Blueprint for Survival: A New International Law Paradigm for Environmental Emergencies

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Fordham Environmental Law Review


Experts predict that the world is going to experience an everincreasing number of major environmental emergencies in which one or more pollutant(s) is/are released, given our societies' increasing use of pollutants in industry and commerce.1 Furthermore, given many States' increasing populations and urbanization, such events are likely to harm an ever-increasing number of people and environments exposed to these pollutants.2 Moreover, in our increasingly

interconnected world, such events are likely to expose an everincreasing number of nationals and environments in other States to such pollutants. At present, the international community does not have a workable system that would permit the States that are threatened with widespread harm emanating from an environmental disaster in another State to protect their own nationals and environments.' This article proposes the adoption of a new treaty that would provide such a workable system. Throughout this article, a disaster that other States and the international community in general should be permitted to assist remediate is referred to as a "major international environmental emergency" or a "MIEE." A State that is the site of such an emergency is referred to as a "locus State," and any other State which is threatened with major environmental harm from such an emergency is referred to as a "target State." Section I of this article discusses four recent environmental disasters and their common features. Section II discusses the current international legal regime applicable to such disasters. Section III sets forth the basic parameters of a new treaty that the international community could adopt regarding the investigation and remediation of MIEEs. This article takes a cosmopolitan or human rights perspective, as opposed to a communitarian perspective. However, it should make sense to every State and person on the planet that the international community needs to adopt a blueprint for how to survive future MIEEs.

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Publication Date

Fall 2017