Transnational Environmental Law
Leadership, management style and communication
The research programme is coordinated by the programme coordinator, Marjan Peeters, who is affiliated with the Maastricht University. She is responsible, in consultation with the other research coordinators, for coordinating the activities within the programme. The research coordinators from the universities of Amsterdam, Leuven and Maastricht keep in regular contact with each other. There is, in principle, one research coordinator from each participating institution. They are Rosa Uylenburg of the Centre for Environmental Law at the University of Amsterdam, Kurt Deketelaere of the Institute for Environmental and Energy Law at the Catholic University of Leuven, and Michael Faure of METRO at Maastricht University. However, in view of the close cooperation with Prof. Han Somsen's (Amsterdam) pioneer programme on legal aspects of biotechnology as well as with the programme of Prof. Ellen Vos (Maastricht) on risk regulation, they are also involved in the decision-making within the programme, without it being necessary at this stage to expand the number of formal research coordinators. Somsen and Vos de facto coordinate their own research groups on biotechnology and law and risk regulation respectively, without these groups being formally presented as sub-programmes.
The programme de facto comprises the research that is conducted at each of the three institutes on environmental law: the Institute for Environmental and Energy Law at the Catholic University of Leuven, the Maastricht Institute for Transnational Legal Research at Maastricht University (which also has a strong focus on environmental law) and the Centre for Environmental Law at the University of Amsterdam. Not all of the research conducted at these separate institutes is brought under the research school. That is obviously only the case for research that contributes to the realization of the Ius Commune programme.
There is regular email communication between the research coordinators, which forms the basis for consultation on for instance the activities that are to take place, such as joint conferences, or the organization of workshops for the annual Ius Commune conference.
Besides the annual Ius Commune conference, regular workshops take place in which a large number of the researchers involved in the programme participate. This means that all of the researchers in the programme meet at least once a year during the annual Ius Commune conference. In addition, they also cooperate in many research projects. Thus the researchers in the programme participate in various contract research projects and it has been decided that this joint research will in the future be presented externally as the work of the institute ICCEL (Ius Commune Centre for Environmental Law). This will be explained further below.
Participants in this programme of the Ius Commune research school continue to be the original partners Maastricht and Leuven, who have been joined by Liege and the University of Amsterdam. In these faculties, environmental law research is organized in various centres and it is the researchers belonging to these centres together who carry out the research of the programme on transnational environmental law. For Leuven this is the Institute for Environmental and Energy Law (IMER), for Maastricht the Maastricht Institute for Transnational Legal Research (METRO), for Amsterdam the Centre for Environmental law and for Liege, the chair of administrative and environmental law of Professor Michel Pâques. These centres have joined in the Ius Commune Centre of Environmental Law (ICCEL), with the objective of carrying out this research programme on transnational environmental law.
Although the University of Utrecht is a founding partner in the Ius Commune Research School, the environmental law scholars in Utrecht participated in another research school and therefore were not involved in this programme.
a. Theme: Transnational Environmental Law
The central theme of this programme continues to be transnational environmental law. The original programme, as it was laid down in 1997, will be implemented further. Accordingly, the central idea is and remains to be to identify through comparative law research the principles that are common to the various systems of environmental law in Europe (and beyond), in order to contribute to the search for an 'environmental law culture in Europe'. In addition to this, the consequences of finding that there are similarities and differences is researched with a view to the issue at which level (local, national or European) environmental regulation should take place. A central issue for the group still remains what array of environmental law instruments can be used in an optimal way (whether or not in combination) to combat (transnational) environmental disturbances.
Of central importance to this programme is, in view of its place within the research school, that methods are used to discover a Ius Commune in the area of environmental law. That means of course, in the first place, that classical comparative environmental law is used whereby different systems are compared, differences are analysed and critically studied. However, proceeding from the finding of those differences and similarities, critical attention is also given to the issue of the diverse roles of the different levels of government (local, national, European or international) when dealing with (transnational) environmental problems. Therefore, in the context of the regulation of climate change attention will not only be given to the optimal legal instruments, but also to the question of the optimal level of implementation. In this search, use is not only made of comparative law, but also of the national environmental law doctrines. An accurate study of national environmental law is indeed of importance in order to identify, for instance, appropriate instruments that can be utilized in combating transnational environmental disturbances. In addition, fundamental research into national environmental law can also contribute to the creation of an environmental law Ius Commune. After all, where research into national environmental law also addresses fundamental questions about the optimal way in which certain instruments (whether or not in combination) will be the most effective to achieve certain environmental law objectives, a contribution is also made to the body of thought about the environmental law Ius Commune. In this critical search for an optimal environmental law, among others, environmental law principles play an important role. One question that is also raised in this context is to what extent these principles also have a codifying or harmonizing effect. For instance, research into the way in which Dutch case law or administrative practice deals with the precautionary principle can also provide important insights for the way in which the court or administration should deal with decision-making in the area of environmental law in cases of uncertainty.
Although most of the researchers primarily adopt a (environmental) legal approach, it should be clear that some of the issues studied in the context of this programme can only be addressed with the help of other disciplines. For instance, research on the optimal utilization of different instruments to reduce environmental damage or climate chance (environmental taxes, emission trade or permits) can be enhanced by insights from environmental (law and) economics. In this way, the debate on which form of environmental regulation should be created at which level of government can be augmented by political theories and insights from the economics of federalism. But also the way in which the law deals with other uncertain risks that are created, for instance, by new (bio)technologies often goes beyond the purely legal. Sociologists (including of course Beck), but also political scientists and psychologists have provided important insights, about for instance the way in which uncertain risks are perceived by citizens.
