Mepielan Ebulletin


by Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos,
Editor and Director of MEPIELAN Centre,
Panteion University of Athens, Greece
Visiting Fellow, Downing College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Approaching 2017, MEPIELAN E-Bulletin continues to operate as a promising academic arm of MEPIELAN Centre, providing a sourceful forum for law, governance and environmental sustainability while serving the promotion of strategic policies for sustainable development in the Mediterranean and of a deeper understanding of the complexity, inter-relationship, and, indeed, complementarity of the issues involved. The Bulletin, as a platform of scientific knowledge communication, has had, all these years, the most rewarding experience of bringing together academics, officers of international organizations, eminent experts, and promising young researchers, all those who, from various angles, contribute to the advancement of the normative language of environmental sustainability governance and the progressive knowledge-based construction of international common interest.

The reader of the Bulletin, making a tour through the archives of the Bulletin, is able to recall and reconstruct the – very often missing – vivid e-memory of the process of informed scientific and policy dialogue and, more perspectively, of the constant and discernible transformations of the generative context, both affecting the development of the understanding and governance of the issues related to aspects of environmental sustainability. The end-result of such detour is the realization that participatory and equitable governance, knowledge “engineering” international common interest, and unfailing regional and global solidarity may lie at the heart of understanding and implementing the globally heralded Sustainable Development Coals and the Agenda 2030.

MEPIELAN Centre, as an academic UNEP/MAP accredited partner and a newly elected member of the reformed 40-member Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD) representing (together with the FEMISE and Med-SDSN) the Scientific Community Croup, is committed to pursue, within the scope of its capability and inter alia, two inter-related main strategies:

First, the promotion of the educational aspect of the Sustainability Mediterranean Governance, by organizing and carrying out, in cooperation with UNEP/MAP and other prestigious educational institutions and research centres, a postgraduate programme entitled “International Governance and Sustainable Development in the Mediterranean Region”, for the academic year 2017-2018, leading to a Master’s Degree. MEPIELAN Centre will, thus, directly contribute to Objective 6 (“Improving Governance in Support of Sustainable Development”) of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development 2016-2015, and, more specifically, to the Strategic Direction 6.4 (“Promote Education and Research for Sustainable Development”) but also to the more general UNEP/MAP Mid-Term Strategy 2016-2021.  

Secondly, the advancement of public trust approach to Sustainability Governance and mainstreaming it in the Barcelona Convention, by developing a cooperative project together with pre-eminent university centres and competent international bodies,  aiming at exploring the introduction of the Public Trust Approach into the Barcelona Convention system and beyond, in order to provide a solid legal and policy platform to effectively address sustainability aspects and substantially enhance their implementation. As a result, MEPIELAN Centre will also creatively support the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development 2016-2015 to one of its most ambitious objectives (“Improving governance in support of sustainable development”) and, specifically, to the legally challenging “need to advance public trusteeship concepts in the existing instruments for better and more equitable governance and more effective and efficient public participation”, as is explicitly stated in the framework of this objective (UNEP (DEPI)/MED IG.22/28, Annex, 155).  And as I have concluded in my previous Advanced Editorial (Dancing with the Transposition of the Public Trust Approach in the Realm of Conventional Environmental Governance) “The proposed exploration of public trust approach may provide this innovative fertilizing perspective and generate the required legal insights into the sustainable governance of the Barcelona Convention system and beyond, responding to other complex environmental challenges.”

We are happy and honoured to host two Insight Articles in this edition of the Bulletin, authored by two distinguished academics and friends. Both have regularly consistently contributed to the quality of this Bulletin and I am deeply grateful to them.

Meinhard Doelle, Professor of Law and Director of the Marine & Environmental Law Institute (MELAW), Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, insightfully sheds light into the relational link between the regime of the Paris Climate Agreement and its constitutive negotiating process. The understanding of this relational link lies at the core of a pragmatic assessment of the achieved climate regime and he most perceptively identifies, from the beginning, the unrealistic and impractical expectations of “those who have not followed the climate negotiations closely”, focusing on the criticism addressed by “those who have followed the Paris climate negotiations more closely” and placing them in the perspective of the operation of the importance of the conventional regime established by the Paris Agreement and its long-term goal serving international common interest. In doing so, he unveils his argument pinpointing the pros and cons of the negotiating technique, used by the French Presidency, on the textual outcome of the negotiation and providing a contextually based, gradually constructed and process-oriented approach to the normativity of the key elements of the Paris Agreement.

José Juste-Ruiz, Professor of International Law, University of Valencia, Spain, authoritatively provides an insightful account of the critical environmental, legal and ethical problems associated with the process of revising the 1996 London Protocol to the 1972 London Dumping Convention and its direction to remove “all existing legal barriers to the use of new ocean sequestration technologies that may contribute to climate change mitigation efforts”. As he perceptively observes, the renegotiation of certain aspects of the Protocol, allowing carbon capture and storage in sub-bed geological formations and its transboundary exports as well as ocean fertilization and other geo-engineering activities as options for climate change mitigation, is built on an inadequate and potentially regime-disordering negotiating platform: lack of full understanding of the actual scope of these technologies and serious gaps in scientific knowledge as to their environmental impact; rise to a striking case of legal regression from the existing legal regime of the Protocol based on a strong precautionary approach; and destabilizing incompatibility with its context (UNCLOS).

This edition of the Bulletin, serving as a showcase for new knowledge-advancing books, is happy to present a freshly published and much needed interdisciplinary book “The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development- A Commentary”, edited under the authoritative and insightful direction of Jorge E. Viñuales, Professor of Law and Environmental Policy at the University of Cambridge, and containing outstanding, inter-disciplinary contributions authored by leading academics and practitioners. The book provides an authoritative and thorough analysis of the Rio Principles, shedding light on their philosophical bases, their origination and scope, their legal effect and impact on international and domestic jurisprudence, and, most interestingly, on the interaction with each other, their shortcomings and their potential development.

The Critical Forum part of the Bulletin provides a very interesting contribution by Maria Oproglidou, a Lawyer and MEPIELAN Researcher, concerning the Allard (Canada) v. The Government of Barbados Case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, where she perceptively develops her argument unfolding environmental issues - and especially the link between international and domestic environmental law - under the guise of international investment disputes and illuminating an interesting insight of this case: its significance as a first step towards infiltrating a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) standard with environmental standards, further paving the way for a potential “constructive transformation of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) into an instrument of pressuring governments to maintain the same levels of environmental protection, if not higher”.

Last, but by no means least, I am deeply thankful to the research editorial team of the Bulletin, which consistently provides an ongoing flow of selected and elaborated relevant thematic news and useful information.
Expressing my warmest thanks and gratitude to all colleagues and researchers fruitfully involved in this Bulletin’s edition, I would like to take this opportunity to wishing you Season’s Greetings and all the best for 2017.