Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 October 2016
Differential treatment in international environmental law is the broader manifestation of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDRs). It reflects equity concerns that have underlain most environmental debates on a North-South basis for several decades. Over the past two decades, various forms of differentiation have been introduced in environmental law instruments to the point where it has become an essential element of any international environmental agreement. At the same time, differential treatment has been the object of sustained criticism, arguing that it should be temporary, that it fails to target beneficiaries appropriately, and undermines environmental outcomes. This article takes the opposite view and argues that differentiation remains crucial in a world where widespread inequalities remain. Beneficiaries need to be identified on the basis of environmental and social indicators and differentiation should constitute the basis on which environmental measures are adopted. Worsening environmental conditions and an evolving global context call for adding new elements to the existing framework for differentiation. This requires thinking beyond the current structure centred around nation states and conceptualizing differentiation around common heritage equity. It also requires expanding differentiation beyond the field of environmental law, to include all areas of sustainable development law. Further, differential treatment needs to be implemented in a way that benefits the most disadvantaged in every country. These measures are necessary to foster a vibrant international environmental law which addresses the equity needs of all states in years to come.
1 The conceptual framework for differential treatment is articulated in detail in Cullet, P., Differential Treatment in International Environmental Law (Ashgate, 2003)Google Scholar.
2 UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 70/1, ‘Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, UN Doc. A/RES/70/1, 21 Oct. 2015, Declaration, para. 12, available at: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E.
3 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, ‘Our Common Future’, UN Doc. A/42/427 (1987), available at: http://www.un-documents.net/wced-ocf.htm.
6 Gallagher, A., ‘The “New” Montreal Protocol and the Future of International Law for the Protection of the Global Environment’ (1992) 14(2) Houston Journal of International Law, pp. 267–364 Google Scholar, at 311.
7 Magraw, D.B., ‘Legal Treatment of Developing Countries: Differential, Contextual and Absolute Norms’ (1990) 1 Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law & Policy, pp. 69–100 Google Scholar.
10 Continental Shelf (Tunisia/Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), Judgment, ICJ Reports 1982, p. 18, at para. 71.
11 Maritime Delimitation in the Area between Greenland and Jan Mayen, Judgment, ICJ Reports 1993, p. 38, at para. 80.
12 Decaux, E., La réciprocité en droit international (Librairie générale de droit et de jurisprudence, 1980)Google Scholar.
13 Concerning corrective justice, see Posner, E.A. & Sunstein, C.R., ‘Climate Change Justice’ (2007–08) 96(5) Georgetown Law Journal, pp. 1565–1612 Google Scholar.
15 Fukuyama, F., The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution (Profile Books, 2012)Google Scholar.
17 Aristotle, , The Nicomachean Ethics (translated by D. Ross, revised by J.L Ackrill & J.O. Urmson, Oxford University Press, 1991)Google Scholar.
18 South West Africa, Second Phase, Judgment – Dissenting Opinion of Judge Tanaka, ICJ Reports 1966, p. 6, at 306.
25 Makarczyk, J., Principles of a New International Economic Order (Martinus Nijhoff, 1988)Google Scholar.
26 UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm (Sweden), 16 June 1972, UN Doc. A/CONF.48/14/Rev.1, Principles 2, 9, 20, available at: http://www.unep.org/Documents/Default.asp?documentID=97&ArticleID=1503.
27 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 14 June 1992, UN Doc. A/CONF.151/26/Rev. 1 (Vol. I), Annex II (1992), Principles 2, 6, 7, available at: http://www.un.org/documents/ga/conf151/aconf15126-1annex1.htm.
28 Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), 3–14 June 1992, UN Doc. A/CONF.151/26 (Vol. IV) (1992), available at: http://www.un.org/documents/ga/conf151/aconf15126-4.htm.
29 Arbour, J.-M., ‘La normativité du principe des responsabilités communes mais différenciées’ (2014) 55(1) Cahiers de Droit, pp. 33–81 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 37, Deleuil, T., ‘The Common but Differentiated Responsibilities Principle: Changes in Continuity after the Durban Conference of the Parties’ (2012) 21(3) Review of European Community & International Environmental Law, pp. 271–281 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Stone, n. 22 above, p. 299.
