Environmental Conservation


The Convention on Biological Diversity: exposing the flawed foundations

a1 Director, National Energy-Environment Law & Policy Institute, University of Tulsa College of Law, John Rogers Hall, 3120 East Fourth Place,Tulsa, OK 74104-3189, USA


Over five years have elapsed since the coming into force of the much heralded United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD or Convention) signed during the 'Earth Summit' at Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 (CBD 1992). Despite the warm, even euphoric welcome extended to this treaty by the environmental community, the difficulties of implementing the CBD in the last five years are unmasking and uncovering its flawed environmental foundations. The language of any legal instrument embodies and expresses the considered intentions of its creators, and may contain obligatory provisions that are legally binding. They may also contain hortatory and aspirational commitments that are not legally enforceable. The CBD rejected 'hard' environmental obligations that are legally binding for non-legal exhortations, and highly qualified 'soft' commitments. Whatever their value be as face-saving strategies for reaching agreement on the CBD, such aspirational expressions do not create a stable foundation for tough decisions in the world of realpolitik.