Rigorous Implementation Of Environmental Law – A Priority !

2019-03-17:  Saint Patrick’s Day …

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP – https://www.unenvironment.org/) has recently published the First Global Report on Environmental Rule of Law … which finds weak enforcement to be a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats, despite the prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide over the last four decades.

The answer, of course, is rigorous implementation of environmental law … most particularly in those developed countries which have amassed their riches, over past centuries, from the plunder of natural, human and cultural resources in Central & South America, Africa and Asia.

UNEP: ‘Environmental Rule of Law – First Global Report’ (2019)

Download The Full UNEP Report Here … https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/assessment/environmental-rule-law-first-global-report   (PDF File, 30.76 MB)

Executive Summary

If human society is to stay within the bounds of critical ecological thresholds, it is imperative that environmental laws are widely understood, respected, and enforced … and the benefits of environmental protection are enjoyed by people and the planet.  Environmental rule of law offers a framework for addressing the gap between environmental laws on the books and in practice, and is key to achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Environmental laws have grown dramatically over the last three decades, as countries have come to understand the vital linkages between environment, economic growth, public health, social cohesion, and security.  As of 2017, 176 countries have environmental framework laws; 150 countries have enshrined environmental protection or the right to a healthy environment in their constitutions; and 164 countries have created cabinet-level bodies responsible for environmental protection.  These and other environmental laws, rights, and institutions have helped to slow – and in some cases to reverse – environmental degradation and to achieve the public health, economic, social, and human rights benefits which accompany environmental protection.

The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment brought the global environment into the public consciousness, leading to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme.  Following the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (known as the Rio Earth Summit), many countries made a concerted effort to enact environmental laws, establish environment ministries and agencies, and enshrine environmental rights and protections in their national constitutions.  By the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the focus had shifted to implementation of environmental laws, which is where progress has waned.

Too often, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations falls far short of what is required to address environmental challenges.  Laws sometimes lack clear standards or necessary mandates.  Others are not tailored to national and local contexts and so fail to address the conditions on the ground.  Implementing ministries are often underfunded and politically weak in comparison to ministries responsible for economic or natural resource development.  And while many countries are endeavouring to strengthen implementation of environmental law, a backlash has also occurred as environmental defenders are killed and funding for civil society restricted.  These shortfalls are by no means limited to developing nations: reviews of developed nations have found their performance on environmental issues lacking in certain respects.  In short, environmental rule of law is a challenge for all countries.  This Report discusses the range of measures that countries are adopting to address this implementation gap – and to ensure that rule of law is effective in the environmental sphere.

As the first assessment of the global environmental rule of law, this Report draws on experiences, challenges, viewpoints, and successes of diverse countries around the world, highlighting global trends as well as opportunities for countries and partners to strengthen the environmental rule of law.

The Report highlights the need to undertake a regular global assessment of the state of environmental rule of law.  To track progress nationally and globally, it is necessary to utilize a set of consistent indicators.  The Report proposes an indicator framework for environmental rule of law and highlights existing datasets that may be utilized in support of the global assessment.

The Report also calls for a concerted effort to support countries in pilot testing approaches to strengthen environmental rule of law.  Such an initiative could support testing of approaches in diverse contexts, and then adapting them before scaling them up.  It should also foster exchange of experiences between jurisdictions to foster learning.

In addition to these two cross-cutting recommendations, the Report highlights numerous actionable steps that States can take to support environmental rule of law.  For example, States can evaluate the current mandates and structure of environmental institutions to identify regulatory overlap or underlap.  States and partners can build the capacity of the public to engage thoughtfully and meaningfully with government and project proponents.  They can prioritize protection of environmental defenders and whistle-blowers.  States may consider the creation of specialized environmental courts and tribunals, and use administrative enforcement processes to handle minor offences.  And there is an ongoing need to research which approaches are effective under what circumstances.

The benefits of environmental rule of law extend far beyond the environmental sector.  While the most direct effects are in protection of the environment, it also strengthens rule of law more broadly, supports sustainable economic and social development, protects public health, contributes to peace and security by avoiding and defusing conflict, and protects human and constitutional rights.  As such, it is a growing priority for all countries.




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Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Our Practice Philosophy

2012-10-25:   The Practice Philosophy of Sustainable Design International Ltd. is an issue which has occupied my mind greatly during this past summer … as I asked myself some difficult questions …

What has really been happening to our planet since 1992 … and earlier, since 1972 ?

Where is SDI now ?

Are we on the same track … the right track ?

Where are we going in the short to medium-term future ?

Architecture … is practice as a separate design disciple now obsolete ?

