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The Environment in Court

Environmental protection in national and international courts, tribunals, and compliance mechanisms

Call for Abstracts

PluriCourts, Center of Excellence for the Study of the Legitimacy of International Courts and Tribunals at the University of Oslo, will host the 14th Annual Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, 20-25 June 2016.

We are currently inviting abstract submissions for presentations at the 2016 Oslo Colloquium by 15 January 2016.

The theme of the Colloquium is “The Environment in Court - Environmental protection in national and international courts, tribunals, and compliance mechanisms”. This broad topic seeks to address procedural and substantive aspects of environmental adjudication, both in national, regional and international courts, tribunals as well as non-compliance mechanisms of multilateral environmental treaties. In the context of the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs), Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration as well as the Aarhus Convention, the idea of strengthening of an environmental rule of law through access to justice has gathered considerable momentum

The main questions to be explored by this colloquium relate to what the role is, should be and could be for the judiciary in promoting environmentally sustainable development? What progresses and advances have been made in protecting the environment through courts and which obstacles exist to enhancing effective environmental adjudication? The colloquium attempts to address these issues along various, crossing “axes”: national and international adjudication, procedural and substantive legal issues, comparisons of different legal systems, and the relationships between policy and law, input and outcome, lex lata and lex ferenda, law and ethics, effectiveness and equity.

This Colloquium takes litigation of environmental disputes (and disputes with environmental aspects) before courts as a starting point for discussions. Its ultimate goal is to deliberate the effectiveness and legitimacy of existing national and international adjudication as well as to discuss further feasible and effective avenues for dealing with environmental disputes.

Abstracts are invited to focus on the Colloquium theme and to address one of the following seven subject clusters (the topics are indicating particular interest areas, but are not exhaustive):

1. General questions of legitimacy

  • Contribution of courts to the development and implementation of environmental law
  • Role of international environmental law in international and national courts
  • Feasibility of an environmental rule of law in light of SDG 16 
  • Need for more/less judicialization in the environmental field
  • Legitimacy and effectiveness of non-compliance mechanisms in MEAs

2. Procedural and formal issues

  • Should environmental courts be part of an administrative, civil or criminal court system?
  • Which procedural and/or substantive issues work in favour of environmental cases – and which hamper courts’ effectiveness in dealing with such cases?
  • Do judges have sufficient competence with regard to the nature (e.g. complexity, uncertainty) of environmental law cases?
  • Public interest environmental litigation in national and/or international courts

3. Comparisons

3.1. Between different legal systems:

  • Could a significant difference be drawn between courts in developed and developing countries dealing with environmental disputes?
  • Which lessons can be learned from different parts of the world?

3.2. Between national and international law:

  • Could domestic remedies be taken as a model for international adjudication?  
  • Can domestic courts “learn” from international courts? What is the influence of international courts with regard to national environmental laws?

3.3. Between different international courts/tribunals:

  • What can be learned from other bodies of law for which specialized adjudicatory bodies have been created?

4. Cross-cutting topic areas

  • The legitimate role(s) of human rights courts in environmental disputes
  • Protection of the environment and the (overdrawn) risk of fragmentation
  • Business and the environment in Court: corporate freedoms, enhanced State control of private actors, free trade interests and environmental protection
  • Trade, biosecurity and exhaustible natural resources in Court
  • Oceans and the environment in Court: adjudicatory regulation of fisheries and underwater mineral and biogenetic resources

 5. Protection of a “Wider” Environment

  • Natural and anthropogenic disasters in Court: protection and recovery of the environment, including the atmosphere & climate change
  • Culture and environment in Court: including indigenous cultures, mixed cultures and the cultures of law
  • Peace and the environment in Court
  • Environment and development in Court
  • Environmental adjudication between law and policy and ethics

6. Lessons learned

  • Lessons learned from environmental litigation in domestic legal systems
  • The role and effectiveness of non-compliance mechanisms in MEAs

7. How to move ahead?

  • The feasibility, possible added-value or backslashes of an international environmental court
  • Suggestions for increasing the effectiveness of environmental adjudication

Instructions for the Submission of Abstracts

  • Abstracts and papers must be written in English, complete with title, author(s)’s name(s), and institutional affiliation.
  • Abstracts should contain the aim of the paper, main points and a brief conclusion (400 words, maximum).
  • Please include 3-5 keywords, separated by commas.
  • Abstracts should not contain tables, graphs, drawings, etc.


