March 26, 2008
Award Winning IUCNPaper: Validity of Actions taken by COPs organized under Multilateral Environmental Agreements
Louise Camenzuli from Sydney, Australia is the winner of the 2007 Alexandre Kiss Environmental Law Papers Award, sponsored by the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law. She won the prize for her paper on “The development of international environmental law at the Multilateral Environmental Agreements’ Conference of the Parties and its validity”, which includes a thorough analysis of the legal mandates of the different Conferences of the Parties of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). Full Paper
It is now well understood that many environmental challenges are global in nature. This recognition has led to a proliferation of international legal instruments directed at environmental conservation and protection, such as multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). This paper examines the role of Conferences of the Parties (CoPs) in MEA based law making. It promotes the view that effective international environmental law must be dynamic and responsive to changing environmental conditions and changes in the state of knowledge on the best measures and methods to deal with the subject matter of MEAs. In this context, it is now recognised that while MEAs may set out the basic framework in respect of global environmental matters, treaty based law must be shaped by continuous interaction
of member States to provide guidance on, and ensure consistency in, the implementation of the MEA in a way that responds to the environmental challenge it seeks to address. It is in this process that MEA CoPs have and should have law making functions. However, the legal status of acts and decisions of CoPs is unclear. To date, little consideration has been given to the legal personality of CoPs, in particular, whether the exercise of their law making powers (if any) are properly conceptualised within the law of treaties and/or within international institutional law. This in turn has given rise to questions regarding the validity and legally binding nature of CoP made ‘law’.
In this context, this paper reviews existing research on what powers CoPs have to develop international law. It considers the validity of the exercise of these powers and the implications of CoP law making for the legitimacy of international environmental law. Through this process of review, several important research priorities are identified that must be urgently pursued in view of the significant role CoPs play in providing efficient and effective responses to serious emerging and pre-existing environmental challenges. The recent attention to CoP made law and the questions being asked about its legal basis will
otherwise result in a significant threat to the legitimacy of international environmental law.
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