32 Kumamoto (Japan), 10 Oct. 2013, not yet in force, available at: http://www.mercuryconvention.org.
33 UNGA Resolution 70/1, n. 2 above, Declaration, para. 12.
34 United States – Import Prohibition of Certain Shrimp and Shrimp Products: Recourse to Article 21.5 by Malaysia, Report of the Panel, WTO Doc. WT/DS58/RW, 15 June 2001, para. 7.2, available at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/58rw_e.pdf.
35 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), 5 June 1992, in force 29 Dec. 1993, Art. 6, available at: http://www.cbd.int.
36 Cf. Handl, G., ‘Environmental Security and Global Change: The Challenge to International Law’ (1990) 1 Yearbook of International Environmental Law, pp. 3–33 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 9, asserting that ‘asymmetrical normative standards that bear on the essence of the regulatory regime, unlike incentives, are generally undesirable’.
37 Kyoto (Japan), 11 Dec. 1997, in force 16 Feb. 2005, Art. 3, available at: http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php.
39 Ibid., Art. 3(d).
40 Ibid., Art. 6.
41 Ibid., Art. 7.
42 N. 35 above.
43 Honkonen, T., The Common but Differentiated Responsibility Principle in Multilateral Environmental Agreements: Regulatory and Policy Aspects (Kluwer Law International, 2009), p. 271 Google Scholar.
44 Stockholm POPs Convention, n. 31 above, Art. 4(7).
45 Montreal, QC (Canada), 16 Sept. 1987, in force 1 Jan. 1989, available at: http://ozone.unep.org/new_site/en/montreal_protocol.php.
46 Ibid., Art. 5.
48 ‘Procedures and Mechanisms relating to Compliance under the Kyoto Protocol’, Report of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, First Session, Montreal, QC (Canada), 28 Nov. to 10 Dec. 2005, UN Doc. FCCC/KP/CMP/2005/8/Add.3, s. 4(4), available at: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2005/cmp1/eng/08a03.pdf.
49 The latest draft can be found in Decision SC-7/26, ‘Procedures and Mechanisms on Compliance with the Stockholm Convention’, Report of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants on the Work of its Seventh Meeting, UN Doc. UNEP/POPS/COP.7/36 (2015), available at: http://chm.pops.int/Portals/0/download.aspx?d=UNEP-POPS-COP.7-SC-7-26.English.pdf. See also Heyvaert, V., ‘Levelling Down, Levelling Up, and Governing Across: Three Responses to Hybridization in International Law’ (2009) 20(3) European Journal of International Law, pp. 647–74, at 658–659 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
51 E.g., CBD, n. 35 above, Art. 20; Minamata Convention on Mercury, n. 32 above, Art. 14.
52 Honkonen, T., ‘The Development of the Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and its Place in International Environmental Regimes’, in T. Kuokkanen et al. (eds), International Environmental Law-making and Diplomacy: Insights and Overviews (Routledge, 2016), pp. 160–183 Google Scholar, at 161.
53 E.g., CBD, n. 35 above, Art. 20(4); Stockholm POPs Convention, n. 31 above, Art. 13(4).
54 UNGA Resolution 3201 (S-VI), ‘Declaration of the Establishment of a New International Economic Order’, UN Doc A/RES/S-6/3201, 1 May 1974.
55 Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, ‘Contribution of Intellectual Property to Facilitating the Transfer of Environmentally Rational Technology’, Communication from Ecuador, Doc. IP/C/W/585 (2013).
56 Cf. Bartenstein, K., ‘L’opérationnalisation du principe des responsabilités communes mais différenciées repensée: plaidoyer pour une démarche ancrée dans l’équité’ (2014) 55(1) Cahiers de Droit, pp. 113–137 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 127, arguing that the end of differentiation would mean the end of international environmental law as we know it today.
57 Cf. McDonald, R.St.J., ‘The Principle of Solidarity in Public International Law’, in Christian Dominicé et al. (eds), Etudes de droit international en l’honneur de Pierre Lalive (Helbing, 1993), pp. 275–308 Google Scholar.
