Environmental Law Dimensions of Human Rights edited by Ben Boer Published by Oxford University Press, 2015, 246 pp., US$115.00, hardback.

Published date01 November 2017
AuthorJohn Pearson
Date01 November 2017
RECIEL. 2017;26:305–309.    
DOI: 10.1111/reel.12216
HUMAN RIGHTS edited by Ben Boer
Published by Oxford University Press, 2015, 246 pp., US$115.00, hardback.
Human rights law is increasingly being viewed as an alternative
means of ensuring environmental protection for both the individual
and society. In this regard it has been added to the range of legal
fields which are considered as making up the corpus of environ-
mental law. The breadth of both the concept of an ‘environment’
and ‘human rights law’ make this convergence equally broad. With
this in mind, in Environmental Law Dimensions of Human Rights, Ben
Boer collects seven chapters which outline specific interactions
between human rights and environmental protection. These are
taken primarily from a series of lectures which have been expanded
and updated as contributions to the book. This approach is appar-
ent in the variance between the chapters, which reflects diversity
in the field itself, and the major challenges and questions it faces
as well.
The book provides insights into differing subjects and objects of
human rights law pertaining to the environment, specific issues and
the application of this growing field of inquiry to them, and a range of
jurisdictional settings for this. Whilst such a diverse range of subjects
might reduce the cohesion of a relatively short text, the summary pro-
vided by the concluding chapter written by Alan Boyle identifies the
range of issues facing the development of the field, echoing points
raised in the more focused chapters which precede it. Boer himself
offers four themes to the chapters of the book in his Introduction,
these being the private sector context, the European, Inter- American
and Asia- Pacific context, and the future of the field represented by the
aforementioned chapter contributed by Boyle.
Chapters 1 and 2 concern the implications of environmental rights
to the private sector. The first attempts to address the polarization
of views of the corporation in this field as either enemy or ally. The
structure of the chapter considers how scholarly literature and
practical approaches in relation to human rights and markets can be
aligned to produce a fruitful and realistic means of framing the inter-
section between them. Chapter 2 considers whether corporate re-
sponsibility in relation to human rights might be better aligned with
obligations and accountability in relation to the environment. The
focus is on the benefit- sharing mechanisms under the auspices of the
Convention on Biological Diversity as a framework for the potential
‘cross- fertilization’ of legal obligations and corporate accountability
standards with corporate responsibility in relation to human rights.
The chapters together highlight effectively the immense difficulty and
significant hurdles faced in combining what are prima facie conflicting
interests. At the same time, both offer concise and reasoned sugges-
tions for progress in this regard. Such pragmatic and well- considered
insights are a valuable addition to the field.
Chapters 3 and 4 focus on the European and Inter- American
jurisdictions, with consideration given to both the European Union
(EU) and the Council of Europe institutions. Chapter 3 sets out to
discover whether the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human
Rights (ECtHR) and the Inter- American Court on Human Rights con-
verge in relation to the environment. A thorough analysis of the com-
monalities and differences in the case law and procedures of both
systems in relation to hearings focused on the environment is pro-
vided, focusing particularly on participatory rights. Despite identi-
fying areas of convergence, however, the conclusion identifies both
procedural and substantive limitations. Chapter 4 similarly discusses
issues of access to justice but in the context of the Court of Justice of
the EU. The chapter explores the possibility of hearing cases of gen-
eral interest in relation to the environment, which would otherwise
be excluded under Article 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the
European Union. In particular, the chapter highlights the conflict this
creates with the principles espoused by the Aarhus Convention as
demanding reform in this regard then considers a potential means of
providing standing to nongovernmental organizations. The chapter
takes the growing consideration of human rights in EU law generally,
and applies it to the specific context of protecting the environment.
Both chapters contribute to the field by raising procedural issues
which must be overcome to allow the application of human rights
in environmental law to advance. The assessment of the capacity
of both the EU and the ECtHR is also reflective of the increasing
realization of the role both courts could play in this advancement.
Environmental protection through human rights is not exclusively
reserved to the jurisdiction of either regional body and as such the
presentation of potential advancements in both is welcome in a book
in this area.
Chapters 5 and 6 centre on environmental law and human
rights in the Asia- Pacific region and the human rights implications
of environmental impacts on its communities. In Chapter 5, Boer
outlines the regional human rights mechanisms, the influence of
international mechanisms and the measures which exist in na-
tional jurisdictions in the region. In this respect, he highlights both
the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches taken to applying
human rights in environmental law in the region, as well as how its
current position might improve. The conclusion to the chapter is ad-
mirably honest about the clear difficulties with the development of
the integration of human rights into environmental law, and realistic
in the suggestions made as to how they might be addressed. Chapter
6 considers the regional perspective on the globally recognized issue
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

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