Environmental Constitutionalism: Aspiration or Transformation?

International Journal of Constitutional Law (2018), vol 16 no 3, 836-870

34 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2019

Date Written: August 12, 2017


A striking feature of environmental constitutional provisions is that state obligations are predominantly entrenched using contrajudicative provisions: provisions, such as directive principles, that are designed to be given effect by the political branches and not by direct judicial enforcement. Yet, scholarship to date has largely focused on the direct judicial enforcement of environmental constitutional rights. This article argues that a rights-focused approach is misguided. Correctly understood, environmental constitutionalism presents an alternative to existing, rights-based models of social values constitutionalism within the legal constitutionalist tradition: the “contrajudicative model.” This model addresses concerns about constitutional entrenchment by allocating institutional responsibility for defining fundamental social values and the legal norms that they require to the political branches. By drawing attention to its unique formal features, the article thus demonstrates that environmental constitutionalism holds significant interest for constitutional theory and should not be treated as a sub-topic in environmental law or subsumed within existing debates about the forms of judicial review and enforcement mechanisms appropriate for social rights.

Keywords: constitutional law, environmental constitutional law, environmental rights, constitutional rights, directive principles, judicial review

Suggested Citation

Weis, Lael K., Environmental Constitutionalism: Aspiration or Transformation? (August 12, 2017). International Journal of Constitutional Law (2018), vol 16 no 3, 836-870, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3439884

Lael K. Weis (Contact Author)

Melbourne Law School ( email )

University of Melbourne
Melbourne, Victoria 3010

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics