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Global Pact Talks Consider Gaps in International Environmental Law

The first substantive session of the Ad hoc Open-ended Working Group towards a Global Pact for the Environment revealed a lack of agreement on the contribution that such a unifying instrument would make to international environmental law, and differing views on the legal status of a new instrument, but also preparedness to work on consolidating principles, as well as a desire for further discussion on the relative merits of binding and non-binding options. These observations were shared by the Group’s Co-Chairs at the conclusion of the week-long session.

The meeting convened at the UN Office in Nairobi, Kenya, from 14-18 January 2019. Delegates considered the report of the UN Secretary-General titled, ‘Gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments: towards a global pact for the environment’ (A/73/419), which was prepared as an input to the talks. The OEWG is seeking more inputs ahead of the second substantive session, which will take place in March 2019, and submissions are requested by 20 February 2019.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary of the meeting notes that the session provided delegations the opportunity to examine the state of the art in international environmental law and environment-related instruments. At the conclusion of the meeting, Co-Chair Francisco António Duarte Lopes, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the UN, delivered an oral summary of the session on behalf of the Co-Chairs, noting that, inter alia:

  • The Group’s work should not undermine existing instruments, bodies, and processes;
  • On the issue of fragmentation in the international environmental law regime, some gaps can be intentional and a reflection of compromise among states parties, while for others fragmentation is regarded as problematic when it reflects a lack of legal clarity;
  • On principles, several delegations expressed concern about re-opening existing principles and regression, while others took the view that there is an opportunity to update existing principles and include principles that have emerged over the past decade; and
  • On implementation and effectiveness, there was a broad understanding that national implementation is first the responsibility of states, and a view that many face challenges, taking account of national circumstances and the need to support means of implementation in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development (FfD).

Read original release here.