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Reconfiguration Of The Human Rights System In Light Of Sustainable Development And The Two-Level Conceptualisation Of Environmental Rights

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Chapter Summary


Three theories—the expansion theory, the environmental democracy theory and the genesis theory—encapsulate the recent academic debates and controversies around the various human rights approaches to environmental issues. The expansion theory makes use of existing substantive rights to defend environmental interests. While several global, regional and national courts have adopted this approach in adjudicating environmental cases, the expansion theory is of limited use for three reasons. First, it is particularly difficult for plaintiffs to show a causal connection between environmental harm and human life, health or an adequate standard of living. Second, existing human rights cannot easily be invoked to defend the rights of future generations, or even more problematically, the non-anthropocentric interests such as the preservation of species and ecosystems. Third, reliance on existing rights lacks the consistency necessary to the recognition of new rights, which impedes the transformation of this practice into a principle of customary international law.

Keywords:environmental democracy theory; expansion theory; genesis theory; human rights


This is the introductory chapter of the book, which seeks to achieve three main objectives. First, it examines the genesis and development of environmental rights (or the Right to Environment) in international law and discusses their philosophical, theoretical and legal underpinnings. Second, it attempts to determine the scope and content of the 'Right to Environment' in the context of sustainable development and the notion of solidarity rights. Third, and most important, it explores the potential impact of emerging environmental rights on the international human rights system. In doing so, the author considers two sets of concepts: first, the possibility of a rapprochement between environmental ethics and the human rights doctrine and, second, the theoretical and practical links among the concepts of development, democracy, environment and sustainable development.

Keywords:environmental ethics; environmental rights; human rights; international human rightssystem; international law




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