Joke Waller-Hunter
describes the contribution that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is making to international sustainable development law

The evolution of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including negotiations on its Kyoto Protocol, has played a major part in advancing the role of the rule of law in achieving sustainable development. Its ultimate objective – to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the world’s climate system – has to be achieved to enable economic development to proceed sustainably. General commitments in Article 4 of the Convention provide that all Parties – while taking appropriate measures to mitigate climate change and to facilitate adequate adaptation to climate change – take into account national and regional development priorities, objectives and circumstances. Under Article 2 of the Kyoto Protocol, industrialized countries with limitation and reduction commitments are to elaborate policies and measures to promote sustainable development.

Level playing field
The compliance procedures and mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol – with their automaticity, timetables and power to take final decisions – are expected to prove a major step in developing rule-based arrangements through which Parties can be confident that others are fulfilling their commitments. This assurance of a ‘level playing field’ is critical in meeting concerns about competitiveness. The Delhi Declaration on Climate Change and Sustainable Development – adopted by the Conference of the Parties at its eighth session, in November 2002 – incorporates themes adopted at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, three months earlier. It stresses that, besides mitigation measures, urgent action is needed to adapt to climate change. It emphasizes promoting international cooperation in developing and disseminating innovative technologies – particularly in the energy sector – through investment, market-oriented approaches, private-sector involvement and supportive public policies.

Besides mitigation measures, urgent action is needed to adapt to climate change

New areas
The provisions, procedures and mechanisms, and declarations collectively serve to operationalize the general principles of ‘soft’ law in the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Its Principle 27 stipulates that states and people shall cooperate in good faith, and in a spirit of partnership, in fulfilling the principles embodied in the Declaration and in further developing international law in the field of sustainable development. The multilateral cooperation in the Convention on Climate Change, responding to the current phase of globalization, has advanced the role of the rule of law in achieving sustainable development into areas not foreseen in 1992 when both it and the Rio Declaration were negotiated

Joke Waller-Hunter is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

PHOTOGRAPH: Pia Cormeli/UNEP/Topham

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Strengthening the rule of law | Partners in law | Justice can be shortsighted | Force of law | A matter of judgement | A law of energy | People | Rule of man, or rule of law? | At a glance: The rule of law | Sebastião Salgado | Sustainable development comes from Saturn! | One planet, different worlds | Nature’s wisdom | Kickback fightback | Conflict and cooperation | Holistic landmark | Empowering the poor | Legal climate | Small is effective | Building the framework

Complementary issues:
Climate Change 1997
Climate and Action 1998
Energy 2001
World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002
Joke Waller-Hunter: Two to tango (Global Environment Facility) 2002
Energy 2003