World's First Academy of Environmental Law Opens

SHANGHAI, China, November 4, 2003 (ENS) – The field of law concerning energy for sustainable development is the focus of the world's first Academy of Environmental Law launched today by IUCN–The World Conservation Union. The inaugural colloquium of this new global network of university law departments is being hosted from November 4 to 6 by China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law is the result of eight years of work by the IUCN and its Commission on Environmental Law, made up of 900 legal experts from over 130 countries. The Academy intends to convene annual colloquia in different parts of the world, and promote research on cutting edge environmental issues.

To date, 45 universities from 45 countries have supported the initiative. This global network will function as a forum for academic institutions to achieve higher standards in environmental legal education and research in all fields of environmental law. Annan

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan (Photo courtesy UN)
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sent a message of congratulation to the Academy of Environmental Law at its opening session. "Environmental law, both national and international, establishes the principles and rules that states have adopted in order to protect the precious ecosystems and resources upon which all life and progress depend," Annan said.

"The United Nations looks forward to the teaching and research that the Academy will now undertake," said the secretary general. "And we welcome the academic contributions that law professors worldwide will make towards our common goal of sustainable development on our one and only planet."

The Academy of Environmental Law builds on the initiative taken by a meeting of international jurists at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, who urged that laws safeguarding the environment and their enforcement be strengthened.

At the summit, the world's governments adopted the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation which says all countries should promote sustainable development at the national level by enacting and enforcing clear and effective laws that support sustainable development.

"All countries should strengthen governmental institutions, including by providing necessary infrastructure and by promoting transparency, accountability and fair administrative and judicial institutions," the Johannesburg Plan declares.

Ten years before, at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, some 150 governments agreed Agenda 21, a road map for environment and development in the 21st century, which also recommended strengthening the law in these areas.


Professor Nicholas Robinson chairs the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law. (Photo courtesy IUCN)
“IUCN is privileged to convene the world’s foremost academics in environmental law under this new endeavor, which implements recommendations made in Agenda 21 and strengthens one of the pillars of sustainable development,” Professor Nicholas Robinson, chairman of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law said today.

Close to 100 international experts are attending the colloquium where Dr. Thomas Johansson of Sweden will deliver the keynote address on “The Imperative of Energy for Sustainable Development.” Dr. Johansson is director of the UN Development Programme's Energy and Atmosphere Programme at UN Headquarters in New York. He was a leader in preparing the UNDP World Energy Assessment, which will be distributed at the colloquium.

IUCN’s newly published book on "Energy Law for Sustainable Development," will also be distributed at the gathering.

“Energy is rarely a topic of conservation gatherings, yet so much in the world of conservation depends on the developments in the field of energy,” said IUCN Director General Achim Steiner in a video address to the colloquium delegates.

“What better place to launch the IUCN Academy and its first Colloquium on sustainable energy law than in China, where decisions made today will affect the future of the fastest growing continent and indeed the whole world,” Steiner said.

Professor Alexandre Ch. Kiss of France, president of the European Council for Environmental Law, will deliver the first three Academy Public International Lectures on Environmental Law on November 5 and 6. Professor Kiss is one of the world’s most eminent environmental legal specialists and holds the Elizabeth Haub Prize in Environmental Law.

The colloquium’s program features a lecture by Feng Zhijun, vice chairman of the Committee on Environment and Resources Protection, National People’s Congress, China on the topic China’s legislative initiative on energy for sustainable development.

Professor Richard Ottinger, Dean Emeritus of the Pace Law School in New York, which has one of the top rated U.S. environmental law programs, will cover the legal framework for energy for sustainable development.

In the future the Academy intends to encourage research on identifying the legal reforms required to maintain, restore or enhance the robustness of biological systems, including biodiversity, amidst climate change and human population growth.

Further research is planned on defining and elaborating international environmental humanitarian law applicable in times of armed conflict.

In addition, the Academy will research legal measures appropriate for implementing the Kyoto Protocol, the environmental law management of mountain regions, and ecosystem management.

Created in 1948, The IUCN brings together 75 states, 108 government agencies, more than 750 nongovernmental organizations, and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries in a worldwide partnership. IUCN’s mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.