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Towards the environmental minimum: an argument for environmental protection through human rights



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Chapter one offers an introduction and a general outline of argument. Chapter two lays out the current scholarship on human rights and the environment and presents rejoinders to three prominent lines of objection to linking human rights and environmental interests: conceptual, those arising from issues of recognition, vagueness and conflicts between human rights, ecological, especially from those seeking protections for the environment regardless of its utility to humans, and those wishing to expand human rights beyond human interests, and adjudication concerns, namely from those sceptical that the polycentric nature of environmental issues create an insurmountable barrier to any significant improvements through judicially enforced human rights. Chapter three introduces and defends the environmental minimum as a normative framework for systematically conceptualizing the relationship between human rights and the environment. As such, it is chiefly concerned with ensuring a good faith regulatory engagement with environmental pollution: specific risks to recognised human rights trigger the environmental minimum, which then provides minimum standards (legal, established and emerging) that set the standard of review for determining whether a violation of human rights has occurred. Chapter four deals with the crucial empirical argument, outlining how the framework can systematically account for and consistently guide the further development of the case law under the European Convention on Human Rights. This conclusion rests on a comprehensive analysis of the environmental case law since 1950 using quantitative methods to expose doctrinal patterns previously not recognized in legal scholarship. Finally, chapter five explores and evaluates the potential benefits of the environmental minimum framework beyond human rights adjudication. Specifically, it investigates benefits to the varied fields of public law, regulatory policy, International Environmental Law, constitutionalism, and other international human rights treaties.




Palmer, Stephanie
Gehring, Markus


human rights, environment, European Convention on Human Rights, human rights theory, environmental ethics, environmental regulation, International Environmental Law, International Law


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Modern Law Review Scholarship Fitzwilliam College Senior Scholarship