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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



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