On May 10, 2018, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted by a large majority a resolution that paves the way for the negotiation of a Global Compact for the Environment. This international treaty intends to consolidate in a single text the main legal principles that guide environmental action. For more than thirty years, the international legal community has asked States to adopt such a text, from the Brundtland Report of 1987 to the IUCN Pact Project of 1995. The current draft of the year 2017 has been prepared by a group of experts, consisting of a hundred lawyers from 40 countries in the south and north, representing all legal traditions.
In 2015, the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change created a new global dynamic for the protection of the environment. These texts marked important advances. But environmental damage not only continues but is reaching unprecedented levels of destruction to date. The years 2017 and 2018 were marked by record temperatures. Biodiversity continues to deteriorate at an accelerated rate. For all these reasons, it is essential to take a new step. It is necessary to have a general text that goes beyond the climate issue, establishing the guiding principles of global environmental governance.
With the Global Compact for the Environment, the international community would have for the first time a treaty of a general nature that would cover all areas of the environment. It would thus be the cornerstone of international environmental law, as an "umbrella text", which would create a link between the various existing sectoral treaties (on climate, biodiversity, waste, pollution, etc.). The Covenant does not intend to replace these treaties. On the contrary, it seeks to complement them and facilitate their implementation. It could correct its gaps or even apply them together, in case there is no incompatibility, to give them greater efficiency and effectiveness.
The time has come to take a new step in the history of international law
In terms of its content, this new treaty would reflect the principles shared by the majority of the Constitutions in the world and which are already contemplated in several of the main non-binding international texts, such as the 1982 World Nature Charter, and the Rio Declaration of 1992. This would benefit all actors in environmental governance by bringing together, in a systematic way and as a minimum agreement, the international, constitutional and legislative provisions existing in many countries. In each State, the legislator would find references for the adoption of more effective environmental protection laws. The National Supreme Courts could obtain from him a common source of inspiration that would help them to consolidate the foundations of an environmental global law through dialogue among judges. Citizens and NGOs would see their environmental rights strengthened. Companies would benefit from this global harmonization of the rules of the game, thus generating greater legal security and fairer conditions of competition for all of them.
At the same time that seventy years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 are celebrated, and fifty years of the adoption of the two International Covenants adopted by the United Nations in 1966, one relative to civil and political rights and the other to the economic, social and cultural rights, the time has come to take a new step in the history of international law. That is why we call for action for the adoption of a third Pact, which establishes a new generation of fundamental principles: the rights and duties related to the protection of the environment.
Laurent Fabius He is the former president of COP 21, Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 2015, which took place in France.