GoJIL Vol. 7, No. 1 (2016)
Exercising or Evading International Public Authority? The Many Faces of Environmental Post-Treaty Instruments
Post-treaty instruments (PTIs) are informal instruments adopted by consensus of the treaty parties as follow-up decision to a particular provision in a treaty. PTIs are potentially significant instruments for advancing environmental global governance, as the treaty parties may use them to transform indeterminate treaty provisions into more specific environmental rules and decisions. While a number of PTIs are rightly characterized as exercises of authority, this article seeks to demonstrate how certain environmental PTIs with rule-setting character (‘PTRs’) amount to evasions of authority by reducing international authority over States’ environmental policies, or alleviate rather than tighten the treaty parties’ obligations, through their content or legal status. First, some PTRs avoid authoritative language, requiring little or no concrete action by the treaty parties. Some treaty-based assignments to adopt PTRs are never even acted upon. Other PTRs simply water down the obligations of the treaty parties compared to the underlying treaty provisions. Second, PTRs possess an ambiguous legal status both in legal doctrine and in the practice of domestic and EU courts. The article further argues that consensual decision-making may well be at the root of this ambivalent practice. As a broader contribution to the debate about International Public Authority (IPA), the proposition is advanced that we need to scrutinize more carefully what kind and degree of authority an instrument exercises exactly – or not. Evasions of authority and alleviations of obligations – which can be conceived as a special type of exercising authority through inaction – have important implications for what future legal frameworks of international public law must deliver in terms of effective and legitimate procedural design.
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