Category Archives: Environmental Economics

The Power of Rights: Imposing Human Rights Duties on Transnational Corporations for Environmental Harms (A. Sinden)

Author

Amy Sinden

Keywords

Human Rights, Environmental Wrongs, Transnational Corporations, Civil and Political Rights, Public/Private Divide

Abstract

This essay attempts to construct a normative justification for the imposition of human rights duties on transnational corporations (TNCs) that commit environmental wrongs in the developing world. Under the now near-hegemonic worldview of welfare economics, TNCs are analogised to individuals competing in the marketplace and thus placed squarely on the private side of the public/private divide. If we step outside of the economic worldview, however, and recognise the extent to which the normative justifications for civil and political human rights have traditionally been rooted in a perceived need to counteract the imbalance of power between the individual and the state, it becomes clear that it is frequently far more appropriate to treat TNCs as like states than like individuals. Many TNCs, after all, wield more power and resources than many states. Accordingly, at least where one of two sets of factual circumstances exist, human rights duties should be imposed directly on TNCs for environmental harms: 1) where the state has become so weak and/or corrupt as to be non-functional, or 2) where the TNC has so much power and influence within the domestic government that it essentially controls state decision-making.

Citation

(2007) in The New Corporate Accountability, D. McBarnet et al. (Eds.)

Paper

The Power of Rights: Imposing Human Rights Duties on Transnational Corporations for Environmental Harms

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Climate Change and Human Rights (A. Sinden)

Author

Amy Sinden

Keywords

Human Rights, Climate Change, Politics

Abstract

Global warming may well be the most profound moral issue ever to face the human species. Profound moral issues demand a profound response from law, and as we enter the twenty-first century, human rights is (at least at a rhetorical level) the law’s best response to profound, unthinkable, far-reaching moral transgression. More fundamentally, it is the law’s strongest condemnation of the exploitation of the weak by the powerful. As such, it was the law’s response to the moral crises of the twentieth century, and I want to suggest that it may be an appropriate legal response to the moral crisis of the twenty-first century as well. Human rights function to counteract power imbalances in society. By acting as trumps human rights effectively put a thumb on the scale in favor of the weaker party in order to correct for the distorting effects of power. Because the economic model has become the dominant lens through which we view the world, climate change is often analyzed as a market failure brought on by the tragedy of the commons. But market failure is only part of the problem. There is a far more fundamental and intractable problem standing in the way of meaningful action to stem global warming. That is the political failure brought on by the enormous disparity in power and resources between those interests that stand to gain from climate change regulation and those that – at least in the short run – stand to lose. Thinking of climate change as a human rights issue can help us see that it is not just a matter of aggregate costs and benefits, but of winners and losers – of the powerful few preventing the political system from acting to protect the powerless many.

Citation

(2007) 27 Journal of Land Resources and Environmental Law 255

Paper

Climate Change and Human Rights

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Which direction for international environmental law? (Anderson)

Author

Paul Anderson

Keywords

Sustainability, governance, neoclassical economics, distributive justice, democracy, commons

Abstract

An enduring challenge to international environmental law is to facilitate the resolution of environmental problems faster than they are being caused. Prominent among potential foundations for substantive international environmental law to this end are (a) neoclassical economic theory (NET) and (b) distributive justice and deliberative democratic theories. Building upon existing critique, this paper makes two broad arguments. The first is that despite the influence of NET’s market-based prescriptions, solutions lie not in introducing and extending the privatization and pricing of nature, but instead in subsuming markets within an expanded and enriched public sphere that is characterized inter alia by decentralized, deliberative democratic decision-making. This contention suggests a need to reform substantive environmental law that is informed by NET. The second argument made is that limitations, in particular, of the deliberative democratic approach to environmental problems (e.g., prospects of achieving consensus on natural resource use and the efficacy of any consensus that might be reached) may be overcome by combining it with common key resource control – to put it crudely, by combining meaningful political with economic democracy. This revised foundation would offer a potentially viable foundation for IEL. It also offers guidance for incipient efforts to democratize environmental regulation.

Citation

(2105) 1 Journal of Human Rights and the Environment 98-126

Publication

Which direction for international environmental law?

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Payment for ‘ecosystem services’ and the ‘green economy’: green-washing or something new? (K. Wilkinson)

Author

Kate Wilkinson

Keywords

ecofeminism, green economy, payment for ecosystem services, ecosystems, environment, capitalism, free market, economics, REDDES, REDD+, UNFCCC, ITTO, forests, natural resources, gender, participation

Abstract

Using an ecofeminist critical analysis, this paper examines the extent to which two forest-related ‘payments for ecosystem services’ (PES) schemes maintain a mainstream anti-nature and exploitative conceptualization of human/nature relationships. It does so by integrating various ecofeminist themes to analyse the two PES schemes and to assess the extent to which they can protect women and nature while marketizing and commodifying the environment. The author examines the justifications for integrating PES into a green economy, including the proposed benefits resulting from the implementation of PES, and safeguards ensuring the inclusion and participation of local communities. The author concludes that an ecofeminist examination highlights the inherently exploitative nature of PES and its continuation of the currently exploitative free market paradigm.

Citation

(2014) 5/2 Journal of Human Rights and the Environment 168-191

Paper

Payment for ‘ecosystem services’ and the ‘green economy’: green-washing or something new?

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The ‘Economics of Necessity’, Human Rights and Ireland’s Natural Resources (J. F. Curtis)

Author

Joshua Frank  Curtis

Keywords

international law, human rights, natural resources, foreign direct investment, economic necessity

Abstract

This paper proceeds from the premise that international human rights law provides both an important counterpoint to mainstream economic theory and a paradigmatic context that can enlighten the proper place of foreign direct investment (FDI) in national development. The people’s rights to self-determination and permanent sovereignty over their natural resources can ground a response to the prevailing economic wisdom, emphasising the duties thereby assumed by states in achieving a balance between attracting FDI and ensuring an actual benefit to the people from that investment.

Following the latest global financial crisis, an international bail-out loan for Ireland strictly conditioned drastic austerity measures and the continuation of an ‘investment friendly’ tax and regulatory environment. This neo-liberal formula is being sold from all quarters as the ‘economics of necessity’. Ireland’s current oil and gas licensing regime provides the discursive terrain for an application of a human rights response to this supposed necessity. The analysis concludes that the terms of the current regime, the intransigence of the government regarding change, and the lack of opportunities for public participation combine such that the situation may be viewed as a prima facie violation of the people’s rights to self-determination and their sovereignty over, and use of, natural resources.

Citation

J. F. Curtis, The ‘Economics of Necessity’, Human Rights and Ireland’s Natural Resources (2014) Volume 7, Irish Yearbook of International Law, Hart Publishing, Oxford (May 2014, Forthcoming)

Paper

The ‘Economics of Necessity’, Human Rights and Ireland’s Natural Resources

 

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