58 UNGA Resolution 70/1, n. 2 above.
59 Paris Agreement, Paris (France), 13 Dec. 2015, not yet in force (in UNFCCC Secretariat, Report of the Conference of the Parties on its Twenty-First Session, Addendum, UN Doc. FCCC/CP/2015/10/Add.1, 29 Jan. 2016). See also Maljean-Dubois, S., ‘The Paris Agreement: A New Step in the Gradual Evolution of Differential Treatment in the Climate Regime?’ (2016) 25(2) Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law, pp. 151–160 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
62 N. 32 above.
63 UNGA Resolution 66/288, ‘The Future We Want’, UN Doc. A/RES/66/288, 11 Sept, 2012, available at: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/66/288&Lang=E.
64 UNGA Resolution 70/1, n. 2 above.
65 Cf. Bouthillier, Y. Le, ‘Des constats et des questions sur le principe des responsabilités communes mais différenciées’ (2014) 55(1) Cahiers de Droit, pp. 315–324 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 318, opining that even if CBDR becomes diluted in the climate change context, it has already emerged in different ways in other treaty regimes.
68 ‘The BRICs: The Trillion-Dollar Club’, The Economist, 15 Apr. 2010, available at http://www.economist.com/node/15912964.
69 World Bank, ‘World Development Indicators 2015’, Table 4.2 – Structure of Output.
70 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Human Development Report 2015: Work for Human Development, (UNDP, 2015)Google Scholar.
72 UNGA Resolution 70/1, n. 2 above, Declaration, para. 3.
73 Michalopoulos, C., Role of Special and Differential Treatment for Developing Countries in GATT and the World Trade Organization (The World Bank, 2000)Google Scholar.
74 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, Marrakesh (Morocco), 15 Apr. 1994, in force 1 Jan. 1995, available at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/t_agm0_e.htm.
75 Ibid., Arts 65 and 66.
76 Council for TRIPS, ‘Extension of the Transition Period under Article 66.1 for Least Developed Country Members’, Decision of the Council for TRIPS of 29 Nov. 2005, WTO Doc. IP/C/40, 30 Nov. 2005, available at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/ta_docs_e/7_1_ipc40_e.pdf; and Council for TRIPS, ‘Extension of the Transition Period under Article 66.1 for Least Developed Country Members’, Decision of the Council for TRIPS of 11 June 2013, WTO Doc. IP/C/64, 12 June 2013, available at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/ta_docs_e/7_1_ipc64_e.pdf.
77 Cf. de Carvalho, N.P., The TRIPS Regime of Patent Rights (Kluwer Law International, 2002)Google Scholar, arguing that higher standards of protection for patents are a trade-off which ensures that developing countries are entitled to lower tariffs on their exports to developed country markets.
80 Paris Agreement, n. 59 above, Art. 4(2).
81 Cf. Bodansky, D., ‘The Paris Climate Change Agreement: A New Hope?’ (forthcoming 2016) 110 American Journal of International Law Google Scholar; and Obergassel, W. et al., ‘Phoenix from the Ashes: An Analysis of the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, 1 Mar. 2016, available at: http://wupperinst.org/fa/redaktion/downloads/publications/Paris_Results.pdf Google Scholar.
82 E.g., Cullet, n. 1 above, p. 53.
83 See UNGA Resolution 70/245, ‘Scale of Assessments for the Apportionment of the Expenses of United Nations’, 23 Dec. 2015, UN Doc. A/RES/70/245, 8 Feb. 2016, available at: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/245.
84 Arbour, n. 29 above, p. 68.
85 Strange, A. et al., ‘China’s Development Finance to Africa: A Media-Based Approach to Data Collection’, Center for Global Development, Working Paper 323, 29 Apr. 2013, available at: http://www.cgdev.org/publication/chinas-development-finance-africa-media-based-approach-data-collection Google Scholar.
