ESIL 5THResearch Forum, Amsterdam
23rd-25th May 2013

‘International Environmental Lawyers Situated: Between Natural Scientific Knowledge and Economic Constraints’

DEADLINE: Sunday 11th November 2012


The ESIL Interest Group on International Environmental Law is currently preparing a Panel Proposal for the 5th ESIL Research Forum, to be held in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) on 23rd-25th May 2013.  In line with the general topic of the Research Forum – ‘International Law as a Profession’ – and building on the themes already explored in 2009 at the Helsinki Research Forum on ‘International Law and Science’, this Panel will undertake a closer examination of how the different roles exercised by international environmental lawyers are affected by their constant and necessary interaction with both natural scientists and economists.

The normative and institutional boom of international environmental law (IEL) in the past decades is undoubtedly one of the most visible illustrations of the evolution of the international legal order, and a prominent example of the constitution of sub-specialized epistemic communities within the discipline. One of the most prominent characteristics of this new ‘regime’ is that it is highly dependent on both science and economics. Scientific findings on the current and future state of the ‘global environmental crisis’ nurture the legitimacy of the field.  Scientifically asserted causal relationships determined the adoption of the principles of historical responsibilities and common but differentiated responsibilities which structure State Parties obligations under the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. Warnings about the urgent need for international action are also capital for building political momentum in support of the development of new rules of international environmental law. Equally, scientific findings may determine whether a breach of obligation has occurred before an international court or tribunal (for instance, by upholding the application of the precautionary approach). Meanwhile, economic ‘cost-benefit’ considerations are central to the creation of institutional and financial mechanisms and often underpin the operation of general principles of the regime. Unsurprisingly, they are often a source of political controversy and bear a strong impact on the overall effectiveness of the regime.

For these and other reasons, international environmental lawyers, scientists and economists encounter one another, all carrying their own disciplinary mindsets, scientific paradigms and normative agendas. This Panel will explore how this encounter may affect the formation, implementation, systematization, interpretation and application of international environmental law. Papers may address, inter alia, any of the following questions:

– What impact has scientific data – or the lack thereof – had on international legal discourse? How may the legal framing of social facts be informed and reified by scientific and economic findings? To what extent are international environmental law’s normative commitments constrained by particular economic theories?

– What role, if any, is there left for the professional lawyer in law-making processes given the growing importance of science and economics? What role do private economic stakeholders play in the enforcement of international environmental standards? How can these economic operators be held to account?

– What is the role of scientific experts before international courts and tribunals? What impact does scientific expertise have on the judges/arbitrators’ evaluation of facts and on their interpretation of substantive rules of international law?  What role does/should science play in the testing of evidence and the burden of proof in environmental cases?


The ESIL Interest Group on International Environmental Law is calling for submission of abstracts to be included in this Panel Proposal. Abstracts must not exceed 600 words, in English or French. Abstracts must set out the author’s argument and its implications for the general theme of the Research Forum. In addition, the following information must be provided:

– A short biography including relevant publications;

– The context in which the research is being conducted (e.g. for a forthcoming book, thesis, or article);

– The proposed language to be used (English or French);

– Indication whether the author is an ESIL member.

Abstracts should be sent to Alejandra Torres Camprubí ( and Mario Prost ( in PDF or Word (97-2003) format. The deadline for submission of abstracts for this Panel Proposal is Sunday 11th November 2012.


Abstracts for this Panel Proposal will be selected on the basis of the scientific quality of the research proposed and coherence will the overall theme of the Panel. Upon selection of the abstracts, the full Panel Proposal will be submitted to the 5th Research Forum organizers on 15th November 2012.

– If this Panel is selected to be part of the Research Forum’s main programme, selected speakers will receive  a fee waiver;

– If the Panel Proposal is not selected as part of the main programme, the Panel will be hosted independently and as a side-event by the ESIL Interest Group on International Environmental Law, the afternoon before the Conference opening. Selected speakers will however not receive the fee waiver.