Project

Protecting Ecosystem Integrity in the Age of Planetary Boundaries: Science, International Environmental Law, and the Ecosystem Approach

Goal: In recent decades, environmental sciences and technologies have greatly expanded our understanding of ecosystems and their functioning. International environmental treaty regimes have progressively incorporated this emerging body of knowledge through various ‘boundary objects’, concepts sitting at the interface of science and the law. The most important of these concepts is arguably the ecosystem approach. Compared with the significant expectations it generates, however, the approach is still underexplored in terms of its actual influence on the evolution of international environmental law.

To fill this gap, this doctoral research project studied the legal expression of the ecosystem approach in a representative set of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and explored how the science underpinning the concept has been translated into legal norms. The project adopted an interdisciplinary method which combined legal analysis with a broader historical account of the co-evolution of science and international environmental law.

Overall, the project found that in implementing the approach, MEAs have privileged some types of legal expression over others. In particular, there has so far been an emphasis on the creation of procedural rules and obligations of conduct over the setting of positive obligations to maintain ecosystem integrity. The project's findings suggest that this failure to translate ecosystem integrity considerations into legal norms is linked to structural limitations imposed by some of the fundamental building blocks of international environmental law, and especially by the sovereign right of States to exploit biological resources located under their jurisdiction.

The project was conducted by Dr Dario Piselli as part of his PhD research at the Graduate Institute of Geneva.

Date: 1 September 2016 - 4 February 2022

Updates
0 new
6
Recommendations
0 new
0
Followers
0 new
3
Reads
0 new
49

Project log

Dario Piselli
added an update
In this era of mass extinction, international biodiversity law is at a crossroads. As the debate on a post-2020 global biodiversity framework intensifies, calls are growing for the Convention on Biological Diversity to set an ambitious overarching goal to fight biodiversity loss and find innovative ways to link such a goal with national targets and commitments.
In a two-part blog post published in December 2018 on EJIL:Talk!, the blog of the European Journal of International Law, I argue that the planetary boundary framework first developed in 2009 by the Stockholm Resilience Centre could represent an important tool in this quest to identify more substantive legal obligations applying to biodiversity within national jurisdiction. In addition, I suggest four ways in which the planetary boundary for biosphere integrity could be incorporated in international biodiversity law, ranging from institutional arrangements within the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) to normative developments at the level of emerging principles of international law.
The blog post is based on my broader PhD research project on 'Ecosystem Approach and International Law in the Age of Planetary Boundaries'.
 
Dario Piselli
added an update
This presentation offers a short overview of the project's rationale, its guiding questions, and analytical framework. As the research is currently in its initial stages, it might give an incomplete perspective of its current status and evolution.
* The logo used in the first and last slides was developed by Azote Images (http://www.azote.se) for the Stockholm Resilience Centre's work on 'Applying Resilience Thinking' (see http://applyingresilience.org/en/start-en/). No copyright infringement intended.
 
Dario Piselli
added a project goal
In recent decades, environmental sciences and technologies have greatly expanded our understanding of ecosystems and their functioning. International environmental treaty regimes have progressively incorporated this emerging body of knowledge through various ‘boundary objects’, concepts sitting at the interface of science and the law. The most important of these concepts is arguably the ecosystem approach. Compared with the significant expectations it generates, however, the approach is still underexplored in terms of its actual influence on the evolution of international environmental law.
To fill this gap, this doctoral research project studied the legal expression of the ecosystem approach in a representative set of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and explored how the science underpinning the concept has been translated into legal norms. The project adopted an interdisciplinary method which combined legal analysis with a broader historical account of the co-evolution of science and international environmental law.
Overall, the project found that in implementing the approach, MEAs have privileged some types of legal expression over others. In particular, there has so far been an emphasis on the creation of procedural rules and obligations of conduct over the setting of positive obligations to maintain ecosystem integrity. The project's findings suggest that this failure to translate ecosystem integrity considerations into legal norms is linked to structural limitations imposed by some of the fundamental building blocks of international environmental law, and especially by the sovereign right of States to exploit biological resources located under their jurisdiction.
The project was conducted by Dr Dario Piselli as part of his PhD research at the Graduate Institute of Geneva.