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E - Environmental management including environmental law

Environmental law

256. There were numerous expressions of support for the Executive Director's current and proposed activities, which were described as balanced. Several delegations remarked on the importance of using environmental law as a means of securing adherence to standards for the control of pollutants and more generally as a tool of environmental management. Although one delegation urged a marked acceleration of UNEP involvement in environmental law, another pointed out that of it was a difficult area in which progress was bound to be slow.

257. A number of delegations welcomed the proposals to develop a programme of action in national environmental law. One delegation thought the Environmental Law Information System of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and

Natural Resources (IUCN) should play a central role in compiling files of national

legislation, since it was already active in that area, another hoped that the data

on such files would be freely available to Governments, and a third said that, if Governments were to obtain full benefit from the service, the information on legislation should be presented along with relevant background socioeconomic data. One delegation emphasized the need for full co-operation by Governments in establishing such files.

258. The development of guidelines for national legislation was considered an important task, but one speaker warned that it would be difficult and another redoubted whether it was realistic to aim to draft guidelines that could be used in all legal systems.

259. The proposed regional surveys and seminars were supported and special reference was made to the UNEP/ESCAP workshop planned for later in the year, the results of which would be available at the UNEP/ESCAP intergovernmental expert meeting in May 1978. One delegation said that in providing short-term assistance to developing countries, more use should be made of specialist environmental lawyers from developed countries. 260. Several delegations welcomed the progress made in developing the principles of international environmental law, especially those relating to liability and compensation for environmental damage, to which UNEP was urged to give further attention. Some delegations said that the next step in the area of liability and compensation should be to convene a meeting of experts designated by Governments to explore the subject, with guidance from the Executive Director. One delegation said that further work should also consider methods of evaluating various types of damage, including potentially environmentally harmful acts as well as those which had taken place, and thought the concept of due diligence needed further elaboration. Another urged that the focus should not be theoretical and suggested that contract studies be undertaken in the following areas:

(a) Techniques designed to prevent and correct situations giving rise to transfrontier pollution;

(b) Liability from marine pollution damage from off-shore hydrocarbon exploitation;

(c) Improved remedies on a national or international basis for compensation for victims of transfrontier pollution;

(d) Consideration of rules and principles governing States' conduct in the exchange of information, consultation and contingency planning on environmental


Referring to the Executive Director's proposals relating to international agreements in weather modification, the same delegation reported that his country expected shortly to promulgate national legislation on that practice.

261. One delegation stated that the further elaboration of the principles of liability and compensation for damage caused by pollution of the environment must be regarded as part of the general problem of environmental law. For that reason, that delegation proposed that the working group on liability should be transformed into an intergovernmental working group on environmental law, and that it should be given the mandate of examining all necessary questions concerning environmental law, including questions of liability.

262. Several delegations commended the Executive Director on the report on the status of international agreements and conventions, which it was felt could assist Governments in developing national and international environmental law. One delegation questioned whether the work involved might not be better undertaken by contracting outside to those bodies which had the relevant data available.

263. One delegation thought the proposal to encourage the introduction of environmental studies into the curricula of universities and research institutions should not be given priority, but another gave support to it.

264. At the conclusion of its debate on environmental law, the Committee recommended for adoption by the Governing Council, a draft decision, submitted by the delegations of Canada, Finland, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America.

Action by the Governing Council

265. At its 75th plenary meeting, on 25 May 1977, the Governing Council considered the draft decision recommended by Sessional Committee I.

266. The representative of Canada, on behalf of the sponsors, introduced a number

of revisions to the text, and said that at least one sponsor of the decision had

suggested that, in convening the intergovernmental working group it referred to, the Executive Director might wish to include a representative of each of the regions. The representatives of Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Federal Republic of, Greece, Iran', Iraq, Jamaica, Poland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America indicated the interest of their Governments in participating in the group. The representative of Gabon said that at least two African States should be represented in the group.

267. A number of delegations expressed concern that the group was referred to in the draft decision as "small", and that deletion of the reference to its attendance by observers from concerned international organizations had been proposed. The Executive Director replied that "small" should be taken to imply a

· membership of 15 to 20 States, and that observers from international organizations would, following the customary practice, be invited to attend the group's meetings. Other delegations whose Governments wished to be members Of the group could so inform the secretariat in writing.

268. At its 75th meeting, the Governing Council adopted the draft decision on environmental law recommended by Sessional Committee I, as orally revised by the representative of Canada and orally amended by the representatives of Brazil, Ghana and India (decision 91 (V)). 21/

269. The representative of Brazil said that his country had participated actively in the group of experts on liability for pollution and other environmental damage and compensation for such damage, the report of which 22/ the Sessional Committee had not had an opportunity to consider in depth. While his delegation found the decision just adopted generally acceptable, it wished to reiterate its position, as expressed during the discussions which had led to the adoption of Governing Council decision 66 (IV), that the most suitable body to carry out the basic and preliminary task of developing generally accepted rules, principles and guidelines in the field of State responsibility was the International Law Commission, which had for some years been engaged in a thorough consideration of that extremely difficult subject. That the group itself was aware of that important consideration was apparent from the statement in paragraph 9 of its report that "The work of the group should be limited to indicating possible fields for future studies and the directions in which such studies might be useful to supplement and further develop international environmental law in respect of responsibility, liability and compensation."

270. The representative of Finland said that, in his delegation's view, any future studies of liability and compensation for marine pollution caused by off-shore mining, as recommended by the expert group, should also cover pollution caused by

by off-shore oil production. It would be useful to conduct a model study of marine pollution in a sea area where effective co-operation already existed among the coastal States concerned.

Environmental management

271. All speakers noted the importance of environmental management as the means of translating environmental strategies into action, and as a link between the various parts of the programme. One delegation felt that environmental management should not be considered separately from the other activities, as it was inherent in all of them. Another called for greater concentration, while another felt that the conceptual framework for sound environmental management required additional development, and called on the Executive Director to convene a small group of experts in management sciences to assist him in that task.

272. Interest was voiced in the proposed publications, especially as many Governments were not completely clear as to what was meant by environmental management; such materials should be written in languages readily understandable by decision-makers. One delegation said that the preparation of guidelines for national environmental reports did not merit priority, because countries were likely to define their own guidelines in response to their own specific conditions. Another speaker said that UNEP should devote attention to the promotion of the new institutional structures which were essential for effective environmental management, giving as examples his country's river basin agencies and national agency for waste material recovery.

273. A number of delegations noted with approval the U14EP focus on regional and subregional environmental management action plans. Several expressed strong support for the proposed activity in the South Pacific, which, one speaker noted, was an extremely interesting region in that its environment was as yet relatively unspoiled, but also very sensitive. The experience in the South Pacific could be valuable for launching similar projects in other sensitive areas. Several delegations expressed support for the UNEP activity in the Caribbean, one stressing the necessity of a broad scope of activity and significant public participation in planning; another, however, cautioned against too broad an approach, and proposed that activity be limited to the protection of the region against further degradation. Another delegation said that parts of the Mediterranean Action Plan, especially those dealing with the Blue Plan, were of direct relevance to environmental management.