Following on from the announcement of the confirmed speakers for Plenary Session 1 Justice and the Environment, the Organizing Committee is delighted to profile Professor Klaus Bosselmann, University of Auckland, who will present a paper on “The Rule of Law in the Anthropocene” on Wednesday 26 June: 9.30am-11.00am.


Dr Klaus Bosselmann, born in Germany, is Professor of Law and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law at the University of Auckland since its inception in 1998. He previously taught at the Free University Berlin and was a visiting professor at leading universities in the USA, UK, Brazil, Italy, Hungary, Sweden and Germany. He is an executive member of the Global Ecological Integrity Group and the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, currently chairing its Ethics Specialist Group. Professor Bosselmann has a special interest in conceptual issues of sustainability law and governance incl. ethics, principles, and convergence of international and municipal law. He has authored or edited 25 books, contributed numerous book chapters and published over 70 articles in academic journals. Among his awards and prizes is the 2009 Inaugural Senior Scholarship Prize of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law.

Abstract: The Rule of Law in the Anthropocene

The newly perceived anthropocene, an epoch in which many functions of the Earth’s ecosystems are now dominated by human activities, imposes an unprecedented responsibility on humanity. In the context of law such responsibility calls for a redefinition of the rule of law. At its core must be the recognition of planetary boundaries as a non-negotiable bottom-line for all human activities. This can be expressed in the form of an environmental grundnorm to guide the design and interpretation of laws, both at international and domestic levels.

While there are important differences between legal cultures, in particular between the Anglo-Saxon common law system and the Continental-European çivil law system, the rule of law is commonly understood to define what a government is legally allowed to do or not to do. A recent report of European Commission views this as a customary principle of international law and concludes that the rule of law is a precondition for a State’s membership in international organisations.

The paper explores the deeper meaning of the rule of law – arguably based on natural law - to relate it to contemporary environmental law research, It will define the principle of sustainability as an environmental grundnorm and show how it is beginning to shape legal developments in various countries and the jurisprudence of international law.

Trevor Daya-Winterbottom
Organizing Committee: 11th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium 2013