How a ‘Global Pact for the Environment’ could add value to international environmental law

AuthorChristina Voigt
Date01 April 2019
Published date01 April 2019
RECIEL. 2019;28:13–24.    
The initiative fo r a Global Pact for the Enviro nment was launched by
French President Em manuel Macron at t he United Nations ( UN)
General As sembly in Septem ber 2017 during a speci al event. It is
based on variou s previous attempts to es tablish a global ‘pact f or na-
tur e’,1  informe d by input from the Fren ch Club des Juris tes together
with a group of expe rts in intern ational environm ental law, and
chaired by the pre sident of the 2015 Pari s climate conference a nd
President of the Co nstitutiona l Council of the Frenc h Republic,
Laurent Fabius.2 
The proponent s of the initiative sugges t that the Global Pact for
the Environment s hould be a global legally bindi ng covenant for in-
ternational env ironmental law a nd a major reference f or global
1 Examples i nclude t he Ear th Char ter (see , e.g. M L avrik, A J imenez a nd M Vile la, ‘Th e
Global Pac t for the Enviro nment as a Nex t Step on the Way For ward for the Ea rth Char ter’
(Earth Charter International Secre tariat 2018) /
loads/2018/07/Global- Pact-and-Ear th-Char ter-2018.pdf>); the Wor ld Charter fo r
Nature; and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.
2 ‘Draft Gl obal Pac t for the Env ironmen t’ (24 June 20 17)
pdf>. For furth er background , see Y Aguila and J Vi ñuales, ‘A Global Pa ct for the
Environment: Conceptual Foundations’ (2019) 28 Review of European, Comparative and
International Environmental Law 3.
DOI: 10 .1111/reel .12288
How a ‘Global Pact for the Environment’ could add value to
international environmental law
Christina Voigt
©2019JohnWiley&Son sLtd,9600Gar singtonRoad ,OxfordOX42DQ,UKa nd350MainStree t,Malden,MA0 2148,USA.
Email: The initiative for a ‘Glo bal Pact for the Enviro nment’ has over the cour se of the last
year evolved into a global disco urse. The United Nations (UN) Genera l Assembly, the
UN Secretar y-General, UN Enviro nment Programme, UN m ember States and a vas t
variety of nongovernmental organ izations and academics are considering the need
for and possible content of a Pa ct. It appears t hat to gather necessa ry political su p-
port, a Pac t needs to add value to already existing international environmental law.
This article of fers input into the deb ate as to whether and how a Glo bal Pact could
achieve this. It argue s that a Global Pact n eeds not be limited to a legal ly binding
treaty instr ument that codifies envi ronmental princi ples. Rather, it could be and do
many things and shoul d be guided by what is needed to increase th e effectiveness of
environmental prote ction. In a plural ity of ways, a Pact coul d address challenges i n
the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), help overcome
coordination defici ts between ME As and between M EAs and other inte rnational
treaties, or brin g together actors from the public a nd private sector. It could provide a
commonvision forglobal environmental actiona nd/oraframework forbringi ngthe
different pieces , for instance sec toral and spatial agre ements, together. Moreover, it
could advance the devel opment of international e nvironmental law into are as that
thus far have not been covere d. The article gives a brief his tory of the initiative for the
Global Pact , placing it against the nature and s tructure of international envi ronmental
law. It analyses the propos als made so far as to the possible sco pe, nature and content
of such instrument , and provides sugges tions for how it could contr ibute to the in-
creased effectiveness, scope or scale of international environmental law.

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