Fire Engineering … can it be dragged, screaming, from the proverbial ‘caves’ … and transformed to respond creatively to the safety and security requirements of a complex built environment ?

Sustainability … what impact does this intricate, open, dynamic and still evolving concept have … should it have … on the provision of conventional Architectural and Fire Engineering Services ?

‘Green’ … is this marketing ploy helpful … or an annoying obstacle … to effective implementation of Sustainable Development ?



WBCSD's Vision 2050 Poster (2010)World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

Vision 2050: ‘The New Agenda for Business’ (2010)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (3.73 Mb)



Colour image showing the Tile Page of 'Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20 (1992-2012)' ... published in 2011 by the Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Tile Page of ‘Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20 (1992-2012)’ … published in 2011 by the Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi. Click to enlarge.

2011 – United Nations Environment Programme

Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20 (1992-2012)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (4.83 Mb)

Extract from ‘Foreword’ …

This publication serves as a timely update on what has occurred since the Earth Summit of 1992 and is part of the wider Global Environment Outlook-5 (GEO-5) preparations that will lead to the release of the landmark GEO-5 report in May 2012.  It underlines how in just twenty years, the world has changed more than most of us could ever have imagined – geopolitically, economically, socially and environmentally.  Very few individuals outside academic and research communities envisaged the rapid pace of change or foresaw developments such as the phenomenal growth in information and communication technologies, ever-accelerating globalization, private sector investments across the world, and the rapid economic rise of a number of ‘developing’ countries.  Many rapid changes have also taken place in our environment, from the accumulating evidence of climate change and its very visible impacts on our planet, to biodiversity loss and species extinctions, further degradation of land surfaces and the deteriorating quality of oceans.  Certainly, there have been some improvements in the environmental realm, such as the significant reduction in ozone-depleting chemicals and the emergence of renewable energy sources, new investments into which totalled more than $200 thousand million in 2010.  But in too many areas, the environmental dials continue to head into the red.

Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, and Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi.


Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Ireland, Italy & Turkey

[ http://www.sustainable-design.ie/ ] 

SDI Practice Philosophy Explained (October 2012)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (670 Kb)

SDI  is a professional, trans-disciplinary and collaborative design, architectural, fire engineering, research, and consultancy practice … specialists in the theory and practical implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment (social – built – virtual – economic).

WE are committed to … the protection of society, the best interests of our clients, and ‘user’ welfare … not just cost-effective compliance with the Minimal Health & Safety Objectives in Legislation & Codes !

Sustainability … continues to fundamentally transform our Architectural, Fire Engineering & Consultancy Practice.



2012 Sustainable Society Index - World View at a Glance

Colour image showing the Sustainable Society Index World View for 2012 … presenting the world average scores for 21 Sustainability Performance Indicators. The inner circle of the spider’s web represents a score of 1, meaning no sustainability at all, while the outer ring represents a perfect score of 10 or full sustainability. Click to enlarge.

Sustainable Society Foundation – The Netherlands



Colour image showing the Tile Page of 'Measuring Progress: Environmental Goals & Gaps' ... published in 2012 by the Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Tile Page of ‘Measuring Progress: Environmental Goals & Gaps’ … published in 2012 by the Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi. Click to enlarge.

2012 – United Nations Environment Programme

Measuring Progress: Environmental Goals & Gaps

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (4.72 Mb)

‘Foreword’ …

If we measured the world’s response to environmental challenges solely by the number of treaties and agreements that have been adopted, then the situation looks impressive.  Over 500 international environmental agreements have been concluded since 1972, the year of the Stockholm Conference and the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

These include landmark conventions on issues such as trade in endangered species, hazardous wastes, climate change, biological diversity and desertification.  Collectively, these reflect an extraordinary effort to install the policies, aims and desires of countries worldwide to achieve sustainable development.

Yet despite the impressive number of legal texts and many good intentions, real progress in solving the environmental challenges themselves has been much less comprehensive, a point clearly underlined in the Global Environment Outlook-5 (GEO-5), for which this report ‘Measuring Progress: Environmental Goals and Gaps’ and a previous publication ‘Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20’ are companion products leading up to Rio+20.

This report outlines findings from a UNEP study that, with support from the Government of Switzerland, has catalogued and analyzed existing ‘Global Environmental Goals’ contained in the international agreements and conventions.  It asks the fundamental question as to why the aims and goals of these policy instruments have often fallen far short of their original ambition and intentions.  One possible reason is that many of the goals are simply not specific enough;  the few goals that are specific and measurable appear to have a much better record of success.

These include goals to phase out lead in gasoline, ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and certain persistent organic pollutants (POP’s), specific Millennium Development Goal targets calling to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation, and targets to increase the number and extent of protected areas.  Indeed, even when measurable targets have been set but not actually met, they have usually led to positive change and often to significant change.

