International Environmental Law and Governance. Edited by Malgosia Fitzmaurice and Duncan French. Leiden, Boston: Brill Nijhoff, 2015. Pp. 159. Index. $141, [euro]109.
International Environmental Law and Governance examines a hitherto underexplored, yet increasingly important, area of international environment law--the role of Conferences of Parties (COPs) in the governance of environmental treaties. (1) While international human rights treaties have established "committees," which are together called "treaty bodies," (2) international environmental law treaties have opted for the novel tool called Conference of Parties. This rather recent phenomenon of establishing COPs as a governance mechanism for ensuring, inter alia, that parties fulfill their obligations is a fascinating development in international environmental law and has implications beyond the multilateral environmental treaties (MEAs) that establish them. These COPs execute various functions, ranging from ensuring compliance with treaty obligations, (3) to deciding "penalties" for noncompliance, and determining the future direction of the obligations of parties. They do not fall into the category of international organizations, but have come to play an important role in international law, and they raise interesting questions about how international obligations and compliance mechanisms are created and, most importantly, whether the decisions of COPs are binding on the parties to the treaty.
The editors of the volume, Professors Malgosia Fitzmaurice and Duncan French, are highly respected scholars in the field of international environmental law. Fitzmaurice is Professor of Public International Law at Queen Mary University of London and French is the Head of the Law School at the University of Lincoln. Both have published extensively in the field. The edited volume contains an introduction by the editors, five chapters written by scholars in the field, and an index. Each chapter consists of an updated version of an article that was originally published in the International Community Law Review, which arose out of a workshop organized by the editors and held at Queen Mary University of London in 2011. While each chapter contains extensive footnotes, the readers would have benefited from a bibliography, particularly since this is an underexplored area of international law.
As the editors note, the focus of the discussion is on the powers of COPs, "an issue which has been puzzling international lawyers," particularly since the establishment of compliance regimes under MEAs (p.1). Several important questions are examined by the contributors: why states comply with the decisions of COPs; the powers of COPs from the international law and law of treaties perspectives; fragmentation of international law; and ultimately, the legitimacy of international law.
The first chapter, written by Michael Bowman, a professor at the University of Nottingham School of Law, examines the ecology of institutional governance in conservation treaty regimes. He argues that the effectiveness of these treaty regimes depends heavily on the extent to which they are informed by scientific understanding of principles that govern the operation of biological systems and natural processes, particularly the "ecosystem approach." He further argues that principles that determine the stability and productivity of these biological systems must be taken into consideration when devising institutional arrangements for the treaty regimes in question. He points to the need to have the widest possible participation of various stakeholders, given the global and wide-ranging ambit of many environmental problems. Critical components of an institutional regime necessary to connect the individual nodes (states parties themselves) are identified as: a plenary political organ; a permanent bureaucracy; a bridging mechanism between the occasional policymaking determinations of the plenary body and the routine day-to-day functions of the secretariat; and a mechanism for scientific input. In addition, there may be other subsidiary organs with specialized functions or ad hoc working groups created to address specific issues or concerns which may, over time, become transformed into a semipermanent feature.
Bowman stresses the need to take into account the relevant international legal rules, in addition to the provisions in the treaty itself, if gradual fragmentation of international law is to be avoided and the enhancement of "systemic integrity" across the global legal order as a whole is to be...