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Enforcing International Climate Change Law in Domestic Courts: A New Trend of Cases for Boosting Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration?


This paper takes international climate change law norms as a given, and instead turns to their implementation in domestic courts as one of the possible enforcement strategies for advancing the protection of the climate. The enforcement of climate change law is overviewed at the international law level and portrayed in the context of domestic courts. In order to flesh out such a proposal as the latter, the viability of procedural rights, as embodied in Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, is assessed and compared with substantive rights as a possible leverage of enforcement in the sphere of climate change law. Such leverage is pictured out within the first two judicial decisions applying international law for the protection of the climate in domestic courts, namely the Urgenda decision from the Netherlands, and the Leghari decision from Pakistan. The legacy of each of those is evaluated under the prong of judicial globalization and international climate policy.

The paper argues that the interpretive techniques deployed in this strand of cases are poised to further advance international climate change law, not only on a substantive plane, but also on a procedural plane, especially with regard to the standing of individuals and NGOs. Indeed, the paper holds such a judicial turn to be a viable enforcement mechanism in the field of climate change law and policy, especially in the aftermath of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

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