Hey! I'm a high school senior writing a paper for government and chose to write about the Environment. I'm pretty passionate about it, wanting to become an environmental engineer. I have already cited you a few times, but was wondering if you had any helpful thoughts on the U.S. vs the U.N. as far as future protection laws concern... Or anything you think is worth adding to my paper! Thank you so much! I really look up to you and love your blog! Have a nice day! :)
Thanks for your nice note! :D
Sounds like a very good paper. And quite challenging. I don’t know your background, so it’s hard for me to know what advice to give you.
The major difference between U.S. and UN environmental protection is that the UN does not make formal “laws.” This is an important thing to grasp as you shape your paper.
- US vs UN environmental law
- How does the UN enforce treaties
I presume (again, I don’t know) that you’ll write a bit comparing the two, side-by-side. The U.S. is one country, with citizens and land. The UN is not a country, has no residents, no borders, and contains no lands. The U.S. federal and state governments are allowed to make law. The UN is not allowed to make any laws.
There are some minor exceptions.
First, core to the UN’s mission is to encourage its 193 members to create and enforce their own laws based primarily on human rights. These laws are enforced at the country level, and in no way can the UN intervene on enforcement of these laws (with the exception of war and conflict, where members vote on intervention or humanitarian aid).
The second exception is the International Court of Justice(ICJ), which is a very weak system that basically adjudicates the criminal acts of the highest leaders of individual countries. You can read about the process, here. Note that it encourages disputing parties to take it to their home lands.
The ICJ usually deals with human rights, genocide, and war crimes. It seldom enforces international treaty violations, and rarely enforces environmental treaties (mostly because violators are easily identified and their home countries and the polluted territories have jurisdiction).
So, basically, the ICJ tries hard to push any dispute back to the country level.
When that fails, then several special panels hold a series of votes to help decide jurisdiction, applicable procedural rules, and possible alternatives (usually there are alternatives).
The third exception is when the UN has to sue itself! That is a big hot mess, and I’d avoid writing about it like the plague. (If you must, go here.)
I’m being very generic, and I’m sure I’ll get a blistering message from some of my keen-eyed readers, but you get the point I hope!
This is all to say that the UN has no formally recognized environmental law jurisdiction (in fact, the UN attempted to create an environmental court, called the Environmental Chamber. But no country brought a single case during the Chamber’s 13 years of existence. It was dissolved in 2006. For the history of the Environmental Chamber, see: here).
Again, I’m being very general here. You’re more than welcome to contact me via email if you have more specific questions.