Nexus governance recognises that sustainability concerns such as water, energy, and food security are interlinked and provides an alternative to fragmented governance. Although it has been applied mostly in the domestic context, the need for nexus governance is also apparent at a planetary scale, as highlighted by interacting planetary boundaries, global telecoupling, and global tipping cascades. However, international environmental law is unable to facilitate what we call ‘planetary nexus governance’. This is mainly because international environmental law lacks an ecological Grundnorm and because its primary rules of conduct remain fragmented in the absence of effective secondary rules on how primary rules should relate to each other. Recognising this challenge, scholars have recently proposed earth system law as a new framework to rethink, in an integrated way, law in an Anthropocene context. Building on this framework, we suggest that international environmental law should adopt a unifying Grundnorm such as planetary integrity. We also suggest that international institutional law, as a body of secondary rules, has an important role to play in facilitating planetary nexus governance by bringing together fragmented bodies of international law. We briefly discuss ways in which international environmental law could reorientate itself to better facilitate planetary nexus governance.
- Nexus governance, which is premised on an earth system perspective, must be better facilitated, not only at the domestic level, but also increasingly, at the planetary scale.
- While law plays a key role in facilitating nexus governance, international environmental law is fragmented and unable to facilitate planetary nexus governance of the water-energy-food triad because it does not follow an earth system perspective. International environmental law must therefore be reformed alongside an earth system perspective if it were to respond more effectively to nexused earth system governance challenges at the planetary scale.
- Earth system law provides a theoretical framework to re-imagine international environmental law in such a way so that it is better able to facilitate planetary nexus governance.
- Two options to practically reform international environmental law within the frame-work of earth system law are through the adoption of a Grundnorm such as planetary integrity, and/or by using the secondary rules of international law, also known as international institutional law.
Photo by Marina Leonova