“Science in a Pint” – Professor Duncan French discusses environmental law

As part of the “Science in a Pint” festival, Professor Duncan French spoke at an event in a pub in Southwell, Nottingham where he considered the historical origins of international environmental law, its strengths and weaknesses, and the perennial shadow of the State in finding effective means to tackle some of the most intractable global problems. In particular, he considered three alternatives modes of seeking to ameliorate the traditional “top down” approach of international environmental law, namely (i) the example of the Paris Climate Change Agreement (where States voluntarily sought to improve their national efforts and these were then essentially bundled into a legally binding treaty, with the hope of progressive improvement overtime), (ii) the governance of the deep seabed through an international organisation (admittedly made up of States), and (iii) the evolution of acceptance of same-sex marriage as an example of how cultural-societal shifts can happen domestically and overtime affect national consciousnesses around the world. None are perfect means by which to get around the voluntarism of the State, but do indicate a more nuanced debate around sovereignty and international environmental law. A lively debate then ensued!

 

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