Learning from Environmental Justice: A New Model for International Environmental Rights

Jan 25, 2005

This article appeared in the Summer 2004 issue of the Stanford Environmental Law Journal and is reproduced here with permission. To read it in its entirety (PDF: 74 pages, 860 KB), click the "download" link at the bottom of this page.

International environmental justice problems present difficulties for courts and advocates seeking to characterize them. These situations are not only factually complex, but also occur at the intersection of environmental, human rights, and anti-discrimination law. This article begins by exploring this categorization dilemma; it considers the limitations of applicable international law, the varying sovereignty regimes, and the resultant jurisprudential inconsistencies. It then draws from U.S. environmental justice advocacy to propose a model for approaching the application of international human rights law to instances of environmental injustice. The model considers the nature of the environmental harm to victims, the relationship between the polluter and the victim, and the evidence of discrimination.

The article concludes by applying this model to sixteen international, regional, and domestic cases in which judicial resolution has occurred in order to analyze how existing international law could address these situations more effectively, and propose future directions for legal development.

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