6. International Environmental Law

 The World Summit on Sustainable Development, known commonly as ‘Rio+10’, was held in Johannesburg in September 2002. Several key outcomes were achieved, namely:

(a) sustainable development was reaffirmed as a central element of the international agenda, giving new impetus to global action in protecting the environment; and

(b) the concept of sustainable development was broadened and strengthened, in the understanding of the important linkages among poverty, the environment and natural resources. To this end, partnerships continue to be promoted among governments, businesses and civil society as a whole. In looking at the World Summit Plan of Implementation, a commitment was shown in reaffirming the Rio principles and Agenda 21, as well as the United Nations Millennium Declaration by way of international co-operation.

All these efforts are aimed at promoting at the local, national, regional and global levels, the integration of the three components of sustainable development, ie economic development, social development, and environmental protection, as interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars. Changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, eradicating poverty, and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are essential requirements for sustainable development. Promoting co-operation in the five priority areas of Water and sanitation, Energy, Health, Agriculture, and Biodiversity (WEHAB) is key.

Good governance at both the national level and the international level is essential for sustainable development. Sound environmental, social and economic policies, democratic institutions responsive to the needs of the people, the rule of law, anti-corruption measures, equality and an enabling environment for investment are the basis for sustainable development.

The gap between developed and developing countries points to the continued need for a dynamic and enabling international economic environment supportive of international co-operation.

There is an overwhelming necessity for the enhancement of corporate environmental and social responsibility coupled with accountability. We must encourage industry to improve social and environmental performance through voluntary initiatives, such as environmental management systems, codes of conduct, certification and public reporting on environmental and social issues. We must also encourage financial institutions to incorporate sustainable development considerations into their decision-making processes.

As such, globalisation offers opportunities and challenges for sustainable development, such as trade, investment and capital flows, as well as advances in overall technology for the growth of the world economy. Further, globalization has added a new dimension to these challenges, with the rapid integration of markets, the mobility of capital, and the significant increases in investment flows around the world, presenting new challenges and opportunities for the pursuit of sustainable development. However, there are two overriding global developmental trends:

(a) the global ecosystem is threatened by grave imbalances in the production and distribution of goods and services, and an unsustainable progression of extremes of wealth and poverty, which threatens the stability of society as a whole and the global environment; and

(b) the world is undergoing accelerating change, with environmental stewardship lagging behind economic and social development, and environmental gains from new technology being overtaken by population growth and economic development (Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland, Ireland’s Environment – A Millennium Report).

Eco-efficiency aims at de-coupling economic activity from resource use and pollutant release; in other words, getting more from less and breaking the link between economic growth and environmental damage. International co-operation is particularly important in addressing transboundary and global environmental challenges beyond the control of any individual nation. Increasing international economic integration and growth reinforce the need for sound environmental policies at both a national and an international level

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