The first global overview of the state of environmental rule of law finds weak enforcement to be a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats, despite prolific growth in environmental laws over the last four decades.
Since the 1972 Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment, environmental laws and institutions have expanded dramatically across the globe. All countries have at least one environmental law or regulation. Most countries have established and, to varying degrees, empowered environmental ministries. And in many instances, these laws and institutions have helped to slow or reverse environmental degradation. This progress is accompanied, however, by a growing recognition that a considerable implementation gap has opened—in developed and developing nations alike—between the requirements of environmental laws and their implementation and enforcement. Environmental rule of law—which describes when laws are widely understood, respected, and enforced and the benefits of environmental protection are enjoyed by people and the planet—is key to addressing this implementation gap. This Report reviews countries’ experiences building environmental rule of law and identifies the many options available to better give effect, and force, to environmental law, and thereby advance the attendant public health, environmental, human rights, economic, and social benefits envisioned by environmental laws.