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“Globalization” is a word with many meanings. Some people say globalization is responsible for having lifted millions of people out of poverty over the past decades. Other people say that globalization is neocolonialism. All will agree that the processes that accompany globalization have had tremendous impacts on the environment. Commodification of the environment along with environmental degradation have led to an almost universal awareness of the negative effects of such crises as disrupted climate. The conservation and restoration of the environment, as well as the protection of biodiversity are essential for human life, including its economic components. The international community has responded to the challenge by shifting away from the Brundtland Commission’s intergenerational concept of “development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” to equating “development” with economic development under the New York Convention. and reserving a third and separate pillar for economics over and against social concern and the environment. However promising the concepts “sustainable development” and “sustainability” may have been, they have become overused and meaningless. Like worn-out coins, they became just placeholders. To re-inscribe meaning in the metal of sustainable development, the authors in this book examine environmental problems caused, facilitated or exacerbated by globalization, as seen from the perspectives of the Global South and emerging economies. Investments, trade and technological advances are key driving forces of transition in these countries. The economic development component (also known as “green-growth” policies) may be preferred by globalizing forces, which also regard it as most suitable to cope with climate disruption, for example. With the globalization of economics comes some aspects of the globalization of law. The globalization of environmental law that is currently under formation in the Global South addresses the integration of the ecological and economic components by analyzing the contribution of emerging and developing economies. Sometimes, environmental law is part of the solutions; sometimes environmental law is part of the problems. In this book, the terms “Global South” and “emerging economies” are included as alternative conceptualizations to the “developed” and “developing” countries. But this alternative conceptualization itself is a divide that enables globalization.
The Global South is no longer a passive actor in the environmental global discourse, but is proactively and assertively shaping, advancing and furthering environmental law. In these countries, environmental degradation is a new form of “poverty” that curtails and undermines the right to development and, in extreme cases, the right to life. Therefore, in these countries we must look for innovative strategies and approaches to mitigate environmental crises. By the year 2100, the Global South will be 82.2% of global population with tremendous effects on the perception and framing of the priorities of the international community. Not only because of population but also due to economic, social and cultural development, the Global South merits attention.
In the chapters of this book, the perspectives of the Global South and emerging economies are presented by lawyers from Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Mongolia, Nigeria, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as from the European states of France, Georgia, Germany and Slovakia. The authors are natives of either emerging economies or of the Global South, or work extensively in those regions.
All of the book’s themes are mentioned in the title: globalization, environmental law, sustainable development, the Global South, implementation and challenges. Within the term “sustainable development” we find the word “development.” As regards globalization, this word indicates that the world is still divided between developing and developed countries. If one allows this differentiation, then the implication is that the world is described only in terms of economy. However, the exclusive focus on the economy is too shortsighted, because without a healthy environment, an economy can hardly thrive. Moreover, as Indian public interest environmental lawyer M.C. Mehta has insisted, “Only when the environment is degraded or the people ripped from their connection with the Earth, can they truly be considered poor.” Consequently, the concept of development must be expanded to include topics other than the economy, and to feature these other topics and thus answer questions such as how a system can function if responsible states are not required to carry the burdens of degradation. Topics include investment in clean industries, trade in green goods and agricultural products, intellectual property rights, traditional knowledge, technology transfer, emerging technologies such as big data, climate disruption, energy security, food security, conservation of biodiversity, environmental restoration, development aid and trade facilitation.
As a political, economic, social and legal organizing strategy, globalization tends toward a one-world system. Important questions to answer are: Whose world will that one world system resemble? Will it look like the Global South, the Global North, or a third way? If the one world is to be the Global North, what is the carrying capacity of the planet for the necessarily greater demand on limited resources that the Northern lifestyle will require upon achieving globalization? Proponents of globalization would credit it with “lifting” people out of poverty. One must ask whether that can be true for the short term or the long term. Even within the northern economy of the United States, the divide between the wealthy and the poor grows at an increasing rate.
The processes that accompany globalization have undeniably taken a tremendous toll on the environment. As an economic strategy, the commodification of the environment has caused degradation resulting in such unintended results as global climate disruption. This, in turn, has an inevitable impact on people’s health and thus on the value of a country’s development. Environmental degradation is a new form of “poverty” that curtails and undermines the right to development and, in some cases, even the right to life. The pressure on developing countries and emerging economies to conserve resources and support sustainable development is therefore evident. Although they are no longer passive actors, and are proactively and assertively shaping the environmental law that is part of the global fabric, the rationale for doing so widely differs from that of the Global North. So far, the approach of multilateral development banks is to use and transplant institutions from the Global North in order to strengthen market forces, which continues a dependency relationship that smacks of neocolonialism. More recently, those banks have considered environmental protection. Too little attention is paid to local circumstances and to the different ethical underpinnings of development in these countries. The main question that this book attempts to answer is how to include the contributions of the Global South in the sustainable development paradigm that proved to be so far ineffective. Reaching a balance between the Global North and South in globalized environmental law is of utmost priority for the international community.
If environmental law is to be globalized, will it just be a tool of enablement for a globalized Northern economy until, in the not too distant future, all of earth’s resources are exhausted? If not, then globalized environmental law requires a different path than that taken by previous globalized environmental exploitation. For a globalized environmental law to be just and to sustain life in a truly global sense, it must benefit the developing and emerging economies, and benefit from those economies. Otherwise, states and cultures of the Global North are only attempting to fix environmental problems with the same rationale and instruments that in fact created the very same problems.
Implementation is another theme of the book. Experience demonstrates many times over that if “environmental law” is presented in the context of how it is experienced in the Northern Hemisphere, a student of law from the Global South is likely to say “we have constitutional provisions, legislation and regulations too, but they are not implemented.” Thus it is that we present this book. This edited collection reviews first the difficulties in transplanting and implementing legal norms aimed at the management of environmental risks in the Global South.
The methods of the authors span from pure theory to original data collection in the field, with most contributions falling somewhere between. The book is organized into three parts. Each part’s theme is presented by the authors largely through the concrete context of a representative country. In addition, a theme that is woven through every chapter is to ask how law can enable sustainable development, given the limited carrying capacity of the earth. Although it might otherwise be just, we know that it would be unsustainable if the Global South were to repeat the industrial economic practices that cause the environmental degradation. The book first covers the effects and impacts of the Global North on the Global South. It then moves the analysis to how the Global North shapes international law and the reactions and criticisms that have arisen from Global South countries. The final part addresses the proposed alternatives from the Global South to environmental law globalized from the North.
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