The vast majority of goals, however, are found to be ‘aspirational’ in nature.  They lack specific targets, which generate obvious difficulties in measuring progress towards them.  In addition, many aspirational goals are not supported by adequate data that can be used to measure progress, global freshwater quality being one stark example.

It is clear that if agreements and conventions are to achieve their intended purpose, the international community needs to consider specific and measurable goals when designing such treaties, while organizing the required data gathering and putting in place proper tracking systems from the outset.

A set of Sustainable Development Goals, as proposed by the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Sustainability, could be an excellent opportunity and starting point to improve this situation while representing another positive outcome from Rio+20, two decades after the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and four decades after the Stockholm Conference.

Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, and Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi.




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Harmonized Indicators of Building GHG & Energy Performance

[ BER Certificates (VII) : UNFCCC COP-15 : CIB W108 – Climate Change and the Built Environment ]

2009-12-18:  Even before the gatherings of UNFCCC COP-15 & Kyoto Protocol MOP-5 began … some remarkably positive progress on difficult technical issues had already been made at international level.  Hot off the presses … comes an important document from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Sustainable Buildings & Construction Initiative (SBCI): ‘Common Carbon Metric’ (December 2009), which was specifically prepared for presentation at Copenhagen.

Leading experts from around the world have developed a standardized method of measuring a building’s carbon footprint … allowing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings anywhere in the world to be consistently assessed and compared.  In the case of existing buildings, improvements can also be measured.

This harmonized method for MRV (Measurable, Reportable & Verifiable) GHG Emissions and Energy Use provides the basis for establishing baselines, performance benchmarking, and monitoring building performance improvements.  These activities are, in turn, fundamental in informing international mechanisms for carbon trading, policy development and analysis, and progress reporting on the mitigation of GHG Emissions from buildings.  Policy and decision makers can produce reports from the data collected through these Metrics/Indicators for jurisdictions, regions, large building stock owners, cities or at a national level to form baselines that can be used to set targets and show improvements in carbon mitigation throughout the building sector.

I am pleased to say that Monsieur Jean-Luc Salagnac (CSTB France), Co-Ordinator of CIB Working Commission 108 : Climate Change and the Built Environment, was directly involved in its development …

Colour image showing the cover page of the UNEP-SBCI 'Common Carbon Metric', recently published in December 2009.  Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the cover page of the UNEP-SBCI ‘Common Carbon Metric’, recently published in December 2009. Click to enlarge.

 UNEP-SBCI ‘Common Carbon Metric’ (December 2009)  for measuring, reporting and verifying (mrv) greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption of buildings in use.

Click the Link above to read/download PDF File (1.97 MB)


Recommendations on Implementing the New Harmonized Approach

All research, design and teaching disciplines involved in the European Building Sector … extending right across to any person who works on a construction site or has any part to play in managing, maintaining, servicing or operating a building … should familiarize himself/herself/themselves with the contents of this document.

As soon as practicable … calculation methods, computer software packages, reports, BER Certificates, etc … and working practices generally … should all be revised and updated to take account of this newly harmonized approach.

Whatever the outcome from Copenhagen in December 2009 … in terms of the presentation of priorities … these should now be switched around … with a strong first emphasis being placed on ‘GHG Emissions’ from Buildings … followed by, and secondly, ‘Energy Consumption’ resulting from the Use/Occupation of Buildings.

What is Measured in the UNEP-SBCI ‘Common Carbon Metric’ ?

While all stages of a building’s life cycle produce GHG Emissions, building use accounts for 80-90% of these emissions … resulting from energy consumed mainly for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and electric/electronic appliances.  This, therefore, is the stage of the building’s life cycle that is the focus of the ‘Common Carbon Metric’.

The following Metrics/Indicators shall be used to compile consistent and comparable data:

1.  Energy Intensity = kWh/m2/year (kilo Watt hours per square metre per year)

Scope: Emissions associated with building energy end-use defined in Appendix 1 are included; purchased electricity, purchased ‘coolth'(opposite of warmth)/steam/heat, and/or on-site generated power used to support the building operations.  If available, emissions associated with fugitives and refrigerants used in building operations should be reported separately.

If available, occupancy data should be correlated with the building area to allow Energy Intensity per occupant (o) to be calculated = kWh/o/year.

GHG Emissions are calculated by multiplying the above Energy Intensity times the official GHG emission coefficients, for the year of reporting, for each fuel source used (see Appendix 3).

