ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND SUSTAINABILITY AFTER RIO by Jamie Benidickson, Ben Boer, Antonio Herman Benjamin and Karen Morrow

Review by David Wirth, Boston College

An accessible collection of essays from around the world, offering insights into legal and political issues surrounding environmental law and sustainability.

Environmental Law and Sustainability After Rio, by Jamie Benidickson, Ben Boer, Antoni Herman Benjamin and Karen Morrow, Eds., Edward Elgar, 413pp

At first glance, the copyright date of 2011—immediately before the Rio+20 conference—seems strange for a collection of 21 essays ostensibly devoted to developments in domestic and international law since the original Earth Summit in 2002. Upon closer examination, however, it appears that the volume memorializes a conference held in 2007, timed to coincide with the 15th anniversary of Rio and midway between the two subsequent international follow-up meetings held at ten-year intervals.

The work segments the larger question of the law of sustainability into five categories: principles and concepts; environmental rights and access to justice; natural resources; nature conservation; and energy and climate change. Even within those themes, the individual contributions are largely free-standing and independent from one another. The tone is largely academic, with the individual pieces thoroughly documented with references. Although the work examines these and other issues through a legal lens, the treatment ought to be accessible to generalists, and appropriately synthesizes both law and policy.  The subject matter ranges from the theoretical to the practical, such as Karen Morrow’s analysis of public participation in British court proceedings.

While some readers might be interested in reading the entire collection cover to cover, the appeal of the book is more likely to be the unusual and innovative insights offered by particular papers in the collection. Joseph Dellapenna and Flavia Loures, for example, trenchantly critique the International Law Commission’s draft articles on transboundary aquifers. Other unusual subject matter is addressed by Robert Kibugi’s examination of access to environmental justice in Kenya, Arlindo Daibert’s treatment of damages in civil environmental cases in Brazil, Willemien du Plessis’s assessment of cross-border natural gas pipelines in southern Africa, Emmanuel Kasimbazi’s evaluation of climate policy in Uganda, and Marcelo Nogueira Camargos and Solange Teles da Silva’s scrutiny of sustainable management of mangrove swamps in Brazil.

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