Eleventh Annual Grotius Lecture

By Steiner, Achim; Shelton, Dinah | Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law, Annual 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Eleventh Annual Grotius Lecture


Steiner, Achim, Shelton, Dinah, Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law


The lecture began at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 25, and was given by Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme; the discussant was Dinah Shelton of the George Washington University Law School.

FOCUSING ON THE GOOD OR THE BAD: WHAT CAN INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW DO TO ACCELERATE THE TRANSITION TOWARDS A GREEN ECONOMY?

I wish to begin by thanking the American University Washington College of Law for inviting me to deliver the 2009 Grotius Lecture. This year is the 400th anniversary of the publication of The Freedom of the Seas. (1) I doubt that Hugo Grotius in 1609 knew the profound impact that his treatise would have on the world economy.

The notion that the seas were international territory and all nations were free to use them for seafaring trade--what is now a basic principle of international maritime law--led to opposition that sparked the First Anglo-Dutch War. Yet, the principles of free trade and economic freedom advocated then persist today.

There is an important lesson that Grotius taught us: that law can be a conduit for transformative economic change. As the Freedom of the Seas provided an important foundation for international free trade, I believe that law has a critical role to play in providing the foundation for accelerating the transition towards a green economy.

This presentation explores how international law can, and must, work to support the transition to a green economy. In doing so, I highlight areas where I think that international law has a critical role to play; but, in the end, we will need people like you--the eminent experts in the field--to ensure that international law works to help and not hinder the transition.

But before I do this, I would like to say a few words about what is a green economy.

WHAT IS A GREEN ECONOMY: WHAT DOES IT MEAN AND WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS?

The global financial crisis has been devastating, but, in every crisis, there arises an opportunity. Leaders around the world have seen such an opportunity and are creating stimulus packages that will not only create economic recovery but will also build on green fundamentals of energy efficiency and diversification, waste minimization, and sensible use of natural resources.

While it is clear that governments and the international community face multiple and serious challenges, the situation also presents real opportunities to make profound changes in our economies: moving toward a green and low carbon economy will deliver multiple benefits for the international community and governments in addressing food, energy, and water security and will ultimately result in achieving sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

We also have an opportunity to re-examine the capacity of governance structures at the national and global levels to assess whether they are adequate to meet multiple environmental and development challenges and whether they are flexible enough to capitalize on emerging opportunities.

The term "green economy" as defined by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (2) describes an economic system that recognizes the properties of healthy ecosystems as the backbone of economic and social well-being and as a precondition for poverty reduction. This means that nature is integral to the design and planning process so that the notion of infrastructure is extended to food production, the use of raw materials, and provisions for wildlife. A green economy is a system in which the costs arising from the degradation of ecosystems are internalized--where industries that employ clean and efficient technologies and where agriculture is sustainable serve as major engines of economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction.

In hard terms, our analysis at UNEP finds that this means, among other things, investing at least $60-90 billion per year in sustainable environmental management in the developing world, which is necessary to reduce environment-related poverty alone; a re-alignment of agricultural subsidies, currently amounting to more than $300 billion a year, toward sustainable agriculture, forestry, and fisheries; a shift from subsidies for fossil fuels, currently estimated at $240-310 billion per year or around 0.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Eleventh Annual Grotius Lecture
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?