What's So Good About Environmental Human Rights?: Constitutional Versus International Environmental Rights

In Markku Oksanen and Ashley Dodsworth and Selina O'Doherty (ed.), Environmental Human Rights: A Political Theory Perspective. New York: Routledge. pp. 124-148 (2017)
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In recent decades, environmental rights have been increasingly developed at both the national and international level, along with increased adjudication of such rights in both national (constitutional) courts and international human rights courts. This raises a question as to whether it is better to develop and adjudicate environmental rights at the national or international level. This article considers the case made by James May and Erin Daly in favor of developing environmental rights at the national constitutional level and adjudicating such rights in domestic courts. I consider the limitations of this case by showing that international environmental human rights can play a role that systematically benefits environmental protection, with adjudication in international human rights courts a key part of that process. This involves drawing on an argument offered by Allen Buchanan to justify a system of international legal human rights, which appeals to a number of benefits that such a system can provide. The argument is developed and applied to adjudication of environmental human rights in international human rights courts. First, it is shown how these benefits are realized in the area of environmental human rights. Second, it is shown how adjudication can enhance the benefits, both by providing a mechanism for their realization and by facilitating a mutually supportive relationship among them. On the basis of these enhanced benefits, and the value that they add, it is concluded that there is strong justification for developing and adjudicating environmental human rights at the international level.
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