86 UNDP, n. 70 above, p. 209.
87 Cf. Le Bouthillier, n. 65 above, pp. 317–8.
89 N. 27 above.
90 Montreal Protocol, n. 45 above.
91 Gallagher, n. 6 above, p. 356.
92 Boyle, A., ‘Comments on the Paper by Diana Ponce-Nava’, in W. Lang (ed.), Sustainable Development and International Law (Graham & Trotman, 1995), pp. 137–140 Google Scholar, at 139–40.
93 Matsui, n. 66 above, p. 158.
94 Amnesty International, ‘India: Clouds of Injustice: Bhopal Disaster 20 Years On’, 29 Nov. 2004, p. 42, available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/ASA20/015/2004/en.
95 Niyati, M., ‘Judicial Activism for Environment Protection in India’ (2015) 4(4) International Research Journal of Social Sciences, pp. 7–14 Google Scholar.
96 In the case of Delhi’s air pollution and early intervention by the Supreme Court of India, see Rosencranz, A. & Jackson, M., ‘The Delhi Pollution Case: The Supreme Court of India and the Limits of Judicial Power’ (2003) 28 Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, pp. 223–254 Google Scholar.
97 Maljean-Dubois, n. 59 above, p. 154.
98 Franck, T.M., ‘Fairness in the International Legal and Institutional System’ (1993) 240 Collected Courses of the Hague Academy of International Law, pp. 9–498 Google Scholar, at 92.
100 Stockholm Declaration, n. 26 above, Principle 21; Rio Declaration, n. 27 above, Principle 2.
101 Shackelford, S.J., ‘The Tragedy of the Common Heritage of Mankind’ (2009) 28(1) Stanford Environmental Law Journal, pp. 109–169 Google Scholar, at 116.
102 Pinto, M.C.W., ‘The Common Heritage of Mankind: Then and Now’ (2013) 361 Collected Courses of the Hague Academy of International Law, pp. 9–118 Google Scholar, at 110, noting that ‘[t]o the majority of participants at the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea “common heritage of mankind” came to imply distributive justice, cooperation and preferential treatment for the poor’.
103 Montego Bay (Jamaica), 10 Dec. 1982, in force 16 Nov. 1994, available at: http://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/convention_overview_convention.htm, Art. 1(1) of which defines the Area as ‘the sea bed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction’. The regime for the regulation of activities in the Area is detailed in Part XI of the Convention.
104 Wolfrum, R., ‘Common Heritage of Mankind’, in Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (online version, Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 1–8 Google Scholar.
105 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, Madrid (Spain), 4 Oct. 1991, available at: http://www.ats.aq/documents/recatt/Att006_e.pdf; Franck, n. 98 above, p. 92.
108 Cullet, n. 1 above, p. 8.
109 UNGA Resolution 70/1, n. 2 above.
110 N. 3 above.
111 Sohnle, n. 106 above, p. 223.
112 International Law Commission (ILC), Draft Articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers, Official Records of the General Assembly, 63rd Session, Supplement No. 10 (A/63/10), Art. 3, available at: http://legal.un.org/ilc/documentation/english/reports/a_63_10.pdf.
113 McCaffrey, S.C., The Law of International Watercourses, 2nd edn (Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 402 Google Scholar.
114 ILC, n. 112 above, Preamble and Art. 16.
115 Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Resolution 8/83, ‘Report of the Conference of FAO’, 22nd Session, Rome (Italy), 5–23 Nov. 1983, Doc. C83/REP, available at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/x5563E/X5563e0a.htm#e.%20plant%20genetic%20resources%20(follow%20up%20of%20conference%20resolution%20681.
116 CBD, n. 35 above.
119 Drèze, J. & Sen, A., An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions (Princeton University Press, 2013), p. 45 Google Scholar.
120 Ibid., p. 216, noting that there is ‘much evidence of growing economic inequality in India in recent decades’.
121 UNDP, n. 70 above, p. 212.
122 FAO, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) & World Food Programme (WFP), The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 (FAO, 2015), p. 15.
123 Agarwal, A., ‘A Southern Perspective on Curbing Global Climate Change’, in S.H. Schneider, A. Rosencranz & J.-O. Niles (eds), Climate Change Policy: A Survey (Island Press, 2002), pp. 375–391 Google Scholar, at 387.