> Musings - Tim Stephens

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Yesterday I took delivery of a copy of my book, International Courts and Environmental Protection, which is published by Cambridge University Press. It is great finally to see the work in print.

The book is based on my doctorate and seeks to offer a comprehensive examination of international environmental litigation from the very first cases through to the most recent. At the heart of the book lies the question: what benefits, if any, are brought by litigating environmental disputes on the international plane? The answer I give is a mixed one. Some international courts and tribunals (such as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea) have been at the vanguard of developments, while others (such as the International Court of Justice) have been towards the back of the caravan. Interestingly it is some adjudicative bodies without an environmental specialisation, such as WTO Panels and the Appellate Body, that have been surprisingly 'activist' when it comes to addressing the great global environmental issues of our time.

More details on the book can be found here and the book is available from various sellers, including Amazon.


At a conference here at the Law School last year, I gave a short paper in which I argued that we researchers in environmental law and policy need to reflect critically on the environmental ethics of our teaching and research activities. If we are to advocate greater recognition of environmental sustainability objectives in national and international laws, surely we ought also to consider how we can keep the ecological footprint of our research within the bounds of sustainability.

I suggested that a way of doing this is to expand our ethical frame of reference, to include not only things such as human and animal ethics (which researchers have to address if dealing directly with human and animal subjects) but environmental ethics more generally.

This throws up some difficult questions. For instance, we know how important conferences are to the work of academics but how do we reconcile our commitment to sustainability when we hop on a return flight to a conference in Europe? That will generate around 5.6 tonnes of CO2, spewing out in one go a third of the CO2 an average Australian produces in a year. Do we personally cop the cost of offsetting those emissions? Do we decide not to go, mindful of the limitations of offsetting schemes?

The British PM has recently had to confront a similar dilemma. Mindful of his Government's commitment to carbon neutrality in its operations by 2015, Tony Blair has said that he will offset emissions from flights on his recent holiday in Miami.