Big Data Enters Environmental Law
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 October 2019
Big Data is now permeating environmental law and affecting its evolution. Data-driven innovation is highlighted as a means for major organizations to address social and global challenges. We present various contributions of Big Data technologies and show how they transform our knowledge and understanding of domains regulated by environmental law – environmental changes, socio-ecological systems, sustainable development issues – and of environmental law itself as a complex system. In particular, the mining of massive data sets makes it possible to undertake concrete actions dedicated to the elaboration, production, implementation, follow-up, and adaptation of the environmental targets defined at various levels of decision making (from the international to the subnational level).
This development calls into question the traditional approach to legal epistemology and ethics, as implementation and enforcement of rules take on new forms, such as regulation through smart environmental targets and securing legal compliance through the design of technological artefacts. The entry of Big Data therefore requires the development of a new and specific epistemology of environmental law.
- Symposium Article
- Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019
This contribution is part of a collection of articles growing out of the conference ‘Global Environmental Law’, held at the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance (SCELG), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow (United Kingdom (UK)), 4–5 Sept. 2017.
We thank Elisa Morgera and Francesco Sindico for the invitation to join the conference ‘Global Environmental Law’, and for the invitation to participate in this Symposium Collection. We are grateful to the two TEL referees for their valuable suggestions, which greatly improved this paper.
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99 When it comes to the implementation of generic international norms into national law, the environmental or ecological context should be taken into account. For instance, in the case of Good Environmental Status in the European Union (EU), ‘descriptors’ are detailed to help Member States in implementing a Directive, as in the case of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive adopted on 17 June 2008 (Directive 2008/56/EC establishing a Framework for Community Action in the Field of Marine Environmental Policy,  OJ L 164/19). The European Commission has also produced a set of detailed criteria and methodological standards to help Member States, which have been modified by Commission Decision (EU) 2017/848 of 17 May 2017,  OJ L 125/43. Interestingly, preambular para. 20 of the Decision states: ‘Criteria, including threshold values, methodological standards, specifications and standardised methods for monitoring and assessment should be based on the best available science. However, additional scientific and technical progress is still required to support the further development of some of them, and should be used as the knowledge and understanding become available’. The European Commission translates the generic character of the norm into criteria which help to instantiate the norm at the national level according to the specific socio-ecological context.
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110 Preliminary Draft Opinion dated 14 May 2008 of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on ‘The Proactive Law Approach: A Further Step towards Better Regulation at EU Level’, EESC INT/415.
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