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Biodiversity Litigation

Head of Section:

Anne Peters

Guillaume Futhazar

About the Project:

The project is undertaken in cooperation with Sandrine Maljean Dubois (CNRS, France) and Jona Razzaque (University of the West of England, Bristol, UK). The results of the research are expected to be published in 2021.

Purpose of the Project in a Nutshell:

The project seeks to understand the relationship between international biodiversity law and biodiversity litigation (understood in the context of the project as any legal dispute at the national, regional or international level that concerns conservation of, sustainable use of and access and benefit-sharing to genetic resources, species, ecosystems and their relations). To do so, the project will endeavor:

1.To understand the evolution and dynamic of biodiversity litigation in different contexts (national, regional and international).

2. To assess the role of international biodiversity law with regard to biodiversity litigation.

3. To evaluate the contribution of biodiversity litigation to the effectiveness of biodiversity law.

 

Context

2020 was hailed as a “big year” for biodiversity. Yet, it is hard to exactly understand what is meant by “big” considering the dire state of environmental affairs. The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity came to an end, and none of its Aichi Targets have been met. More so, the current environmental crisis is worsening, as stressed by the latest Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. In this context, there is hope that the next Conferences of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity will produce a framework capable of inverting the current trends.

The future of the biodiversity regime is somewhat akin to what we witnessed in the climate regime. In 2015, ambitious global goals were adopted thanks to impressive diplomatic efforts, yet the follow up to these goals was unfortunately less impressive. International negotiations are now struggling to reconnect to the previous level of ambition, while national commitments remain generally too low to meet the required GHG emission threshold. Yet, in contrast to this legally disappointing situation at the global level, national judicial activity is showing promise. More and more attention is given to “Climate Change Litigation”, i.e. the adjudication by courts of “disputes over actions - or inaction-related to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts”. Through these disputes, judges become key actors in linking internationally agreed goals with tangible national commitments in order to mitigate climate change. This possibility was spectacularly demonstrated in the latest ruling of the Netherlands’ Supreme Court in the Urgenda case .

Noting the growing interest for Climate Change Litigation and its potential for effective mitigation and adaptation, this book project aims at exploring a parallel, yet currently ignored, track: biodiversity litigation. Indeed, if climate change litigation appears to be a promising path for the pursuit of globally agreed goals at a local level, can we witness or imagine a similar trend in biodiversity governance?

Research Themes and Questions

In the context of this project, biodiversity litigation is broadly understood as any legal dispute at the national, regional or international level that concerns conservation of, sustainable use of and access and benefit-sharing to genetic resources, species, ecosystems and their relations. Our main purpose with regard to biodiversity litigation is to understand its dynamic and evolution in different contexts and to understand how biodiversity litigation and international biodiversity law (IBL) relate. Exploring these themes will also allow us to determine whether or not biodiversity litigation is able to contribute to the effectiveness of biodiversity law at all levels. These broad themes and questions are meant to be refined as our understanding of biodiversity litigation grows. By comparing different national contexts and different topics, we hope to be able to offer a portrait of what biodiversity litigation currently is and what it could become.

Methodology

To flesh out biodiversity litigation, we sought the expertise of specialists in different national contexts. We intend to identify trends and particularities by relying on representative and geographically balanced studies. These studies will be complemented by regional and global analysis so as to have a vision of biodiversity litigation at all levels. In order to have comparable studies, we provided contributors with a set of questions that will allow us to build a global picture of biodiversity litigation. These questions will serve as a basis for a synthesis exercise that will summarize and put into contexts the findings of each case study. To further strengthen the overall coherence of the project, a workshop will take place with the editors and contributors to exchange ideas on the topic and debate the findings of each case study

Giving the timeframe of international biodiversity negotiations, we aim at having a first completed draft of the book by the end of 2021, in order to have it published in the first semester of 2022.

Staff Member(s):

Guillaume Futhazar