2nd Summer Programme on International and European Environmental Law

Published 7 September 2015

In the final week of August (24-28), the T.M.C. Asser Instituut held its 2nd Summer Programme on International and European Environmental Law. The title for this year’s Summer Programme was ‘the future we choose’, emphasising the impact that we, human beings, have on the future state of the environment and the conditions into which new generations of human beings are born. Professor Malgosia Fitzmaurice gave the keynote lecture, guiding the participants through the history of the concept of sustainable development in international law, and commenting on the challenge of giving the concept substance and applying it.

In the lectures that followed, a number of cross-cutting themes and issues were discussed. Dr. Marcel Szabo spoke about his position as Ombudsman for Future Generations in Hungary, indicating one way in which the concept of sustainable development can be operationalised.

Dr. Liesbeth Enneking gave a lecture on the viability of using civil law to address unsustainable business practices abroad and Phon van den Biesen discussed the difficulties in fully implementing the Aarhus Convention (on the right to information, to public participation and to access justice) into EU law. Professor Pier Vellinga gave a lecture on the science of climate change, in particular discussing facts and fiction, and bringing home the challenge of reconciling the inevitable uncertainties in scientific research with law’s demand for certainty. On the Programme’s final day, Professor Joyeeta Gupta gave a lecture on the sustainable management of natural resources in the Anthropocene, arguing that transformative governance systems are needed and must incorporate a notion of sharing the earth’s limited- and shrinking- resources. Other lectures focused on the environmental law jurisprudence of the ICJ and the CJEU, the recent Urgenda verdict, sustainable banking, the precautionary principle, water law, and more.

Amongst the highlights of the week was a climate change workshop held by Dr. Leonardo Massai and Jürgen Lefevere. In that workshop, the participants took on the role of negotiators and it became palpable, even in a setting of few ‘negotiating states’, how difficult it is to reconcile competing interests and to reach a consensus. Furthermore, the study visit to the ICJ made a lasting impression on the participants, emphasising the position of The Hague in the world as capital of international peace and justice.