6 October 2022

International Environmental Law Conference: Need Transformative Laws to Better Protect the Earth

More than 400 legal experts from around the world gathered in Oslo, Norway in October 2022. They discussed transformative legal tools to address global environmental challenges such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution.


2022 is “a very important year for international environmental law and governance,” said Prof. Christina Voigt. He is the Chair of the World Commission on International Environmental Law or WCEL under the umbrella of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Standing behind the pulpit, he opened the International Environmental Law Conference which took place on October 3-6 and was attended by more than 400 participants. “It is very important,” he said later, “because we are celebrating the birthdays of various important instruments related to the environment.”

Despite these international efforts, and many others, “we are currently facing a number of environmental challenges that are increasingly distancing the world from achieving international commitments,” he continued, “for example the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.”

Even so, he is optimistic that legal practitioners worldwide still have the opportunity to make transformative changes. Voigt sees law as having the potential to be a powerful tool for change at different scales.

The question now, Voigt said, “What does society need from law as a catalyst for transformative change?”

He gave no answer. Instead, Voight provides space for hundreds of participants to find answers to their questions together. The Environment as a Legal Center.

Chair of the World Commission on International Environmental Law, Cristina Voigt.

In line with Voigt, the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Anniken Huitfeldt, stressed the importance of systemic change and strengthening the role of environmental law in the world today. According to Huitfeldt, these efforts – if accompanied by a transformative funding mechanism – can overcome a series of challenges related to the environment.

The President of IUCN, Razan Al Mubarak, agreed on a transformative funding mechanism that Huitfeldt had previously stated. This mechanism, said Al Mubarak, “should be supported by capacity building, science-based studies and transformative law.”

As many as 176 countries have laws related to the environment. More and more countries are recognizing the right to a healthy environment in their constitutions or national frameworks. Now the question is whether the law has been able to fight the three sources of Earth’s crisis?

Climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution. The three of them make Earth’s crisis even worse. The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program or UNEP, Inger Andersen, warned that the three sources of the crisis required world governments to reorient the priorities they had set.

“Protecting the planet we live on,” said Andersen, “should be accompanied by “efforts to put the environment at the center of the law.” According to him, this method can strengthen ecological integrity that is sustainable between generations.

Participating in IOJI Panel Nature-based Solutions

On this panel, Dr. Mas Achmad Santosa presented an abstract prepared by IOJI entitled “Enhancing the Blue Ecosystem Governance: Study Case Indonesia”. The abstraction of this study departs from observations of the many environmental laws related to blue carbon ecosystems that currently still adhere to the concept of weak sustainability rather than strong sustainability.

The national legal framework needs to recognize blue carbon ecosystems as critical natural capital because they meet the criteria for providing critical environmental services based on Fridolin Brand (2009). This acknowledgment must be followed by concrete actions by the government by imposing strong protection instruments that are regulated without exception clauses.

Nature-based solutions parallel session on October 6:

Chair: Fabiano De Andrade (Deputy Chair, WCEL Climate Law Specialist Group)

  • Demoz Asfaw, “Wetlands of the Nile Basins New Frontiers of Degradation and Conflict: A Quest for Gender-Responsive and ConflictSensitive Wetland Governance and Naturebased Solutions for Basin Management”
  • Mas Achmad Santosa, “Enhancing the Blue Carbon Ecosystem Governance” (Coauthored with Grace Gabriella Binowo, Karenina Lasrindy, Harish Makarim, and Stephanie Rizka) (online)
  • Juan Carlos Sanchez Ramirez, “Peatlands Governance: Review of selected legal frameworks for improved peatland management” (online)

The full conference webinar can be viewed here


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