Article 11 in Light of the Principle of Sustainable Development in International Law
The Greening of European Business under EU Law: Taking Article 11 TFEU Seriously, Beate Sjåfjell and Anja Wiesbrock (eds), Routledge, (2015)
Posted: 10 Dec 2014 Last revised: 12 Dec 2014
Date Written: December 8, 2014
Despite the “legalization” of sustainable development, the political reality is far from sustainable. Part of the reason for this situation is a shortcoming in the conceptualization of sustainable development as integrating environmental, economic and social factors which this chapter seeks to discuss. The Chapter (1) explores what integration means, (2) asks what the purpose of integration is, (3) discusses the question of limits and (4) considers some thoughts on the legal status of sustainable development. It argues that, integration does not necessarily mean treating environmental, economic and social factors in the same manner or giving them the same weight. Rather, integration seeks to support environmental integrity, understood as human activities that (at a minimum) sustain important biophysical processes which support plant, animal and human life and which must be allowed to continue without significant change. The objective is to assure the continued health of essential life support ecological systems, including air, water, and soil, by protecting their resilience, diversity, and purity. This was something the World Commission on Environment and Development, which coined the term sustainable development, called for and it is essential still. ‘At a minimum’ the Commission stated, ‘sustainable development must not endanger the natural systems that support life on Earth’. Integration in the context of sustainable development thus means to respect these functions as an absolute priority. They are irreplaceable on a local, regional and global as well as temporal scale: neither knowledge, technology nor economic wealth could provide any substitute. Such understanding also informs article 11 TFEU and its operationalization.
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