, 2021
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