Beyond the Global Summits: Reflecting on the Environmental Principles of Sustainable Development

Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy
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Journal Article
Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, 2011, 22 (1), pp. 41 - 77
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In addition to challenges we face in the context of specific environmental problems, there is the greater challenge of creating legal rules for achieving sustainable development, which will in time play a central role in international and domestic environmental law and policy. In order to pave the way to a sustainable future, a new economic paradigm is necessary, which integrates traditional economics with ecological economics. A new economic paradigm is the only viable option to secure the path for future generations. [FN1] Our goal must be to meet the economic needs of the present without compromising the ability of the planet to provide for the needs of future generations. [FN2] The legal challenge for sustainable development is enormous: a legal framework is needed in which environmental and social considerations are integrated into developmental processes along with economic analyses so that decision making reflects the `real values and services that nature provides. Despite incorporation of sustainable development into treaties, and domestic environmental and planning legislation, the concept largely remains one of rhetoric and policy without clear legal parameters. Much discussion has occurred but little international law has emerged. Sustainable development is notoriously difficult to pin down. It is subject to competing interpretations, and its application to any particular problem is often contentious. [FN3] From the outset the difficulties faced in implementing sustainable development have been clear, and while legislation is needed, more crucial is the need to achieve political commitment and change.
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