More about international environmental law

Currently there are no international courts dedicated solely to environmental disputes. Environmental cases are instead dealt with by courts. The question is how effective and legitimate these international courts are in dealing with cases concerning environmental law.

Professor Christina Voigt

This part of Pluricourt´s portfolio relates to an area of international law which is based on collective, public concepts of justice and fairness in the advancement of environmental protection as a public good. It focuses on environmental global commons, common interests and concerns with respect to the environment, such as environmental public goods and common pool resources. The broader scope is meant to capture the large and conceptually overlapping variety of environmental aspects which are of international interest and require multilateral action.

The need for multilateral action can arise for various reasons. It can stem from the need to exclude free-riders from access to a public good (i.e. goods that are non-excludable and non-rival) or from ensuring non-exhaustion of common pool resources. They can also arise from a collective action problem, i.e. a problem the solution of which requires the collaborative effort of states and eventually benefits those states (“effort sharing”), or a problem which is caused by accumulated actions or omissions and addressing is requires a a differentiated set of responses (“burden sharing”), or a challenge linked to generating equal (or preferential) access to and accruing benefits from the use of environmental resource of global interest (“benefit sharing”) – or a combination of those.

Given the intricate relationship between preserving the sovereign space while adressing issues of common importance and concern, multilateral solutions contained in international treaties, are often not the quickest or most effective in bringing about normative and behavioral change or the compliance needed to address the underlying challenge. Where the treaty law is lacking, not sufficient, not clear or not obeyed, is where international courts and tribunals come in and can play important, yet distinctly different roles.

This project aims at analysing the role of International Courts and Tribunals (ICTs) in addressing such global public goods – in relation to the treaty in question and the court or tribunal chosen. Can ICTs fill the gaps left by international treaty making? Are they the last resort for protecting environmental global public goods in the absence of decisive state action? What is the comparative advantage of ICTs in this context; which substantive and procedural challenges arise and which shortcomings can be observed and why?

Dr. Christina Voigt is professor of law at the University of Oslo, Department of Public and International Law, and coordinates the research on international courts and tribunals concerning global public goods (with a special focus on the environment).


Published Sep. 11, 2013 12:50 PM - Last modified Dec. 5, 2017 9:10 AM