2.  Carbon Intensity = kgCO2e/m2/year or kgCO2e/o/year (kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per square metre or per occupant per year)

Note: GHG conversion factors for each fuel type shall be the same as those used under national reporting for flexible mechanisms for the Kyoto Protocol for the six GHG Gases (see Appendix 4).

Why Buildings ?

The environmental footprint of the Building Sector includes: 40% of energy use, 30% raw materials use, 25% of solid waste, 25% water use, and 12% of land use.  While this new document focuses on the scope of emissions related to energy use of building operations (see Appendix 1), future metrics are required to address these other impacts in addition to social and financial impacts.  At this time the UN’s top priority is climate change … and the building sector is responsible for more than one third of Global GHG Emissions and is, in most countries, the largest emissions source.  While 80-90% of the energy used by the building is consumed during the use (or operational) stage of a building’s life cycle (for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, appliances, etc.), the other 10-20% (figure varies according to the life of the building), is consumed during extraction and processing of raw materials, manufacturing of products, construction and de-construction.  Furthermore, significant energy is used in transporting occupants, goods and services to and from the building.

The UNEP-WMO Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report estimated that building-related GHG Emissions reached 8.6 billion metric tons (t) CO2equivalent (e) in 2004, and could nearly double by 2030, reaching 15.6 billion tCO2e under their high-growth scenario.  The report further concluded that the building sector has the largest potential for reducing GHG Emissions and is relatively independent of the price of carbon reduction (cost per tCO2e) applied.  With proven and commercially available technologies, the energy consumption in both new and existing buildings can be cut by an estimated 30-50% without significantly increasing investment costs.  Energy savings can be achieved through a range of measures including smart design, improved insulation, low-energy appliances, high efficiency ventilation and heating/cooling systems, and conservation behaviour by building occupants.




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FCCC COP-15: Historical Responsibility & Poverty Reduction ?

2009-12-16:  ‘Chaotic’ is not the only word to describe what is happening right now in Copenhagen !   A few additional parliamentary expletives are required.  Is it just me … or is it obvious to everyone … that the Danes could not organize an orgy at an International Golf Tournament ?

What the world urgently needed was an ambitious, legally binding agreement … a Kyoto II Protocol, for want of a better title … to slot into place when the 1st Commitment Period ends in 2012.  What we may end up with is an ambiguous ‘political’ agreement … which will be worth approximately 1 cent more than the paper on which it will be scrawled.

There is something definitely rotten in the State of Denmark !   Multiple drafts of the same working document circulating at the same time … backroom meetings away from public scrutiny … greedy developed countries trying to avoid responsibility and action … strutting, self-important NGO’s thinking that they know all the answers … etc., etc … kill any confidence in the process stone dead.  These are not the ways of Sustainable Social Partnership.

However … at a far distance from the hustle and bustle … it can be observed that Interesting Side Events are taking place … and Thought Provoking Reports are being presented … before, during and after the main gatherings between the 7th and 18th December 2009:

  • 15th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ;
  • 5th Meeting of the Parties (MOP-5) to the Kyoto Protocol.


African Countries are not the only Group having difficulty with what is/is not happening in Copenhagen …

Two recent Discussion Papers from The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI), in India, are worth bringing to your attention.  Both raise issues which are not very popular in this part of the world.  And … it so happens that Dr. Rajendra K Pachauri – Director-General of TERI … is also Chairman of the WMO-UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) !

  1. Right to Sustainable Development: An Ethical Approach to Climate Change (December 2009), by Leena Srivastava, Neha Pahuja, Manish Shrivastava & Prabhat Upadhyay.  PDF File, 228 Kb.  Click link to read and/or download.  Discusses ideas such as: ‘equity’, ‘fairness’, ‘historical responsibility’ (of UNFCCC Annex I Countries), ‘climate justice’, etc.
  2. Linking Climate Action & Poverty Alleviation – An Approach to Informed Decision-Making (December 2009), by Atul Kumar.  PDF File, 488 Kb.  Click link to read and/or download.


To gain worldwide acceptance – across developed, developing and least developed regions of the world – and to have a reasonable chance of reliable implementation in those disparate regions … mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, including variability and extremes, must be fully compatible with the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development.  This is clearly elaborated in both the 1992 UNFCCC and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

To be clear among ourselves on this island … Ireland is specifically named (without any qualification), among other Developed Countries … in Annex I and Annex II of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) … and in Annex B of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which is legally binding.  The European Union is not mentioned, at all, in either document.

It is of concern to note that although India ratified the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in October 2007 – TERI (India) has very recently placed a Document (No.1 above) in the public domain, at Copenhagen, which actively forbids content extraction by people with activity limitations for the purposes of equitable accessibility !   Joined-up thinking !?!?




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