United Nations Environment Programme

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 ?

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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