Environmental Injustice: How Treaties Undermine Human Rights Related to the Environment

Sachs, Lisa, Johnson, Lise, Merrill, Ella, Environmental Injustice: How treaties undermine human rights related to the environment (January 18, 2020). La Revue de Juristes de Sciences Po N°18

11 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2020 Last revised: 13 Aug 2020

See all articles by Lisa Sachs

Lisa Sachs

Columbia University - Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

Lise Johnson

Columbia University - Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

Ella Merrill

Columbia University - Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

Date Written: January 2020

Abstract

Growing cries for action to effectively address the climate and other environmental crises hold important implications for the governance of cross-border investments. Policymakers and environmental advocates have often overlooked how provisions granted by states in international investment agreements (IIAs) have been used by investors to challenge government measures taken in the public interest to protect the environment and advance environmental justice. This paper explains how the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, made available to investors in thousands of bilateral and multilateral trade and investment agreements, may influence the future of environmental justice. It revisits and builds upon discussions of how ISDS may chill legitimate and necessary regulation (or shift the costs thereof), elaborating upon theories of chill and providing examples of how ISDS has been used to challenge actions taken to address the climate crisis and protect threatened water resources. The paper also then explores implications for the environmental justice dimensions of environmental regulation, describing how ISDS can undermine democratic processes and stakeholders’ abilities to meaningfully participate in environmental decisionmaking and protect their rights. The paper concludes with recommendations on how states can address the systemic impact of ISDS on regulatory space over environmental and other matters of public interest.

Keywords: Environmental Justice, Sustainable Development, International Investment

Suggested Citation

Sachs, Lisa and Johnson, Lise and Merrill, Ella, Environmental Injustice: How Treaties Undermine Human Rights Related to the Environment (January 2020). Sachs, Lisa, Johnson, Lise, Merrill, Ella, Environmental Injustice: How treaties undermine human rights related to the environment (January 18, 2020). La Revue de Juristes de Sciences Po N°18 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3531256

Lisa Sachs (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment ( email )

William C. Warren Hall, 1st floor
410 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
(212) 854-0691 (Phone)

Lise Johnson

Columbia University - Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

William C. Warren Hall, 1st floor
410 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Ella Merrill

Columbia University - Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

William C. Warren Hall, 1st floor
410 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

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