It should be clear that a large group of Ius Commune environmental lawyers from the ICCEL will be engaged in research into the issues outlined above. Some areas of research can indicatively be summarized in a number of themes. In doing so, it is important to bear in mind that these themes are mentioned as a mere indication of the areas of research in which certain researchers work, it is certainly not an exhaustive list. Environmental law is so dynamic and the social issues it addresses evolve so quickly and are also often multidisciplinary, as a result the issues do not lend themselves to strict division in themes. The following themes are mentioned to given an impression only of a few of the themes the ICCEL researchers will be engaged in within the framework of the programme on transnational environmental law:
From the description of the programme structure, methodology and the research themes, it clearly follows that the researchers in this programme on transnational environmental law aim not only through fundamental research into positive law (legislation and case law) but also through comparative law and multidisciplinary research to expose the foundations of transnational environmental law. In part, the research objective is to gain greater insight into the foundations and principles of environmental regulation, the role of integration in environmental law and the comparative advantage of different instruments. At the same time, the aim is also to identify whether, following an analysis of the differences in environmental law in the different member states, there is a need for harmonization and to what extent. At the same time, in specific areas the aim is to indicate in what way the law should deal with, for instance, uncertain risks, how the law can provide adequate protection against climate change, and how legal instruments can be used to protect man and environment against the possible dangers (and opportunities) that could result from biotechnology.
In part, the aim of the research carried out by the group is therefore to gain greater insight into the differences in environmental law in the various European legal systems. However, the research of the group clearly also goes further. Once these insights have been gained, attention will also be given to the desirability of harmonisation, integration or other forms of approximation or coordination of environmental law, or the different instruments in development in Europe, and to what extent. Particular attention is also given to the question to what extent environmental law (and its various instruments) at a particular level (national, European, global) should be used and what the consequences are of using instruments at different levels, for instance in an area such as climate change. Therefore, the aim is also to gain a greater understanding of what the vague concept 'multilevel governance' actually means for the field of environmental law in which there is a great deal of interplay between different levels of governance (local, national, European and global).
Relationship to the Research School
There are substantive as well as clearly practical connections between this programme and the Ius Commune Research School. On a practical level, the connection with the academic leadership of the Ius Commune Research School is particularly close. The programme coordinator of transnational environmental law is also the academic director of the Ius Commune Research School. Consequently, communication of information from the academic leadership of the Ius Commune Research School to the programme on transnational environmental law and vice versa is smooth and prompt.
On a substantive level, it was already outlined above that the programme makes a contribution to the central research mission of the Ius Commune Research School. In the research school, a central issue is of course the role of law in international integration processes. That question is addressed through comparative law and multidisciplinary research not only for the various instruments but also for the issues concerning principles and integration of environmental law, and in relation to the question how the law should deal with uncertain risks and the effects of biotechnology. It is precisely the question of the role of law in integral integration processes that is at the forefront of the research conducted in this programme, but then specifically in the field of environmental law. This fundamental Ius Commune question concerning integration, as outlined with respect to the methodology, is addressed not only through traditional comparative law (and also by analyzing the role of environmental law at different regulatory levels), but at the same time fundamental research is also carried out into the foundations of environmental law and into, for instance, the ability of different legal instruments to adequately address problems such as biotechnology, climate change and uncertain risks.
Many researchers in the group participate in national and international research groups, which can certainly be viewed as an evidence of academic reputation. The publication lists show that many members of the research group publish in multidisciplinary and at the same time international peer reviewed journals. Many in the research group (particularly the programme coordinators) are members of editorial board of journals. The overview of contract research (see below) demonstrates that the researchers are also repeatedly asked to carry out contract research, for instance for various governments and administrations (such as the Flemish government, the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee, the EC and the OECD), but also for important social actors (such as a consortium of large corporations that contracted researchers within the group for contract research on emission trade and competition). Furthermore, attention should be drawn to the success of members of the research group in acquiring government subsidies (tweedegeldstroom). Professor Somsen's law and biotechnology programme was awarded a pioneer grant from NWO; Professor Ellen Vos was granted an Innovational Research Incentives Scheme subsidy from NWO (in Dutch: Vernieuwingsimpuls) for her research on risk regulation and she also participates in projects that are carried out within the framework of European Commission's Sixth Framework programme. NWO also recently granted Faure, Peeters and Vos grants for four-year doctoral research projects.
The success, not only of the three participating centres (Centre for Environmental Law in Amsterdam, METRO in Maastricht and the Institute for Environmental and Energy Law in Leuven), in the area of obtaining funding from both governmental and other funding organizations is an indication of the reputation of the researchers in this programme. Furthermore it should be mentioned that within many of these projects cooperation takes place yet again and therefore researchers from the other institutions are also involved in conducting the research.
Effects of cooperation
As will appear from a discussion of the substantive results, the cooperation within this programme has de facto led to many joint projects, publications and conferences. It is clear that these joint results would not have come about without the cooperation within the framework of the Ius Commune Research School. In particular in the area of contract research and the carrying out of projects, for example for the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee, there is active cooperation between the various partners. Thus a project was carried out in the past for the Environmental Impact Assessment Committee as well as for the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (into the development of environmental law in Indonesia) where in each case there was participation from the Catholic University of Leuven. Researchers are now also jointly participating in a large project on the revision of the Dutch Environmental Management Act for the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment. Participating in that project are not only the Centre for Environmental Law in (Amsterdam) and METRO (Maastricht), but the Institute for Environmental and Energy Law (Leuven) is also involved.
There is also a great deal of cooperation in the area of publications and recently the partners organized as the Research group Transnational Environmental Law an international conference on the legal aspects of the climate change regime.