On April 28 Professor Robert Percival addressed hundreds of judges and environmental law scholars assembled in Rio de Janeiro for the first World Environmental Law Congress. More than 400 experts from 60 countries participated in the Congress, which was convened by the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL).
Percival was a keynote speaker for the session on “Principles of Environmental Law for the Anthropocene in Light of the Sustainable Development Goals.” He presented a paper on “The Judicial Role in Developing Principles of Environmental Law.” After reviewing different judicial philosophies his paper examined how the judiciary has assisted in developing evolving principles of global environmental law. These include a moral obligation to future generations, the sic utere and polluter pays principles, the precautionary principle, look before you leap and right-to-know principles, and environmental justice and fairness.
The Congress featured the launch of the Global Judicial Institute for the Environment, designed to improve the capacity of judges to handle environmental issues. Chief Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti of the Supreme Court of Argentina gave the keynote opening address. Other judges who addressed the conference included Justice Shen Deyong, acting Chief Justice of China’s Supreme People’s Court, Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Antonio Benjamin, and Lord Justice Robert Carnwath of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
The Congress developed a draft World Declaration on the Environmental Rule of Law, described as a “legal framework for environmental justice and global ecological integrity. It enunciates 17 principles, including “in dubio pro natura” (giving nature priority), the non-regression principle, and a new principle of “progression” that urges regulators continually to update and strengthen environmental standards to take into account the latest scientific knowledge.