Ecological Law in the European Union

Ecological Law

To establish the rule of ecological law, the world must commit to binding global, supranational environmental law that prevails over sub-global legal regimes. Ecological law must also be adaptive and a greatly expanded research program is necessary. While the transition from a growth-insistent economy to the rule of ecological law remains elusive, the European Union might serve as an appropriate structural model. This article explores the basic elements of an Ecological Law and its relation to Holism, Intergenerational justice, and Precautionary principle.


In the field of ecology, law is a generalized formulation describing a set of events or processes that have a common, predictable outcome. In ecology, laws include the widespread, repeatable patterns of life in nature, but there are no universally true laws. Instead, ecological patterns are dependent on the environment and organisms they affect. For example, a human’s activity on a particular site may negatively impact nearby species.

An important aspect of law that is associated with environmental protection and ecology is prevention. Introduced species, such as invasive species, often cause damage to the environment and compete with native species. One example of an introduced species is the gypsy moth, a pest that affects trees in Asia and Europe, which has been a source of concern for many years. For a long time, toxic chemicals were used to control this pest, but ecologists have developed less destructive solutions that still achieve their intended effect.


Holism in ecological law is a concept that is deeply rooted in human history and socio-cultural contexts. In New Caledonia, for example, the culture of the Melanesians (a tribe of Polynesians) describes its people as “cosmomorphic.” The Melanesians view isolated individuals as indistinct and featureless until they find a place in the natural world. For these people, the boundary between self and world is nullified, and the physical body does not guarantee identity.

Environmental ethical holists accept that humans have duties toward the natural world. They believe that whole ecosystems and the larger biosphere have moral significance. The principle of ecological holism is associated with Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and J. Baird Callicott’s work on morality. Holism also stresses the importance of protecting non-living things. This is particularly relevant when it comes to protecting biodiversity and preserving species.

Intergenerational justice

Sustainable development is predicated on the principles of equity for present and future generations. This principle is rooted in the notion of intergenerational equity – the right of future generations to their common patrimony and Earth’s natural resources. This principle also relates to the rights of individuals, whether direct descendants or distant future humanity, to equality and justice in the use of resources. This principle is particularly important in today’s context, where many individuals, corporations, and countries are experiencing a variety of crises in the way resources are distributed and shared.

Intergenerational justice provides a moral argument to support international environmental policy. By taking into account the rights of future generations, environmental policies can ensure more equitable outcomes for both developing and developed countries. This approach also helps to address global inequalities that result from unequal pollution. The Paris Agreement should consider the role of intergenerational justice in the development process, and should include measures to ensure a more equitable distribution of economic and social benefits.

Precautionary approach

The precautionary principle applies to the introduction of new substances, processes, or methods into the environment. It is a common principle found in the 1992 Rio Declaration, which states that lack of full scientific certainty should not postpone cost-effective measures to protect the environment. In practice, this approach requires systematic risk assessment and management, and the decision-maker must consider the degree of uncertainty from scientific evaluation. As a result, precautionary principles are more widely used than in the past.

The principle of precautionary action has been widely adopted as a fundamental concept in national environmental laws and regulations, such as the Environmental Protection Act of the Czech Republic and the Water Law and Planning Law of Israel. Numerous draft environmental laws have incorporated the precautionary approach, such as the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1996. It is important to note that this principle is increasingly being applied in court decisions. The principle of precaution has been referred to in almost every recent environmental agreement.

Transboundary responsibility

Transboundary environmental law focuses on international and regional environmental law, as well as extraterritorial environmental laws. Transboundary environmental law includes the protection of air, water, and soil as well as pollution and other disturbances. It addresses international law issues related to human health and environmental regulation, and includes environmental protection, pollution, and chemical products and waste management. It is an emerging field of law that deals with ecological issues across borders.

The concept of state responsibility for environmental harm is a relatively new one, but it is already making its presence felt in international environmental law. The aim of this concept is to hold states responsible for preventing and mitigating environmental harm. While several articles of the International Law Commission (ILC) have aimed to hold states accountable for transboundary harm, major UN summits and a case like the Pulp mills have all attempted to establish its legal status. However, many have struggled to implement these measures, as well as draft articles on the prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities.

Adaptive management

Adaptive management has been in practice for several decades. Its basic principles and methods are derived from scientific research and its implicit value commitment to sustainable use of natural resources. The practice focuses on maintaining habitats for historically existing species, the integrity of ecological systems, and important social values. There are many applications of this theory, which can help us understand and improve the way we manage natural resources. In this article, we discuss some of the major applications of adaptive management.

Adaptive management is a theory and a process that recognizes human impacts on complex ecosystems and requires environmental managers to respond to unpredictable changes in conditions. Its application in Canadian law is mandated by the Environmental Assessment Act. A key court decision has interpreted adaptive management to allow projects to proceed even if mitigation measures are not known to be effective. Adaptive management helps to temper the impact of the precautionary principle.