Trade and the environment: perspectives from the global south

Shawkat Alam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


1. Introduction As a concept, sustainable development has pervaded much of the international legal discourse regarding the world environment over the past thirty years. A confluence of vocal movements in the 1970s paved the way for this paradigm shift, which spotlighted environmental issues on an international scale. Limits to Growth warned that unabated economic growth, wasteful consumption, and environmentally unsound practices were untenable, given the earth’s finite and non-renewable resources and escalating degradation. However, the environmental focus was on localized disasters, such as Chernobyl and Bhopal, and many environmental norms and regulations were developed to respond to specific environmental concerns. Worsening pollution and climate change cuts across national boundaries and affects all nations. Sustainable development requires concerted efforts, sometimes undermining state “sovereignty,” to address environmental problems that are both local and global in scale. An articulation of the linkage between the natural environment and economic growth was unprecedented until the Brundtland Report, which stated that: We have in the more recent past been forced to face up to a sharp increase in economic interdependence among nations. We are now forced to accustom ourselves to an accelerating ecological interdependence among nations. Ecology and economy are becoming ever more interwoven locally, regionally, nationally, and globally into a seamless net of causes and effects. Another milestone was the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which recognized environmental protection as an integral part of sustainable development. It highlighted intergenerational equity, urging development to meet the needs of present and future generations, and shared responsibilities. The iconic Agenda 21 emphasized the interdependent and mutually reinforcing components of economic, environmental, and social development. The 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg called for capacity-building on trade and environment and for the promotion of cooperation on trade, environment, and development.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Environmental Law and the Global South
EditorsShawkat Alam, Sumudu Atapattu, Carmen G. Gonzalez, Jona Razzaque
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781107295414
ISBN (Print)9781107055698
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


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