OFFICIAL STOCKHOLM+50 SIDE EVENT: SYMPOSIUM ON JUDGES AND THE ENVIRONMENT

This event, organized by the World Judicial Institute of the Environment, the International Association of Judges and the Asian Development Bank, took place over two days (the 31st of May and the 1st of June) and offered a rich and dense program and discussions with experts and Supreme Court Judges coming from all over the world around the great issue of the legacy of the Stockholm Declaration and how it has instilled various dynamics of transformation that have led to the consecration of international environmental law but also opened up a new era of case law.

The Chair Emeritus Prof. Nicholas ROBINSON spoke at the first morning session of the event, showing his attachment to the idea of bringing an optimistic spirit to the conference on the evolution of international environmental law. He also mentioned his big hopes about the UN General Assembly pronouncing itself next autumn on the existence of a human right to a healthy environment. This recognition would make it possible to combine it with other rights, such as the right of ownership. While international environmental law did not exist before 1972, today it is a branch of law in its own right.

For the second morning session of the first day, the guests discussed the emerging trends in environmental law. For this occasion, Emilie GAILLARD, General coordinator of the Normandy Chair for Peace and expert in Future Generations Law, presented her work on the transgenerational approach to fundamental rights and duties.

The morning ended with a session on environmental law, climate change and the concept of ecocide.

In the afternoon, speakers, both remotely and in person, discussed emerging principles in environmental law since the 1972 Stockholm Conference. Among them were David BOYD, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Environment and Human Rights, but also Antonio HERMAN BENJAMIN, Judge of the Supreme Court of Brazil. David BOYD reminded that we could not rely solely on environmental law to solve current environmental issues. We have to consider environmental parameters as the heart of our rights and duties in a global and systemic way. Today, forty constitutions already consecrate the right of future generations.

David BOYD considers that constitutions have a cultural role to play in that they represent a kind of mirror of the «spirit and soul of the nation». The right to a clean and healthy environment has just been recognized this year by the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

For now, it is soft law but these decisions and improvements should affect the decisions of national courts around the globe. A new evolutionary stage could be reached in September 2022 with the possible adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly on the recognition of the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental right.

Antonio BENJAMIN, said that «We, judges, are jointly responsible for the shortcomings in the application of laws». The judge mentioned the Law of Future Generations. Most environmental laws provide rights, but they must also be based on duties. It is not enough to have “ecological” laws; we must also have an ecological interpretation of the laws. Moreover, in his opinion, it is biased to make a clear distinction between national and international law in this matter. Judges often mention the Stockholm Declaration (although not legally binding) because the later has overcome borders between national and international laws. That is why he says “We are planetary judges”. These words exemplify the commitment of the World Environmental Judicial Institute when it comes to the Law of Future Generations, in partnership with the Normandy Chair for Peace.

Eventually, the session ended up with a dialogue on the consideration of climate change by Courts around the world.

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