Breaching the Maginot Line: The Frailty of Environmental Law in Europe and North America

Prue Taylor, ed., Environmental Law for a Sustainable Society, New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law, 2013

Posted: 14 Mar 2014

See all articles by Benjamin J. Richardson

Benjamin J. Richardson

University of Tasmania - Faculty of Law

Nicole Bakker

University of British Columbia - Faculty of Law

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Date Written: 2013

Abstract

This article examines the recent history of environmental law in North America and Western Europe to illustrate the pervasive weaknesses and failures of law to limit unsustainable exploitation and degradation of the biosphere. Although these regions are sometimes perceived as global leaders in environmental law, with some impressive laws on paper, there are significant deficiencies in their ‘Maginot Line’ of environmental defences. Furthermore, these regions’ ostensibly superior environmental performance compared to other parts of the world is partly due to exporting their ecological footprint both spatially (to developing countries) and temporally (to future generations), rather than being a function of their environmental laws. The article focuses on environmental law at a European Community-level (rather than within individual Member States) and comparable efforts at the federal level in Canada and the United States. While no direct empirical research is provided, the article draws on other literature sources of such research. The article contrasts some patterns and traditions in European and North American environmental law including differences in regulatory styles, and discusses legal responses to biodiversity conservation to illustrate in more detail one aspect of their approach to environmental governance. Despite some regional differences, in the bigger picture North America and Europe have so far both failed to substantially reverse the poor environmental prognosis.

Keywords: Comparative environment law; European Community, North America; sustainable development

Suggested Citation

Richardson, Benjamin J. and Bakker, Nicole, Breaching the Maginot Line: The Frailty of Environmental Law in Europe and North America (2013). Prue Taylor, ed., Environmental Law for a Sustainable Society, New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2256738

Benjamin J. Richardson (Contact Author)

University of Tasmania - Faculty of Law ( email )

Private Bag 89
Hobart, Tasmania 7001
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://www.utas.edu.au/law

Nicole Bakker

University of British Columbia - Faculty of Law ( email )

1822 East Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z1
Canada

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