What should be the scope of an international treaty dedicated to the principles that guide environmental protection? In its capacity as Permanent Observer to the United Nations General Assembly and representing the UN Environment Focal Point, ICC hosted discussions at its global headquarters in Paris last week to consider the business perspective for a strong UN Global Pact for the Environment and how such a Pact could address gaps in international environmental law.
The Roundtable took place ahead of Pact negotiations taking place this week in Nairobi.
In his keynote speech to participants, Laurent Fabius, President of the French Constitutional Council and Chair of the International Group of Experts for the Global Pact for the Environment, paid tribute to ICC for convening the discussion and helping the business community to fulfill its global responsibilities. “This Global Pact cannot be delivered and properly built without the support and ideas of the business community,” said Mr Fabius, who also welcomed the increasing involvement of the private sector in addressing environment-related and other global challenges. Commenting on the proposed draft international treaty, initially developed by a group of international environmental lawyers, seeking to address the fragmented nature and inconsistent implementation of international environmental law, Mr Fabius said there was much work to do to find an agreement, and that any such agreement would have to take into consideration the specific needs of the business community.
Presenting an overview of the UN Secretary General’s Gap Report, Mark Radka, Chief of UN Environment’s Energy and Climate Branch, highlighted the necessity of international cooperation and legal frameworks to address trans-boundary environmental issues and challenges. Mr Radka noted several options to clarify and reinforce certain environmental principles. These included a comprehensive and unifying international instrument gathering all principles of environmental law, and an enhanced role for non-state actors, including business, at multiple levels.
Participants underscored private sector commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, and generally agreed that while many uncertainties remained to be addressed before a business position could be shaped on a UN Global Pact for the Environment, harmonization and clarification of environmental norms could be helpful in providing guidance to businesses worldwide.
“It is very early in the process,” concluded Patrick Thieffry, Chair of the ICC Working Group on the UN Global Pact for the Environment. Summarising the roundtable discussion and ensuing debates, Mr Thieffry, along with USCIB representative Norine Kennedy, said that one thing was certain: on behalf of global business ICC, in its capacity as UN Permanent Observer, would actively monitor and support the process, and inform discussions by contributing business realities and experiences.
As such, ICC is representing the voice of business at the first phase of substantive negotiations on the Pact, taking place in Nairobi this week from 14-18 January. Further meetings are also scheduled in March and May.
Last year, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton joined Jeffrey Sachs to give views on the Pact presented to the General Assembly by President of France Emmanuel Macron.