SEI Publication

Author(s): van Asselt, H.

Year: 2012

In: Journal of International Law and Politics (New York University) 44,1205-1278.

Type: Journal article



Link to SEI author:

Managing the fragmentation of international environmental law: Forests at the intersection of the climate and biodiversity regimes

This article assesses strategies to manage the overlap between two legal regimes dealing with the interconnected global environmental threats of biodiversity loss and climate change.

The extensive debate on the fragmentation of international law has only paid cursory attention to its manifestation within the area of international environmental law, even though this field has spawned a great number of international legal instruments. Although the climate and biodiversity treaties are not fundamentally in discord, there is potential for conflict between the regimes, particularly following decisions on forest carbon sinks in the Kyoto Protocol, while at the same time there are synergies to be captured by tackling deforestation.

The article reviews the techniques offered by international law for mitigating conflicts, including conflict avoidance and conflict resolution techniques. This is followed by an appraisal of institutional cooperation and coordination between the regimes.

The article shows that the usefulness of legal techniques for resolving conflicts is limited given two characteristics of international environmental law, namely the overlap in objectives and the role of treaty body decisions. Furthermore, it argues that institutional cooperation and coordination have not yet managed to adequately accommodate biodiversity considerations in the climate regime due to different memberships and restricted mandates.

Therefore, autonomous action aimed at enhancing synergies between the two regimes seems the most fruitful option in the immediate future, although this does not address the regimes’ long-term relationship.

The article concludes that further inquiry into different strategies for managing the fragmentation of international environmental law is warranted.

Download the article (external PDF link, 282kb)

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