Circular Economy, Climate Change

UN Environment laws not being enforced

Responsible Business | Feb 04, 2019


A huge proliferation in environmental legislation around the world is failing to prevent widespread ecosystem destruction and runaway carbon emissions, as laws are not being enforced, according to a new report from UN environment.

“This report solves the mystery of why problems such as pollution, declining biodiversity and climate change persist despite the proliferation of environmental laws in recent decades,” David Boyd, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment said, “Unless the environmental rule of law is strengthened, even seemingly rigorous rules are destined to fail and the fundamental human right to a healthy environment will go unfulfilled.”

Since 1972 there has been a 38-fold increase in environmental laws, and more than 1,100 environmental agreements have been signed between countries. Around 150 countries have enshrined environmental protection or the right to a healthy environment into their constitutions. More than 50 countries have created environmental courts and tribunals. As of 2017, 164 countries had created environment ministries or equivalents.

However, these measures often exist “mostly on paper”, UN Environment found, with enforcement generally lax or ineffective. This has undermined efforts to prevent the world from passing through critical environmental and ecological thresholds. 

Last October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a concerning report noting that the world needs to make dramatic changes in how it produces and uses energy and food, and how it manages landscapes and ecosystems, in order to prevent catastrophic global warming. 

“We have the machinery in the form of laws, regulations and agencies to govern our environment sustainably,” Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of UN Environment said. “Political will is now critical to making sure our laws work for the planet.”

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