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International Environmental Law 101: The Transition to Sustainable Development


International Environmental Law 101 is a series that will dive into the manifold dimensions of preserving the environment from human destruction and economic development. The main objective of these articles is to provide a comprehensible grasp of the institutions, agreements, and principles which fight against climate change, wildlife extinction, and contamination, and foster sustainable practices.

International Environmental Law 101 will be divided into the following chapters:

1. International Environmental Law 101: How the Silent Spring Ignited the Environmental Movement

2. International Environmental Law 101: A Regime of Principle

3. International Environmental Law 101: The Decision Makers

4. International Environmental Law 101: A Map of Environmental Agreements

5. International Environmental Law 101: The Case of Temperature

6. International Environmental Law 101: The Transition to Sustainable Development

7. International Environmental Law 101: Healing the Ocean

8. International Environmental Law 101: What will the Future Bring

In the last chapter of this series, the matter of global temperature, which is perhaps the most crucial issue concerning environmental law, was put under the microscope. With the understanding of how global warming takes place and of its imprint on the local and global environmental state, the focus now moves to the subject of economic development, which is the driver of climate change, and how it can be achieved in a sustainable way. With this, we must ask: what is sustainable development, and why is it presented as the only way to move forward, leaving no one behind?

The term sustainable development entered the international agenda back in 1987 with the Brundtland Report, otherwise named "Our Common Future" (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). Dr. Go Harlem Brundtland, a Norwegian politician that was the chair for the Commission at the time, has served as the Director-General of the World Health Organization: since then she has championed sustainable development and its importance for human and environmental health (Norway in the UN, 2017).

In the Report, Sustainable Development was defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.