Vance Center Joins United Nations Environment Project

January 2021

The Vance Center’s Environment Program is assisting the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with its mandate to prepare the 2021 Global Report on Environmental Rule of Law. Focus on the environmental rule of law is increasing worldwide, in recognition that strengthening national environmental governance systems and the effectiveness of the rule of law promises a multitude of benefits in confronting the climate crisis and other global challenges.

UNEP published its First Global Report on Environmental Rule of Law in 2019. That report assessed global trends and country measures against core elements of environmental rule of law, including institutions, civic engagement, rights, and justice. It determined significantly that despite a 38-fold increase in environmental laws enacted since 1972, the failure fully to enforce these laws challenges substantially efforts to mitigate climate change, reduce pollution, and forestall widespread species and habitat loss.

The 2021 Global Report, a key UNEP initiative, aims to position the agency as a leading global voice on environmental rule of law. UNEP intends to achieve this goal by offering a data-informed assessment of the status of global trends on environmental rule of law, good practices in the implementation of environmental rule of law, and recommendations for future directions. Notably, it will consider the role of environmental laws in combating zoonotic diseases, such as the current global Covid-19 pandemic.

The Environment Program thus far has assisted UNEP with the design of a set of indicators to help inform conclusions on the status and key trends of environmental rule of law.  The 23 indicators address topics such as: the introduction of new laws increasing environmental protection in response to Covid-19; the right of access to information; public participation in decision-making and access to justice; and the existence of specialized environmental courts and tribunals. Over coming months, the Environment Program and an international law firm will gather data on these indicators from all 193 UN member states and assist UNEP in consolidating and reviewing the data. They then will integrate the comprehensive data into the substantive chapters of the 2021 Global Report prepared by leading environmental scholars and other experts.

The 2021 Global Report is scheduled for release in the fall of 2021.