  • Abstract should be submitted by 15 January 2016 online at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Abstracts will be reviewed on a rolling basis, as received, with a final decision to be provided by 15 March 2016.
  • After acceptance of the abstract, Colloquium presenters are encouraged to submit papers by 30 April 2016.
  • The Academy will publish an edited and peer-reviewed collection of selected papers following the colloquium.

Contact: Professor Dr. Christina Voigt, University of Oslo, PluriCourts coordinator, environmental law (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Scholarship Awards for Senior and Emerging scholars recognize publications including academic books (edited or authored), journal articles and book chapters, as well as commissioned policy reports and studies of research value in any language. Consideration may also be given to other scholarly activities, such as organizing academic conferences and workshops, building collaborative research networks, and other innovations that advance research in environmental law.

Judge Christopher Weeramantry, former Vice President of the International Court of Justice, closed the 13th Annual Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law with reflections on the importance of deeply-held environmental values as the foundations of sustainability. Expressing profound personal concern about nuclear impacts, he further encouraged younger scholars and the next generation of students to continue to promote the foundations of environmental law. Judge Weeramantry’s remarks were among many challenging and inspiring presentations at the Atma Jaya University conference on Forest and Marine Biodiversity held in Jakarta, September 7-12.

The proceedings began with a symposium on “Forest Values in the Global Economy,” with presentations and discussions oriented around the recently a recently-published volume on International Environmental Law and the Global South (Cambridge UP, 2015). The authors - Shawkat Alam, Sumudu Atapattu, Carmen Gonzalez and Jona Razzaque, shared their observations and analysis with a significant gathering of scholars and researchers from IUCN Academy member institutions.

In a plenary session of the IUCN Academy’s 13th annual colloquium, Eva Duer of UNEP’s Division of Environmental Law and Conventions, introduced the overall InforMEA (Multilateral Environmental Agreement) program to conference participants and highlighted InforMEA’s E-Learning Platform

InforMEA is the first project established by the MEA Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) Initiative, which is facilitated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Initiative brings together MEAs to develop harmonized and inter-operable information systems for the benefit of Parties and the environment community at large. InforMEA displays COP decisions and resolutions, news, events, MEA membership, national focal points, national reports and implementation plans. It organizes the world’s environmental law for those who need it to steer and implement global environmental policy.

The Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations were presented and discussed in pre-Colloquium proceedings of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law at Atma Jaya Catholic University, Jakarta. On behalf of the Expert Group on Global Climate Obligations, Prof. Jaap Spier, rapporteur, set out the key findings. 

The Oslo Principles were originally announced in March of this year. They both define the scope of states’ legal obligations to protect the environment and outline a means of meeting these obligations. They put emphasis on prevention (that is, the reduction of Green House Gas emissions).

The complete text of the Oslo Principles and the detailed commentary identifying their underlying sources of law can be found at or They are published by Eleven Publishing:

The editors would like to invite contributions for inclusion in the seventh issue of the IUCNAEL eJournal, which will be published in June 2016.

The Journal in an open access, free to publish, peer reviewed journal. It accepts four different forms of contributions:

  1. Substantive articles. These articles should add to knowledge and understanding at the global level. They may be on any aspect of domestic or international law, but should be of interest to and accessible to an international audience. Maximum length: 8000 words. Substantive articles are subject to a double blind peer review process before acceptance.
  2. Country reports. These reports should canvas recent interesting legal and policy developments in members’ jurisdictions – preferably developments that have taken place in the past 6-12 months. Maximum length: 3000 words.
  3. Short Notes/Insight Pieces. Short punchy notes/opinion pieces on preferably controversial topics, the purpose of which is to invoke debate. Maximum length: 1000 words.
  4. Book Reviews. Book reviews should critically consider texts in the field of environmental law that have been published in the past 6-12 months. Maximum length: 1000 words.

The full details regarding the length and nature of these contributions are available on the eJournal’s website ( So too are issues 1 to 6 of the eJournal which should give all a good idea of the nature and form of the different contributions.

We look forward to receiving your contributions and should you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Please note that the due datefor substantive articles is 1 November 2015

The due date for all other forms of submission is 1 December 2015.

Elizabeth Kirk (University of Dundee) & Micha Lau (University of Cape Town)

Co-Editors in Chief