Vers une nouvelle méthode de mesure de l’application du droit de l’environnement marin


Bonnin Marie

50 % Allocation, doctorale ISBLUE | 50 % UBO EDSML

Curbing climate change and protecting the environment is Humanity’s challenge for the beginning of the XXIth century. The need to act has been internationally recognized for several decades now (Rio Déclaration 92, Stockhlom Declaration 72), leading to a dramatic inflation of the number of legal texts addressing the protection of the environment. Whereas the predominant mantra is focused on the new laws needed, we are currently unable to state which existing laws are really implemented and thus susceptible to have a protective effect on the environment.

The world’s largest ecosystem, the ocean, is facing multiple threats severely damaging its health. The United Nations has set the protection of seas and oceans as a priority. Therefore, it is critical to make sure the necessary legal framework is effective. For now, we lack sufficient knowledge on the implementation of both national and international marine environmental law. Implementation refers to the study of the rule’s legal enforcement process: it controls for the existence of enabling texts, penalties, and jurisprudence. Moreover in a world ruled by data, measures of performance and metrics, this ignorance contributes to isolate research in law.

The current knowledge gap on the implementation of environmental law has been underlined by several reports and work programmes on the state of the environment at the international, regional and national levels: Global Environment Outlook assessment (UN Environment, 2017); First marine global assessment (United Nations, 2016), Decision n°1386/2013/UE, priority objective 5. States, researchers and stakeholders need reliable legal data. There is a pressing need to go a step further in legal research through quantitative and qualitative monitoring of law enforcement outputs. This PhD thesis will propose an innovative approach in marine and coastal environmental law by designing and testing a methodology to measure the implementation and enforcement of marine environmental law.

The proposed methodology is based on the interdisciplinary identification of prime scientific questions for the protection of the oceans. For each of these scientific questions, the related legal text will be identified. This innovative approach in legal research will allow to identify legal indicator. For example, oceans’ pollution by single-use plastics could be chosen as a scientific question to address; the legal text regulating the ban on single-use plastics will be studied. Above all, the method implies to assess the implementation of executive texts and enforcement of the rule.

In the objective to make this thesis feasible in 3 years, 5 indicators will be experimented in 4 distinct case studies bordering the Atlantic Ocean: the Celtic Sea (Ireland, Great Britain, France), West Africa (Senegal, Cabo Verde), Brazil and Gulf of Mexico (United States of America, Mexico, Cuba). These case studies will offer the opportunity to test the method in countries with different socio-economic and legal systems.