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Environmental Law & The Ecosystem Approach (completed)

Thesis by Froukje Maria Platjouw, submitted in the summer 2014. The disputation was 17 April 2015.

Froukje Maria Platjouw. Foto: UiO.

The Ecosystem Approach

The ecosystem approach, which requires a holistic and integrated approach towards an ecosystem, has been endorsed in many legal acts. At the international level, the European level and the national level, the ecosystem approach is considered an important strategy to protect our ecosystems. The aim of this thesis is to examine the relationship between the architecture and nature of environmental law and the realization of the ecosystem approach.

The term ‘environmental law’ in this thesis is used in its broadest understanding, meaning not only the legal acts that have the protection of the environment as their main goal, but all the legal acts that can have an effect on the environment. In the case of an ecosystem, various legal acts may be applicable at the same time or may have an effect on the ecosystem.

Due to the fragmentation of environmental law, different acts may be aimed at the protection of different elements of the ecosystem, such as the water and the species; or they aim to regulate different activities within that ecosystem, such as shipping, building, aquaculture, and fishing; or they may have an unintended effect on the ecosystem such as the adverse effects from industry, trade and transport.

The Fragmentation of Environmental law and Governance

In this fragmented environmental law, it could be difficult or challenging to realize an ecosystem approach. This is perhaps complicated by the fact that these different legal acts are implemented under different administrative sectors with different interests, tools and traditions, and by the fact that the legal acts entail a degree of discretion or flexibility for administrative bodies.

The Weighing and Balancing of Diverging Values

Often when decisions are made that also affect the ecosystem, some form of weighing and balancing of diverging values is required. The ecosystem needs to be valued, and this value needs to be balanced against the other interests or values that are at stake in the particular case.

Both the valuation exercise and the balancing exercise are difficult. This is due to the fact that the values on both sides of the balance may be very diverging and of different nature, and therefore difficult to compare in essence. The value judgment, that comprises both the valuation exercise and the balancing exercise, plays an important role in the realization of the ecosystem approach.

Consistency and Coherence in Environmental Law

The ecosystem approach requires a degree of consistency or coherence in the regulation of value judgments by law and the carrying out of such judgments by administrative bodies. This research aims to explore how value judgments are regulated in environmental law, the degree of (in)consistency between the various legal acts towards value judgments, and how this affects the realization of the ecosystem approach.

The hypothesis of the thesis is that inconsistency in environmental law allows for diverging value judgments on (parts of) the same ecosystem and that this hinders the realization of an ecosystem approach.

Tags: environmental law
Published May 26, 2015 11:55 AM - Last modified Mar. 17, 2016 9:05 AM